Black and white photograph of people hunting for crabs on a beach while a bird hunts for them in the foreground

Everybody’s hunting for crabs

July 21, 2021

Crabs were everywhere. While people hunted them for pleasure, the heron was looking for lunch.

Photograph of a man working on powerlines in Kobe, Japan

Man at work on powerlines

July 14, 2021

The roar of a diesel engine brought me to the window of my office.

They were methodical and meticulous. The vehicle moved into place. A crane rose. The coupling inspected and sprayed. Down came the crane.

Photograph of two elderly people in masks and long sleeves walking in evening sun with a ferris wheel behind them

Wear a mask

July 14, 2021

It was mid-spring, twenty+ degrees and a bright evening sun. I was in T-shirt with my hoodie wrapped around my waist.

They came towards me at a gentle stroll. Buried beneath layers and wearing masks and the white gloves sold in hundred yen stores.

Photograph of abandoned white goods in Kobe, with plants growing up and around it

Fly tipping in Japan

July 4, 2021

Japan has a much-deserved reputation for being clean and tidy. Although there are few bins, little litter is seen on the streets. A walk in the local park isn't accompanied by the usual plastic bottles and bags I was used to in the UK. All of this without bins on every street corner.

We just take our rubbish home.

Photo of a hammock slung between two trees in a Japanese wood

We all need a place to hide

July 1, 2021

Found tucked away in the back of Nihonheso Park.

White hydrangea plant

Hydrangea in Japan

June 24, 2021

It's a special time of year in Japan. The hydrangea are out, signalling the arrival of the rainy season. Parks are full of pinks and blues and whites. People are gathering (in a socially distanced way), enjoying the sights and taking photos.

Social media is awash with these photographs and everyone enjoys the shared experience of admiring the flowers for second time. I count myself amongst these onlookers.

KLM airplane at the stand in Kansai airport

A flight to Japan: my experience emigrating in the middle of a pandemic

June 21, 2021

In October 2020 we finally realised our long-term plans and moved to Japan. This is peak pandemic, Japan was closed off to most of the world, and there was no vaccine to speak of.

At the time I tweeted my experience, which a couple of people found helpful. Things have moved on a little, although my understanding is much of what we experienced is still in place today. I hope these notes are helpful.

Photograph of a classic Ramen Bowl with instant ramen, pork slices, boiled egg and spring onion

Celebrate life’s small victories

June 18, 2021

Instant Ramen is a single serving, you can't get it wrong, all you need is a pan and boiling water, staple. It's so easy to make even small children manage it. How I came to completely screw it up and turn scrummy noodles into a congealed, tasteless mess is anyone's guess.

Needless to say, that night's dinner was a silent and tense affair.

Folded umbrellas outside an abandoned cafe in a shopping mall in Japan

Mitsui Outlet Park: abandoned by covid and the state of emergency

June 6, 2021

The “State of Emergency” in Japan has seen some unusual restrictions placed on life. We’re encouraged not to travel “unless necessary”, and certainly not outside of our home prefecture. Restaurants have been told not to serve alcohol as drinking is linked to the spread of Covid. Many shopping malls and non-essential stores close at weekends.

Mitsui Outlet Park is located halfway between Kobe’s shopping heartland, Sannomiya, and the impressive Akashi Kaikyō Bridge. I’ve been there a few times, both to buy odds-and-sods, and enjoy the harbor walk and its view across the Inland Sea. It may be almost at sea level, but Osaka is still visible on a fine day.

Sushi plates on a conveyor in a restaurant in Japan

The endless march of food towards my table

June 5, 2021

While I enjoy sushi, my dislike of shellfish and cephalopods does limit my choice somewhat. That said, I can invariably find something on the menu.

Top tip: get close to the start of the conveyor. This is where you'll get the most choice.

A red plastic mug with Hello Kitty placed between flowers at a stone statue

Hello, Kitty

June 1, 2021

This isn't the first time I've seen a Hello Kitty branded mug at the foot of a statue in Japan. I dare say it won't be the last either.

A photograph of a man walking along a street at night, illuminated by a street light.

Street photography in Osaka: a lone traveller

May 28, 2021

Taken one night while I was living in Osaka. I only stayed there for 3 months, two weeks in quarantine, then time while we looked for a house in Kobe. Our house was close to Tennoji, a short walk from the Temple, and we could see the stunning Abeno Harukas tower from our balcony.

We used to take walks at night. Although Tennoji doesn't have the bright lights of Tokyo's Shibuya, it has its own charms. There are plenty of alleys, old houses and bright lights to keep someone interested.

Orange toy Suzuki Hustler kei car in front of the allow wheel of a real car of the same make

Japan’s BIG small cars

May 27, 2021

Emerging at the end of the Second World War, Kei cars were designed to be cheap to produce and own. With limited engine sizes and dimensions, they started as an alternative delivery method to motorbikes and evolved into practical family cars.

The first Kei cars were basic, with a 150cc engine and little in the way of safety equipment or comforts. Over the years they became more sophisticated, powerful and safe. 

Black and white photograph of some buildings with a dramatic sky in the background and bridge in the foreground

Patio at Myodani: caught on a Nokia smartphone

May 25, 2021

Patio is a shopping complex in Myodani, a town inside Kobe. It's a couple of kilometres away and makes for a restful walk if I'm in the mood.

This shot was caught on my Nokia 7.2 smartphone. As well as a processed JPEG file, the phone stores the RAW data straight off the sensor. Sometimes I'll play with the filters in Google Photo to create an image, other times I'll use RAW and Affinity Photo. This is one of the latter.

A railway station in Japan with an ATM in centre of the screen and no people

Myohoji Station: abandoned at lunchtime

May 15, 2021

Myohoji station, about 1:30 in the afternoon. When I first settled in this town, it was a bustling little station. Plenty of people wandering around, usually with rucksacks and walking shoes. Friends meeting up or bumping into one another and exchanging conversation. A couple of pop-up eateries rotating around on the spot where I stood to take this photo.

I stand here often, waiting for my wife to arrive from work. The decline was slow, captured over a fortnight of taking photos at random until I wondered where everyone was.

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