Day Trip to Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki

Last weekend I went on a day trip to Hitachi Seaside Park with a couple of my Indonesian friends. I was so ready—I had planned my outfit, packed my bag days ahead and woke up early, but of course. Being a complete clueless fella when it comes to directions, I made us wait to board on the wrong train and as a result we had to re-purchase another set of tickets. It was an expensive lesson learnt, but regardless of our travel predicament we just can't let Kochia's fleeting fall scene slip through our fingertips, and to add in to that, we had booked a travel package for this trip as well.

It was around 10:45am when we arrived but the park was already packed to its brim with people, from tourists to locals taking their beautiful, well-groomed dogs for a walk—everyone is in to catch the flaming red foliage of Kochia while they can. It was a landscape that we had never experienced before—a sea of vigorous, rounded Kochia shrubs flaunting its brilliant crimson tint that was picture-perfect against the clear blue sky. Despite the weekend crowd, surprisingly there were moments where the crowd will flock in other parts of the hill, leaving a small window of opportunity for us to sneak in for photos without people in them. We had the whole day to just roam around and snap, snap—snap until we were completely satisfied with what we've got, and went home boarding the correct train this time.

Japan Summer 2016

2-10 July 2016. It's been a long time coming. A 10-days long trip to shirk all my responsibilities, wind down and ease my nerves. Ever since working full-time I have grown to really appreciate how precious weekends and holidays are, so this 10-days break is a no brainer and we had to plan a trip to somewhere far, somewhere worthwhile... and for my family, that is Japan. Specifically Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. Originally the trip stemmed from the need to check my school out, to view the room I might be residing in, basically doing beforehand preparations for my studies here, but somehow we scrapped all that plan. Oh well, I don't mind, grateful even, for the extra time to explore Japan, not bound to any unnecessary duties...

Osaka was simply a pit-stop to Kyoto but we managed to visit Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine during the short time we had there. We had to travel a bit from downtown since it is in a considerably remote part of Osaka, but the shrine was easy to find since it is right in front of the train station. Walking towards the entrance, a picture-perfect view of the arched bridge slowly builds up, in a brilliant vermilion that looked even more impressive in actuality. Into the main area of the shrine, the architecture certainly did not struck me as grand or particularly exceptional compared to those in Kyoto, but I did enjoy the minimal crowd.

No Kyoto trip is complete without a visit to some of the most iconic tourist spots in the city, and those that I visited were Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Fushimi Inari Taisha and Kinkaku-ji. Just like what I had expected, everywhere was inevitably packed to its brim with a mob of people coming in from all parts of the world. I just cannot deal with crowds and everything seemed to pass by in a blur with me exerting strenuous efforts to take photos of these busy tourist destinations without getting any people in it, until I was left with no energy. Ryōan-ji, a Zen temple, with its most celebrated minimalist rock garden also attracted hordes of tourists, leaving no space to ponder and have your own private moment of Zen. During my visit, there were local students and I could hear them repeatedly counting the amount of rocks, as if there was some sort of significance to it. I dwell on the possibility of whether the 15 rocks were arranged in some sort of philosophical sense, but being the dense person that I am, I came up with nothing in the end.

One of my most notable visits in Kyoto was definitely Shōren-in, a Buddhist temple. It is slightly off the beaten track and often bypassed by many tourists, but I am certain that this temple is by far one of my favourites. Stepping into the vicinity I was instantly transported into another quieter, more serene reality... Rather than a temple, the place looks more like a residence with a veranda overlooking one of the finest garden I have ever seen thus far, where you can properly grasp the surroundings and take in the beauty as it is. Outside, there is a trail in the garden where you are allowed to stroll around and take a closer look at the garden and pond. I am really looking forward to visit again during Fall, when the foliage turns into a brilliant scarlet.

We ended our last day in Kyoto strolling around the riverbank of Kamo River at dusk. Kamo River steadily flows throughout the city, like a beating heart. A seeking spot for locals and tourists alike, it is a breath of fresh air from the suffocating throng of tourists. I love being at dusk. It is a time where people go back to the comfort of their homes, a time of wonder and hope of what the night might bring us. That day the sky greeted us with a dazzling glow and soft colours of clear pink, some parts obstructed by round masses of clouds. The last radiance of the setting sun gradually evaporates into a hazy blue, followed by a soft darkness, leaving us in shadow as our visions were illuminated by the brightly lit buildings.

We took it easy in Tokyo. Maybe we had enough sightseeing in the past few days, but we scrapped any sightseeing plans as if it was the obvious thing to do, and accommodated to our hedonistic selves. Me and mum with our shopping, brother with his otaku interests and dad again, with his laziness...

To be honest, the trip was one that made me realise how dreadful summertime travelling is, and it was especially so since we were manoeuvring around town via public transport, basically walking to everywhere under the sizzling heat of the sun. To further heighten my discomfort, my vanity prompted me to wear "fashionable" items that are visually appealing but not necessarily travel-friendly for self-photo purposes—resulting in scars around my feet that will take forever to fade. The heat was so intense, halfway through the trip I completely forego my morning make-up routine since it was going to melt off anyways. It was early July, and I can't imagine how August feels like...

I didn't take as many photos as I expected I would. I blamed my photography gears for not being able to perform (but honestly, it is about time that my 10 years old camera retire), deep inside disheartened about my incompetence in producing visuals that I could personally be proud of. Have I perhaps lost my touch? My mind is trapped in nothingness as I mindlessly partake in the tedious workload that I am dying to pull out of, doing the same tasks on default every single day. I am literally confined in a space that is void of creativity, all my senses blunting more by the day as lightbulb moments comes less and less frequently. It frustrates me down to the core of my being, but I just have to hopelessly persevere as freedom comes in 1 month. I can almost see it, my face all smug and ecstatic, as if I have reached the highest form of happiness. 

#2 - Japan, Bits of Bali & Singapore

Shot with Olympus µ[MJU:]-II with Kodak Potra 800

I have for fact concluded that my previous film mishap was definitely due to the lab's error, and now that I think about it, I was clearly ripped off for the price I paid. They charged me an extra amount for said "high-res" scan and took almost 1 month to simply send me back the roll. I am grateful that a kind acquaintance personally messaged me and recommended other options that offer better quality and quicker service for a more reasonable price. You can tell that the difference in quality is ridiculous, somehow incredible even...

I used this roll from the Bali trip back in Sept 2015 and managed to stretch them out to my short visit to Singapore in May and early July's Japan trip. Most of the photos from Bali and Singapore, although the really bad ones are not in this post, are quite hideous as you can see from the intense fade tone, but the ones from the Japan trip turned out mostly decent if not kind of blurry. I'm still trying to figure out the proper conditions and lighting for different ISO films, so I'm still experimenting... I'm restless and excited until my study in Japan where I'll be having plenty of time and places to shoot! 

I still have a post from my Japan trip left in queue but I have yet the time to properly compose a story... I want to write it soon while the trip is still fresh in my mind but I'll take my time to write a story that means something to me.