Been a few days in Kyoto which is obviously much smaller than Tokyo with its population of 13.5 million. Even with “only” 1,5 million people, Kyoto still feels pretty sizable. So far, I’ve seen just a few of the thousands of temples that can be found here. Mostly on the hills surrounding the city.
Staying in the old part of town, called Gion, where hundreds of buildings are over four centuries old. In this part of town, you’ll see plenty of young female tourists dressed like geishas shuffling down the narrow streets and alleys in small sandals. There are dozens of shops in Gion that rent out traditional geisha garments and offer geisha makeup.
The streets here are lined with old wooden storefront houses – most of which have been converted into tiny restaurants that cater to the most affluent domestic and foreign tourists. It’s quaint and I suppose, historically interesting. A little too many tourists, though. Surprisingly many for China.
Three Kyoto favorites thus far; Paris Barber Shop (where I enjoyed an excellently close-cut shave today), the famous bamboo forest near the beautiful hills outside of town and the restaurant Chojiro where they serve scrumptious sushi and soba noodles with golden, crispy tempura.
We opted to stay in Kyoto in a traditional Japanese guest house which turned out to be an unremarkable hotel with a half-assed Ryakon theme. It’s as if IKEA had created the hotel’s decor sometime in the mid 1980’s. Also, there’s a really unpleasant yet undefinable odor in the hallway on our floor – something I will definitely include in my review. The staff is friendly enough and the location is as good as it gets in old Kyoto. But after a couple of nights sleeping on the floor – on a thin mattress – in a room with rice paper walls and a family with small children next door, I am so ready to check into the W Bangkok on Saturday morning.
The eternal myth that Japan is an expensive destination is just that – a myth. I can’t think of a single meal, train ticket, subway pass, museum fee or anything else that I’ve paid for that cost significantly more here than in say, Stockholm, London or New York.
And what makes a visit to Japan an even better choice, is how straightforward domestic travel is. It probably hasn’t always been this easy for a foreigner to visit. But today, it’s a cinch. All signs are in both Japanese and English as are voice announcements in public spaces (subways, trains etc) and to top it all off, most of the younger population now speak good enough conversational English to help out when you get lost or need a push in the right direction.
Earlier today, we spoke with our daughter Elle whom is on the Mediterranean island nation of Malta attending a three week language course. Lots of fun in the sun for her. Must be great not having her parents around this trip…We, on the other hand, miss her like crazy.
Even if you don’t like the politician, which is understandable, given the nature of politics these days, it’s undeniable that Barack Obama is by far the most personable president in the history of the executive branch. Listen to this interview with podcaster Marc Maron and this special episode of his show, “What The Fuck” and then tell me (or, email me) that Mr Obama isn’t a decent, sensible guy and father with plenty of wisdom to share. Or, you can listen to this interview about Tricky Dick Nixon and learn about one of the dirtiest and most ruthless presidents ever to sit (and abuse) the Oval Office.
Another intense day shuffling around a few of Tokyo’s many districts. This place is intense! There’s so much stuff that catches my eye, things I just feel compelled to film or shoot. I’ve been using all kinds of camera gear, from all kinds of vantage points. The 5D offers the best quality but is far too heavy to lug around all day. The iPhone with my new electronic gimbal/stabilizer is ideal. It’s not exactly inconspicuous, but looks unprofessional enough for people to ignore me when I point it at them.
The truck drivers and fish mongers at Tsukiji Fish Market – the world’s largest seafood market – seemed impatient with all us visiting photographers during my visit there yesterday. And I completely understand them. I don’t see why were allowed in there in the first place – as our presence is not at all to their advantage. On the contrary, we’re really just in their way or in the way of their customers.
In a year or so, the market will be moving from this location and I don’t know whether or not they will allow visitors at the new address somewhere in the Toyosu district. So, if you’re heading to Tokyo soon, be sure not to miss a morning visit to Tsukiji Fish Market – and the outer market area where they sell all kinds of cooking stuff and have several small izakayas/restaurants. Ate a delicious sushi lunch at one of those tiny eateries after the visit yesterday. Seafood doesn’t get much fresher than what they serve there.
Tokyo is definitely a lot hotter and more crowded on the streets and underground than I remember it. Still nowhere near Bangkok’s insane traffic, humidity or smog.
Almost had a panic attack during yesterday morning’s rush hour along the JR Line. As polite and unobtrusive as the Japanese are, they have no problem pushing, packing and squeezing you into an already densely populated subway car.
Kappabashi Street is still one of my absolut favorite places in Tokyo. Dozens of small shops that sell professional cooking and restaurant gear in a very low key, very local neighborhood.
Took the boat there via the Sumida River from the lush Hama-rikyu Gardens (just a stones throw from the fish market) and forty-five minutes later, I arrived near the historic Asakusa temple area which is just a few blocks from Kappabashi.
Shibuya seems to be the new Harajuku. Or, at least the place to be seen wearing your new kit. Ate dinner at a small shop in Shibuya where you had to play a game on a table side touch screen just be able to order your food – which then arrived on a tray via one of two rails next to the booth. Great food. Here’s a few pics of the place.
Taking the Shinkansen tomorrow morning to Kyoto.
I’m writing this at approximately 2:45 a.m. (local Tokyo time) and I am suffering form a severe case of jet lag.
They have a business lounge at our hotel. One with a reasonably well-stacked, complimentary bar and a snacks buffet. It’s open from 5:00 pm-9:00pm – so, while Charlotte was in Roppongi checking out a couple of museums (and an exclusive grooming salon for dogs) yesterday evening, I sat comfortably on the 20th floor by a window in the lounge, taking time lapse sequences and long exposure stills all the while sipping alternately on an ice-filled glass with Four Roses bourbon and chilled one brimming with Sapporo beer.
I was interviewed by a local Tokyo tv channel yesterday at the Harajuku subway station. They asked me to react to several anime monsters they showed me on an iPad – none of which were particularly scary. The interview was over in about three minutes and I couldn’t help but feel a little sad for the crew to be sent out on such silly assignment.
I find it increasingly interesting why the Japanese are so fascinated with cartoons. Is it perhaps a counter reaction to the fact that society here is so strictly governed by social etiquette and tradition? That the cartoon characters help them regress to a less burdensome time in their lives, i.e. childhood?
Having said that, I wholeheartedly dig the Japanese sensibilities for aesthetics. Not just the minimalistic approach, either. Most everything just looks naturally balanced and visually pleasing. From the futuristic design of the superfast Shinkansen locomotive we saw yesterday at Tokyo Station to the beautiful presentation of the bento box dinner I ordered from rooms service last night. Nothing is left to chance and everything is given some thought.
Today: the fish market, the mega crossing and hopefully, a glimpse of Jiro.
Arrived yesterday morning at Narita International on a SAS plane that may possibly have been as old as I am. It’s been seven years since I was in Tokyo and those Japanese architects and engineers have been keeping busy. Tested both the new Skytrain and Tokyo Sky Tree yesterday – from which the above image was taken.
Ate amazing sushi for lunch just below Tokyo Sky Tree. Here, the chef adds the amount of wasabi directly to your maki rolls and nigiri pieces. I had forgotten about that – which explained the confused look on the waiters face when I asked where the wasabi was.
The very first time I had sushi, some thirty years ago, was in Göteborg at a restaurant called Mikado. I was a regular there when I lived in the city and after I moved, I’d pop in for lunch when I was in town. Apparently, they’re still around, albeit in new premises by the arena, Scandinavium. The sushi I had yesterday at a simple lunch restaurant – one of maybe three dozen places in a busy shoppingmall – was far better than any Japanese food I’ve ever eaten in Malmö.
Like many others, I fell in love with the radioactive monster, Godzilla when I was a kid. And though those Japanese sci-fi movies were dubbed with American voice actors and offered a minimum of Japanese cultural references, there was still something that intrigued me about Japan. I still don’t know what it is.
Love those Japanese electric toilets – and above all, their comfortably warm seats.
Still no trash cans to be found on the streets or at subway stations of Tokyo.
There seem to be more locals that speak better English than I recall.
Paid extra for a bigger room which is still ridiculously small compared with almost any decent hotel in Bangkok. But it’s still significantly larger than any room I’ve stayed at in Manhattan.
I really appreciate that Tokyoites are extremely polite. So considerate in fact, that they wear surgical mouth guards when they have a cold or aren’t feeling well.
Today. Yoyogi Park and rockabilly and dolls fans of Harajuku.
More of my photos from Tokyo here.
Friends often ask how work is. Well, these last few months have been absolutely fab. My clients have consistently provided me with a slew of creatively challenging but nonetheless amazing assignments – some of which have taking me to far away, yet familiar places; L.A., New York and Portugal. A spinoff gig from the contract work I’m doing for Nordic Choice Hotels, sent me off early one morning, not too long ago, to Råbylunds Gård – a beautiful old farm estate converted into a business community and conference center – located just outside of Lund, Sweden. The bright yellow rapeseed flowers were in full bloom and at least during part of that morning, the sky was as blue as the Swedish flag. It’s on mornings like that one that I realize just how great a job I have. I feel incredibly humble for the success I have enjoyed these last couple of years. Doing what I do, traveling near and far and meeting so many interesting people. What’s not to like about that?
Tired today. Huge gala party last night when the much anticipated Malmö Live was officially inaugurated. I’ve been working with Nordic Choice and Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live for the past 10 months or so, and in a way, last night represented the crescendo of my efforts as three films that I had been commissioned to produce were premiered on small and large screens.
About a week ago, while I was shooting scenes in New York, I got a call that my new book had arrived a few days ahead of schedule. Surprised about the unexpected news, I made arrangements to store them somewhere until I returned to Sweden. Anyway, the new book, “Västra Hamnen 2015” has now been distributed to all sponsors and is selling well in the gallery. It’s the tenth book in the series and I would of probably laughed had someone suggested after the first one (back in 2005) that I’d continue documenting the area in nine (mostly) consecutive books.