I went to Japan to visit my sister, Shirley-Anne, who's there teaching English.

Although I was only there for ten days, we managed to see a fair bit of the country including the not-to-be-missed city of Kyoto, and took in the sights of Osaka for a day to get a feel for modern urban life in Japan.

I found Japan particularly fascinating since it is very modern but not at all western, which took getting used to. Surprisingly few Japanese speak English well, or are too embarrassed to make mistakes trying. It's disconcerting to walk into a familiar landmark like McDonalds (they're all over Japan) and struggle to get across the simple fact that you'd like a Big Mac with fries, which, while less healthy than typical Japanese cuisine, is a fine antidote to culture-shock for the gaijin.

Kyoto Tower

It seems there's a tower in every Japanese city. Fork over $15 or so and you get to see the view from the top.

That's Shirley-Anne.
Notice the dusting of snow on the hedge. It was a bit of a shock to me since before going to Japan I'd spent a couple of days in Singapore where it was a humid 30° C. And Japanese houses do not have central heating...

The Joy of Life

The sign reads: "Let us discover the significance of birth and the joy of living."



"Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?"
Practically every restaurant will have a display like this outide the entrance showing the dishes on offer. The plastic replicas are amazingly realistic and often look more appetizing than the real thing. On more than one occasion we ordered by pointing to an item in the display.


Random Weirdness

As it happened, the door was unlocked.

Why do the Japanese feel compelled to wrap everything?!

"Pocari Sweat"
How's that for a brand name?

A Japanese Garden

Yes, that's snow on the roof.

Notice the raked sand garden.

Yummy, Octopus Balls

When in Rome...
Notice the low table at the lower left of the picture. It's a fixture in traditional Japanese homes. We sat, cross-legged, around the table to eat supper with our legs under the blanket and warmed by a bar heater under the table. Obviously it's a huge fire hazard...

Osaka at Dusk

I took this series of shots at a street full of restaurants that runs next to a canal. Not that there were any waterside patios: the canal water was an unpleasant shade of grey.

Yes, the claws on the crab move.

I was pleased with how this shot turned out.
Note the blurred pedestrians.

The "White" Castle, Himeiji

This castle is one of Japan's few surviving castles. (Most of them were made of wood and hence prone to burning down, and have subsequently been replaced by concrete replicas.) The White Castle and the grounds surrounding it are spectacularly set on a hill overlooking the town.

An interesting abstract shot.

Yours truly at the lower right.
Technical note: I shot these photos using a high-speed film so you can see the graininess if you click through. It's quite an interesting effect.