Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Hello Kitty Still Rules!

Hello Kitty JR express train from Tennoji station (Osaka) to Kansai airport. Hello Kitty, or Kitty White which is the full name of this character, was designed in 1974 by Yuko Shimizu in the UK of all places. 45 years on and Hello Kitty is still popular! (Pic by Natalie Hitchens).
Futuristic Rapi:t Express train from Namba (Osaka) to Kansai airport. (Pic by Natalie Hitchens)

Girl rushing to get onto the Rapi:t express service between Namba and Kansai airport.

Pontocho in the rain

Pontocho in Kyoto is a tiny area of the city that, like Gion, was once (and to a certain extent still is) the realm of the geisha. Today it's a very narrow alleyway populated with relatively inexpensive restaurants opposite establishments with no prices displayed out front - these are very pricey places. If you ever find yourself in one of these places it's probably best to box once and reverse out of the doorway. Your credit card will appreciate your gesture...

Some of these places are traditional tea houses.
The architecture and construction materials are mostly very old and much sought after by rich Japanese who, until relatively recently, would buy the entire house and have it shipped elsewhere in Japan. The local government has since put a stop to this practice to preserve the history.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

A Visit to Shimokitazawa in Tokyo

Shimokitazawa is a suburb near Shibuya that has an amazing old-world feel to it - you can wander the narrow streets relatively unimpeded by the traffic and browse the myriad stores selling second hand clothes, designer goods, weird antiques, second-hand vinyl records (Yay!) and drink craft beer. Compared to the pedestrian madness of Shinjuku or Shibuya, this is a country town and a very refreshing change from the noise of the busier parts of the city. Not everything was open when we visited but those stores that had closed displayed some cute artworks on the (drawn) shutters that also brightened up the streetscape.

(All pictures on this post by Natalie Hitchens).

Second-hand copy of the YES Album. Legend!

The Peonies of Hama Rikyu Gardens in Tokyo

I have been experimenting with a new plug-in called 'Vintage' put out by Jixi Pix which is great for adding 100 years to the look of an image which I thought was appropriate for these beautiful peonies seen in Hama Rikyu gardens near Tsukiji fish market. It was originally set out for members of the then all-powerful Tokugawa clan during the Edo period.

This particular special effect makes the images appear as if shot with a glass plate camera - which incidentally helps make any background details you might have also captured fade out a bit. The variations on background texture, image texture, vignetting and tinting are infinite with this plug-in so, although quite easy to use, deciding when to stop and save, is hard!

Kameido Tenjin WIsteria

Having a bit of fun using Jixi Pix's Aquarella plug-into create a painted look for this amazing temple called Kameido, near Ueno in Tokyo. 

Despite overcast sky and slight rain, the wisteria was spectacular - arranged over trellises built over an artificial pond (complete with carp, turtles and a heron).

The shrine itself is not very interesting - it's the flowers everyone wants to see - in fact the roads leading up the the shrine are festooned with banners depicting the wisteria event. Once there of course, it's a small battle to get a clear shot without including half a dozen other photographers with their selfie-sticks

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Art Deco building housing the TEIEN Museum, Tokyo

Tokyo Metropolitan TEIEN Museum is located in this lovely art deco palace near Meguro.

Quoting from the museum's own site: "...It was built in 1933 using what was then the newest architectural style as the residence of Prince and Princess Asaka, who had visited and studied in Paris in the 1920s. The interior design, in particular, is consistently decorated in the Art Deco style, from the wall decorations to the furniture to the lighting fixtures. Its modern elegance is breathtaking.
The front entrance hall, the salon, the great dining room, the library: the interior decoration of the major rooms was entrusted to René Lalique and Henri Rapin, two of France's leading decorative artists. Yokichi Gondô, an architect associated with the Imperial Household Ministry's Construction Bureau, was responsible for the building's basic design. The result is that the Former Asaka Residence embodies the Japanese love of the modern West.
Often described as a visionary structure or as an Art Deco work of art, the Former Prince Asaka Residence was designated a national Important Cultural Property in 2015 as a superb building that should be passed on to later generations. Sited within the lavish verdure of its garden, which makes one forget one is in the middle of the city, this building dazzles visitors as a monument to Art Deco in Japan...'

A shot taken in the Japanese garden - the museum grounds also feature a European garden

Because it's an art gallery, we were not allowed to shoot images in many of its rooms - essentially only the ones with no paintings in them which was a shame. (17mm f4 Canon lens)

"The anteroom, which faces on to the southern terrace, serves to connect the small drawing room and the salon. This room is designed with vivid color – the white of the porcelain fountain, the multi-colored mosaic floor, the rich black of the lacquer columns, the vermillion of the man-made stone walls and the green of the garden seen through the windows. Here, these colors come together in a harmony that is in direct contrast with the subdued ambiance of the great hall, creating a lively space with uniquely Art Deco characteristics. The white shikkui plaster ceiling with its inset circular dome softens the room and saves it from feeling overdecorated. Although a small space, the anteroom fully expresses Art Deco design in the way materials and color are used.
 The fountain, which came to be called the “Perfume Tower” because it emitted scent along with flowing water, was designed in 1932 by Henri Rapin and manufactured at the Sèvres National Porcelain Manufactory in France. When the residence was used by the Prince Asaka family, perfume could be placed in the upper lighted portion. The heat of the lamps would warm the perfume, filling the room with pleasant scent. In the records of the Sèvres National Porcelain Manufactory, this work is referred to as the “Vase Lumineux Rapin” (“Rapin’s Brilliant Vase”)."

Friday, 26 April 2019

Meiji Jingu with a Wood Block Effect

Day one of our trip saw us visiting the Meiji Jingu shrine near Harakjuku station. It's one of the oldest shrines - although like many shrines and castles in Japan, was burned to the ground and rebuilt.

These pictures have been processed using Jixi Pix Moku Hanga, a software that creates a wood block effect (Moku Hanga is Japanese for wood block), very topical for a trip to Japan.

Main entrance gate with its massive wooden torii gate

Sake barrels presented to the temple and displayed at the entrance as a show of how important this place is. Monks are presumably off-site partying somewhere...

Part of the Meiji garden - nice but no comparison to Kenrokuen in Kanazawa which we will visit next week

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Nezu Shrine, Tokyo, April 2019

Here are a few quickly edited scenes from Nezu Shrine in Tokyo. This is a shrine that does not get many visitors till mid-April to mid-May when the hundreds of azaleas come into bloom, as they were this afternoon.