Tag Archives: No bad photos

The real Japan

Travelers often arrive
in Japan
with a checklist
of visual expectations.
A menu of Japan-sights.
Pale, young women
in kimono.
Mount Fuji
watching over Tokyo.
Cherry blossoms
in the pink
of their youth.
Ancient temples
surrounded by bamboo forests.
Skyscrapers piercing
blue skies.
Harajuku girls
in petticoats
and fuchsia hair.
Trains packed
with Salary Men
in grey suits
en route to distant
cubicles.
Red vending machines
stocked with the unusual.
The panoramic view
from a marble window ledge
in the Park Hyatt Tokyo.
Gaggles of well-mannered
school girls
in navy uniforms
and straw hats.The traveler’s Japan
exists.
It begs to be captured
in photographs
and haiku.This Japan
is just part
of the story.
The predictable bit
of pristine ice-berginess
above the water.The rest of Japan
is a jumble-jangle of
wood and concrete grey
houses and apartment buildings
built up against
each other
beside train tracks
and shopping malls and
sweet, small parks.
Armies of bicycles
perch precariously
on sidewalks,
blowing over in the wind.
Plants in large ceramic pots,
sweater-wearing dogs in prams,
and 100 Yen shops.
Light blue duvets
hanging outside,
being aired out.
Women returning home
with small plastic bags
of groceries.
Grandparents on brisk walks.
Communities working together
to overcome tsunami-loss.
Ferris wheels,
Chinese food restaurants
on boats,
pizza delivery guys
zipping by
on motorbikes.
Families skating
at outdoor ice rinks.
People in love.All of these bits
are arranged
as if the huffy,
giant toddler
of the gods
grabbed handfuls of goodies
from the box marked Japan,
threw these disparate items to earth
and yelled, “All done, mommy.”There is no one Japan,
no real Japan.
All these Japans
live side by side
writing each other
into existence.In the absence
of geisha,
samurai
and ninja,
there are
ordinary people
living
sometimes lovely
sometimes complicated
sometimes sad
lives
in concrete jungles
and small towns
by the sea.These Japans
are also Japan.
Travelers are welcome
and there are
no bad photos here.
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how to be a japanographer

i.
a long time ago
in mexico
my teacher-friend heather dowd
spoke of her time in japan
in a quiet voice
as if we were in church.

“it’s not possible”
she said,
“to take
a bad photo
in japan.”

i loved
that she thought that.

ii.
i confess
to a box full of bad shots
of japan.

i took them when we first arrived.

iii.
after two years in bangkok
(an extrovert’s city
where people never stop
talking)
we moved to japan.

our arrival
here
was not a gentle
touching down
but the crash-landing
of foreigners
who don’t yet know their way.

the first english we heard
a message on the airport shuttle
“please do not annoy your neighbours.”
too late.
we were cymbals and horns honking
while japan looked politely away.

time passed
in that gracious way
that time has.

we still can’t tell a taxi driver
how to get to our house
but we’re acclimating.

to really live in japan
one must learn
to slow down.

stop.
look.
& listen.

like little kids
crossing the street,
we learn
to pay attention.

at the early learning centre
at our school
one student reminds another,
“cuddle soft like a feather.”
gentle hugs only.

in japan, we cuddle soft
like a feather.

iv.
i want you to know
that it’s hard
to take a bad photo
in japan.

even in the grey
concrete corners
of too-big cities
or in the jumble of things
co-existing in a too-small space,
japan is beautiful.

like a pink umbrella
on a winter’s day.

v.
japan,
like most women,
likes to have her photo taken.

especially by someone
who loves her.

Hong Kong Walk with Jenn

{The ferry to Hong Kong Island}

{The view from The Peak}

{Lunch at the China Tea Club}

{Under surveillance as we walk up the stairs}

{I love this street}

{Shopping old-school in Central}

{She looks up}

{Old signs, awnings and balconies}

{Chinese vases.  Next time… I’m buying one!}

{Man Mo Temple. The sign says “The paint is not yet dry.”}

{Students and parents pray for good grades}

{Vendor sells fruit as the sun sets}
{The view from our hotel room in Sha Tin. Gorgeous photo by DP.}
For more Friday Photos, head on over to Delicious Baby.
Where have you been walking lately?  What was your favourite part of the walk?