Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gachapon ガチャポン

Gachapon is a Japanese onomatopoeia: 'gacha' is the sound of the crank on a vending machine turning and 'pon' is the sound of the capsule enclosed toy dropping into the receptacle at its base. The term describes the machines and the toy which are numerous in most shopping areas and seemingly popular with people of all ages. The picture is of my newly acquired Japanese mobile phone and its The Nightmare Before Christmas gachapon embellishment. Most everyone in Japan has at least one mobile phone with internet access, a camera, games, TV, etc., what most in the states would call a smart phone, and all of those phones have a decretive or functional strap of one kind or another to personalize it. With the growing popularity of the iPhone 3Gs in Japan and its lack of built-in strap connection the growing alternative to personalization seems to be japanese exclusive cases. I guess much bigger gachapon machines are in order. . .

Sannomiya 三宮

Sannomiya is the current city center of Kobe and is much more densely packed with tall office buildings and retail centers than where I currently live in Higashinada. Sannomiya is also a hub of many transportation systems in Kobe, but compared to central Tōkyō is much smaller and in my opinion the people and friendlier and warmer. Kobe is known for its bread and cakes as well as for its shoes and is the home of many large high-end retailers from throughout the world. This is a view of a section of Sannomiya as seen from the 20th story of a building adjacent to the main train station.

Picture Perfect Produce

Japanese produce, specifically organic produce, available in the “farmers market” section of local grocery stores often provide a photograph of the farmers on their packaged produce complete with contact information. This practice is also common on locally produced packaged breads that provide a headshot of the proud baker. How does this effect the quality of the food and the consumers buying experience? If you had your picture and contact information on the products you sold, would it change the quality of your product or how you do business? Personally, I chose to purchase these satsuma (mikan) over another similar bag because I felt a connection, albeit minor, to the people who grew them.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


This is a site from one of my well trodden paths and it is nothing more than a protective guard against human and aviary infestation under the train overpass on a footpath alongside a mountain fed stream. All the same I am intrigued by the contrast in color and texture and find the site quite intriguing.

Jinja 神社

Amishiki Temman Jinja Shrine 網敷天満神社白 is one of the larger local shrines. Shines of various sizes are extremely common in Kobe having, by my calculation, an average of one every two-three blocks. However, they are still currently outnumbered by convenience stores. . .

Friday, February 26, 2010

Don't Fear the Chocolate. . . Beer

Royce and Sapporo teamed up to produce a seasonal chocolate brew which I stubbled across at a local foreign food store - of all places. Royce is a chocolate company located in Sapporo Japan (Sapporo is no longer the home of the beer as the name suggests but they do have a brewery in Hokkaido) and while this is not my first chocolate beer it was distinctive and quite tasty. The chocolate doesn't make it sweet but instead adds a deeper richness to the taste with a slightly bitter finish. The malt and chocolate seem to be deeply entwined to suggest that it was more then just an additive. The smell of rich chocolate fills your nose as the can is opened and matches the thick dark chocolate like color of the beer. Chocolate Brewery is all win, but one serving is likely enough to satisfy both the beer & chocolate enthusiast.

Tōkyō One Last Time . . .

Final shot from this trip to Tōkyō an interesting building in Marunoichi I particularly like the Japanese flag waving in the foreground.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Döner kebab : Akihabara 秋葉原

No big city is complete without a Döner kebab stand and Tōkyō is no exception. Located on a crowded central corner of Akihabara these fellows offered up some delicious and authentic Turkish eats take-away style. It proved to be a popular stop with the younger crowd that flock to the neon bathed streets of Akihabara and its many electric and animation hobby shops.

Japanese Plum (Ume) Blossoms

Another shot of the Ume blossoms this time from in front of the Tōkyō National Diet Library building. The library is similar in purpose and scope to the U.S. Library of Congress having very strict borrowing, copying and visiting rules. Happened to be one of the rainy days, actually they were all rainy really, so I was able to capture this droplet prior to its last fall to Earth.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tōkyō Tower 東京タワー

Tōkyō Tower is a communications and observation tower located in Shiba Park and at 1,091 ft it is the tallest artificial structure in Japan. The structure is an Eiffel Tower-inspired lattice tower that is painted white and international orange to comply with air safety regulations. I just could not help myself I know this was a total tourist spot but I felt that a trip to Tōkyō was just not complete without it. I missed the tower lights, which is what i was hoping for, by just a few minutes but I had to leave to meet with friends and arriving late in Japan is extremely bad form.

Ekiben – Train Station Bento Boxes

Many people are familiar with Japanese bento box meals but the special class of bento that are only sold at train stations called ekiben, shortened from eki bento (station box meal), are perhaps less well known. They are sold at train stations across Japan for a modest price and are standard fare on Shinkansen platforms which is where this one comes from. The wrapper claimed this style of ekiben won some contest for bento and was presented in a woven basket. Ekiben are customized with the local cuisine although an assortment of rice, pickled vegetables, and sea food are usually figured in. If only the (so called) food available on train and airline buy-on-board meals in the states could be this good. Also, I wanted a better picture but I was too hasty to tuck-in so this is the best I could do. . .

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Streets of Marunouchi 丸の内 #1

Marunouchi is a commercial district of Tōkyō located in Chiyoda between Tōkyō Station and the Imperial Palace. The name, meaning "inside the circle", derives from its location within the palace's outer moat. I am fascinated by the city streets in Tōkyō, especially at night, and reading their landscape literally and figuratively. The streets in Japan are bathed in language: signs, sounds, warnings, advertisements and symbols. For a visitor it is not just the language, which is also layered and difficult, but also symbols and methods of communicating other than standard language that prove interesting. For instance I sometimes see signs without any language that are intent on conveying some warning or meaning but to me they are a mystery that even a better understanding of Japanese language would not demystify.

Streets of Marunouchi 丸の内 #2

Sometimes I try to see the landscape the way that medieval exegetes saw sacred scriptural texts. The medieval scholar of the Bible could read identical texts in productively different ways. Utilizing different metaphorical lenses you will find different things in the landscape depending on what you are searching for; if you understand that a landscape posses features that can be understood according to several disparate senses.

This is a large gate (Torii) marking the entry to one of the many temples in Marunouchi with an impressive office building behind it and though not pictured a mirror copy of this office building exists on the other side enclosing the temple between them.

Streets of Marunouchi 丸の内 #3

Every text or landscape can teach several radically different lessons depending on the questions being asked and no single reading, no matter how original or insightful, is ever exclusive or comprehensive.

Another Marunoichi Torii (鳥居) this time in the more common Shinto/Buddhist style with bright vermilion paint that was hidden down a small ally between large apartment buildings. I crossed paths with this site while looking for a warm vending machine coffee to give me an early evening perk.

Miraikan: Museum of Emerging Science & Innovation

This is an exhibit at the educational museum located in Odaiba Tōkyō. The Miraikan (museum of the future) provides hands-on exploration of the latest developments in cutting-edge science and technology, including interactions with ASIMO (the Honda robot) and displays that explain current and future applications such as noninvasive medical procedures, environmentally friendly homes, and the International Space Station -just to name a few. Topics spanning nanotechnology to the physiological elements of innovation are explained in detail. This exhibit compiles various environmental and weather data to display a holistic living view of the Earth - simply breathtaking.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Odaiba お台場

View from the escalator of the Tōkyō Odaiba monorail station. Daiba (fort) refers to the reclaimed land in the Bay of Tōkyō which were constructed at the end of the Edo Period to protect the city against attackers approaching from the sea. During the 1980s the redevelopment of the islands into a business district was started but development was critically slowed down and is still underway.

フジテレビ Fuji TV

Located on the reclaimed land complex of Odaiba in Tōkyō bay, this is the aluminum - clad headquarters of Fuji TV, one of Japan's national broadcasters. Unique open architecture with divided building space, one side is an office tower and the other a media tower linked by three enclosed pedestrian bridges. Next to the media tower is a spherical observation platform and while it is free to walk around inside and look at some programs being recorded, the observation deck with views of the Tōkyō skyline cost 500円 which was too rich for my wallet that day.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Final image from Gyoen Garden

One final view from within the grounds of Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens looking out toward one of the buildings in Shinjuku complete with reflective lake and bridge. Within this photograph are some common elements apparent in most Japanese gardens. Ponds and streams‚ either real or implied‚ are often part of the Japanese garden. Water is considered a source of purification and refreshment, and in Shinto is revered.

Gardens that include bodies of water generally include bridges built of either wood (sori bashi) or stone (sori ishibashi). Some gardens with ponds that are too small for bridges employ slabs of natural uncut stones and may only traverse a sand or gravel 'stream'.

The Japanese garden also takes into consideration nearby or distant landmarks that could be seen from the garden — mountains, cascades, or works of architecture are used as “borrowed scenery” (shakkei) this element is particularly interesting when the large architecture and buildings of present day Tōkyō are taken into account.

Gyoen Garden 新宿御苑

Now for my vision of the Ume blossom, many are like it but this one is mine. Quite happy with the depth of field from my Panasonic LX3 considering its 4:3 ratio sensor size and limited optical zoom. Photograph taken at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden which contains Japanese and European styles and is located in a park that was originally a residence of the Naito family in the Edo period. The park is now under the jurisdiction of the national Ministry of the Environment.

Saké お酒

Had a meeting with a friend today at the Mikage train station for lunch and tea and as we were getting ready to part ways noted something interesting was being set-up in the large outside court across from the station. Turns out it was a saké tasting and a nominal 300円 scored two bags of snacks and three large pours of your choosing. Kobe's Nada district is the world's top producing region of saké and has long been famous as a place for saké production due to the availability of high quality rice and water and its proximity to the large Kobe Port. Notice the last picture on the right has a nice blurred effect and though I would like to take credit for it - seems by the end of the evening the saké induced some shake in my normally steady hands that created a nice but unexpected result Kanpai かんぱい !

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens #1

As stated in the last post the Ume 梅 tree are in bloom and with them comes the photographer, a fact made apparent on a visit to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The Japanese are serious hobbyists and photography is a popular hobby. Many have a collection of equipment that would make many professional photographers green. It is not just photography either, sewing, drawing, running, collecting, woodworking, building electronics, you name the hobby and it has clubs, stores, magazines and hundreds of serious fellow enthusiasts.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens #2

So as I am joining in the photographic reverie of the Ume blossoms, using my beloved but comparatively inadequate hardware and generally the member of a younger generation than these seasoned shooters, musing at what makes my images any different then the hundreds of similar images before it. What makes a photograph(er) great, is it technical ability, originality, serendipity, fame and recognition?

Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens #3

This final photograph is from the train station which is also a favorite year-round site with photographers, especially if a high speed train passes through the station.

Inner Gardens Tōkyō Imperial Palace 皇居

Final impressions in B&W of the inner gardens at the Imperial Palace. Bamboo, one of my favorite plants, a perennial evergreen in the true grass family, they are a joy to photograph as well as employ in various ways. Bamboo make a lovely sound as the wind passes through a grove of them, the timber is beautiful and sustainable, they have delicious roots, make good fiber for clothing and in general (in my opinion) create a serene atmosphere. Also, the Ume (plum tree) are beginning to bloom in the warmer parts of Japan including Tōkyō, Ōsaka and Kōbe acting as messengers with news that spring is starting to push through the strong grasp of winter.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pond at the East Garden #1

The Pond at the formal garden of the Imperial Palace, while most of the grounds are off-limits the public can still view the impressive east garden.

Pond at the East Garden #2

The garden was built on the site of the Edo Castle of the shoguns & visitors enter through the Otemon gate, once the main entrance to the castle. It is surrounded by a section of the original moat, incorporating walls & foundations of the castle. The garden contains a teahouse, pond & waterfall.

Nijubashi Bridge

Located in the plaza outside the Imperial Palace, the Nijubashi or two bridges span the moat to the main (south) entrance of the inner palace grounds. The stone and iron bridge pictured is also called Meganebashi, Eyeglass Bridge, while the wooden two leveled bridge that formerly stood in this location is where the common name for this bridge is derived.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Outer Gardens Tōkyō Imperial Palace 皇居

Visited the wet, cold, sprawling and visually inspiring city of Tōkyō over the last few days. This is the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace, the main residence of the Emperor of Japan, it is also a large public park located in Chiyoda. These trees surround the outer walls for a good portion of the south and east side prior to crossing the moat and entering the gardens. These fellows have the daunting task of keeping the many trees pruned and shaped.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Autumn at Kōya-san

So obviously Autumn has passed and is covered by the deep chill and snows of winter, so what better time to pull out a colorful photograph to recall the warmer temperatures and vibrant colors? This is a tree on Mount Kōya outside Kobe and for me it recalls the crisp and fragrant air of my favorite season.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


This is the Daito (great tower) located at the Garan or central temple complex on Kōya-san. Originally constructed by Kobo Daishi it represents a rather rare kind of pagoda which still resembles the Indian stupa more than the three and five storied Japanese pagoda.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Instant Ramen Museum

Nothing says happy St. Valentines Day like instant noodles and nothing says instant noodles like the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum. This is a museum dedicated to instant noodles, Cup Noodles and Momofuku Ando who created them. The museum is located in Ikeda, Ōsaka and among other sites includes the "Instant Ramen Tunnel" a visual history and timeline of instant ramen and also offers an instant ramen workshop allowing visitors to assemble their own unique Cup Noodles complete with sealed air packaging for a safe journey home, itadakimasu いただきます.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kobe Port Tower

Kobe Port Tower is one of the cities landmarks located in Meriken Park the former location of the American embassy. The tower mimics the shape of a Tsuzumi, a traditional Japanese musical instrument and rises 108 meters.


TETSUJIN 28-GO (dubbed Gigantor in the states) a popular robot comic and TV animation created by Kobe native Mitsuteru Yokoyama recently received a memorial 1:1 Scale 59-foot-tall statue in Wakamatsu Park. The Kobe Tetsujin Project's statue is intended as a symbol of the city's continuing revival after the 1995 Kobe Earthquake and is located in Nagata Ward, the city's hardest hit neighborhood. For this photo I used a pre-set picture mode that added a classic B&W film grain to the image fully zoomed in at F2.8 for a shallow depth of field and exposed without a tripod so I also got some blur from camera shake.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Crossed paths with this fellow on a stroll through a park just outside of the city. Actually the park was overrun with these beauties, every tree, bush and or crossroad had one or two of the larger female with a few smaller males at the corners of the web. Known as Nephila clavata or Jorōgumo (Japanese) her ~30mm body is framed by long stripped legs and brilliant colors making for an imposing site, lucky for us they are not poisonous to humans.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Taiyaki たい焼き

Taiyaki are fish-shaped cakes commonly filled with red bean paste made from sweetened azuki beans. These tasty wee Taiyaki have assorted fillings including custard, chocolate, and cheese.

Setsubun 節分

Setsubun or the "seasonal division" festival is held the day prior to each new season. The spring Setsubun is often thought of as a continuation of New Year's festivities and is accompanied by ritual acts aimed at cleansing away any negativity lingering from the former year and to drive away disease-bringing evil spirits for the year to come. This particular festival complete with ceremonial bonfire was held inside a large shopping arcade across from the Sannomiya train station.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Earthquake Memorial Service

The Hanshin earthquake occurred in the southern part of Hyōgo Prefecture on January 17, 1995. 2010 marks the 15th anniversary and many services and activities were scheduled throughout the city including this candlelight vigil.

One of the permanent features of the earthquake memorial site is a water feature that can be seen from
both above and below. For the memorial service each visitor was given the opportunity to place the head of a white carnation into the fountain transforming the celling of the underground segment into a eerie and beautiful living bouquet.

Chinatown Kobe

Yokoso (ようこそ) Welcome to DEKOBOKO. The name of the blog translates from Japanese as “unevenness” and is composed of two elements meaning 凸 convex and 凹 concave; aside from the unique meaning I just like the way it rolls off the tongue. The following image is from Chinatown in Kobe, though many cities across the globe have a chinatown they all seem to take on a local flavor that makes them unique.