Live from Japan

Tue, Jun 14, 2011 As many of you know, I’m off to Japan for some time with our family and friends over here. My wife, definitely my better half, was born in Japan and definitely needs some Japan time ever year or so. I actually lived in Japan for 13 years. More of my adult life has been spent in Japan than the US. How’s that for something odd?
Anyway, one of my goals while in Japan is doing some serious street photography. While I love shooting portraits and have loved all the weddings I’ve done, it’s street photography, á la Bresson and David Alan Harvey that really get’s my creative juices going. Here are some first shots from the first few days.
Convenience Society
Japan is the land of convenience. You go into a convenience store, it’s clean, has everything and you are in and out in a few minutes. They make 7 Eleven look like a clunky store from decades ago. In this photo, you can see a small kiosk just stuffed with everything from beer to freshly made Onigiri. This little kiosk was inside Shin Osaka station where we caught the bullet train to Okayama before heading off to Shikoku.
Lost Generation
The Japanese school system is a bit of an enigma. Kindergartens and elementary schools are somewhat magical, as if existing perpetually in 1957. The kids are happy, they learn a ton, do a bunch of art and creative things, and then Jr. High hits. While the world has changed drastically, the schools have not. Jr. High and High School is based solely on tests and wrote memorization. In a fast moving world economy, the kids just can’t keep up with their eduction. They graduate from high school or college just waiting for jobs that aren’t going to exist anymore. The result of the wrote memorization is often just blank stares and boredom in schools. This girl reminded me of this.
On Time?
Need to be perfectly on time somewhere? Then you need to take a Japanese train. It’s odd, the train schedules say things like 11:38 to Okayama. Why not just called it 11:40 and be done with it? Well, the reason is that the train will take off at exactly 11:38, without fail. If a train is more than 1 minute late there will be an announcement with an apology. Our Shinkansen (bullet train) arrived two minutes before departure, everyone got on and it took off at the exact time it was supposed to. Trains! Ah, no check in, no hassle. Man, if they could build a bullet train between Vancouver BC and San Francisco, that would be awesome (I left LA out on purpose…)
The Japanese have the highest rate of literacy in the world and, man, do these people read. If you can get one hit book in Japan, you’ve got it made. These things sell like hot cakes. There are bookstores everywhere and not only are they filled with books, but with magazines galore. There are at least a dozen high quality camera magazines. And when I say high quality, they are mostly filled with photos, not gear reviews. It’s like heaven.

About Fundy

Andrew Funderburg has written 287 articles on this blog.

Father, husband, photographer and creator of Fundy Software residing in the Portland, Oregon metro area.

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