Nagoya, Japan: Grainy Days in Monochrome City

I must admit that although photography has become one of my hobbies since 2011, the thought of trying black and white photography never crossed my mind until mid-2020. While I do enjoy looking at other people’s black and white photos, I have this weird thought that when it comes to my own memories, I want to preserve them in color. Unless it is Bangkok (my hometown) and Phang Nga (my dad’s hometown and former home of my paternal grandparents where we still go annually), I rarely get to revisit most places. This is why I want to hold onto as-vivid-as-possible memories of the places I probably will never see again. Even though I know that I will have to let go of those memories eventually when I no longer exist in this world.

But this isn’t to say monochrome memories are inferior. Color photography is my personal preference, but shooting in black and white opens up unique possibilities and perspectives. Some photos gain extra depth and dimension. Texture, patterns, light and shadow, and certain details can become more prominent. The vibes of many photos change and sometimes I find photos that look more interesting in greyscale too. All these cool factors and the fact that I had an opportunity to live in and explore Nagoya for about three years made me decide to try shooting my first black and white roll there.

With the grainy Ilford Delta 3200 film stock, I spent three days visiting some of the places (without admission fee) that I wanted to see in black and white. I had already been to most of these places, but I tried to capture the angles or the objects that I had never photographed in color for a change. In addition to not knowing right away how the photos would come out on film, I didn’t know how they would look in black and white either. That means the excitement before having the film developed got doubled. While B&W photography is as challenging as they say and I still have a lot more to work on, I did have a lot of fun because of that sense of mystery throughout the process.

Here are the results from my first black and white roll. Most of the shots feature man-made structures since Nagoya is one of Japan’s largest cities. That said, the city didn’t really leave me feel so disconnected from nature because of its many parks, a lot of trees and flowers at the bigger shrines and temples, and even the sea. One roll wasn’t enough to show the various sides of Nagoya, but I tried to be as diverse as I could.

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Gujo Hachiman: Castle Town of Pristine Water

Water is everyone’s lifeblood, but for the people of Gujo Hachiman, it is also their pride. Gujo Hachiman townspeople’s bond and unique traditions with water have been passed down for over 400 years and become the symbol of this old castle town.

Located in Gifu Prefecture, Gujo Hachiman (Hachiman Town in Gujo City) is another easy and enjoyable day trip I took from Nagoya. The mountainous landscape and colder climate of Gifu Prefecture never disappoint with how different the atmosphere is in each season and in Gujo Hachiman, visitors get both nature and traditional townscape that has earned the Little Kyoto nickname. Though this kind of comparison is commonly used to promote smaller and lesser known places, I am all for drawing attention to unique charms of the hidden gem as well.

So let’s go see how this Little Kyoto looks, with beautiful additions of a hilltop castle and pristine waterways but without the crowds of Kyoto. As Gujo Hachiman official website says: “not far away, but a world apart”. I visited around the peak of autumn in mid-November, so there were various shades of red as another added bonus too.

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Kamikochi, Japan: Alpine Autumn Adventure

Although I am a winter child, autumn is my most favorite season and I am a big fan of autumn leaf viewing as well as hiking in this season. If I have to recommend only one autumn hike in Japan that could take anyone’s breath away and suit any level of fitness, my answer is Kamikochi in Chubu Sangaku National Park, Nagano Prefecture.

To be fair, there are more easily accessible places to hike in fall and if you don’t live in Chubu region, Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto, going to your local spot will save more time and cost. That doesn’t mean Kamikochi is super expensive or difficult to reach though. Home to some of Japan’s most imposing mountains or Northern Japan Alps (including Japan’s third tallest peak or the 3,190-meter tall Mount Okuhotakadake), Kamikochi is also the country’s birthplace of recreational mountaineering. The valley remains as pristine as can be with tourism by forbidding private cars in the area except for authorities and those with special permission, so it offers some of the country’s ultimate waterscapes and is one of Japan’s Eight Most Scenic Landscapes (Nippon Hakkei) as well.

Kamikochi can be an easy weekend escape, a not-too-difficult-but-extremely-enjoyable adventure, or even a strenuous multi-day trek as you desire and design. I will categorize my Kamikochi trip as a not-too-difficult-but-extremely-enjoyable adventure that included walking the easy trail.

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Coming Home (Last Memories of Nagoya, Until the Day We Meet Again)

Though it has already been a month and a few days since I came home, writing this post from my very own bedroom still feels surreal.

I left Nagoya on March 30 and arrived in Bangkok on the same day. March was my last month in Japan before moving back to Thailand, so I knew it would be a very busy month, but it ended up more hectic than expected. Especially when comparing it to fun-filled February, with post-thesis defense indulgence like NCT 127 official cafe event along with my and Jaehyun’s birthday and Doyoung’s birthday; unforgettable day trips with friends and one last long solo trip before graduation, all of which I want to write full posts about one day; and the generally relaxing atmosphere. Not that March was 100% stressful. There were happy moments and heartfelt farewells too, but in the last few weeks, a lot of things just went wrong despite my efforts to finish the pre-departure procedures early on and these exhausted me. I wish I could have spent more time in March traveling and relaxing, but since everything already happened the way it did, I want to record personal reflections and some of the memorable moments (both the good and the bad) during my last week in Japan here.

I shared some photos and parts of the stories about the last week on my Instagram already, but due to word limit, I didn’t get to write everything I wanted. I also held myself back from talking about certain things because I don’t want to be too ranty or cringey there. As weird as this may sound, I am actually not comfortable sharing some thoughts and feelings with acquaintances and some friends who are following me on IG. It is easier to express myself more on this blog, where most readers are close friends and people I have never met.

With that, I am warning you that this is a long-winded post and some parts of this post are very ranty and cringey. Musings and photos from Nagoya to Bangkok aside, here go many stories, even the most ranty and random ones, that I want to immortalize in one place.

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Nagoya, Japan: Before the (G)old Rush

Time flies and before I knew it, I have less than eight months left as a student in Japan.

Let’s rewind to January in 2019. I just learned that the MEXT Scholarship committee has decided to send me to Nagoya University, so I wrote this post about my trip to Nagoya as a tourist in 2015 for reflection purposes. I thought Nagoya isn’t an impressive city, but it still has some nice attractions and is rich in samurai era history, despite not looking like it what with its strong industrialized image and mostly modern buildings. During my 2015 trip, I traveled in Nagoya for only one day and mainly used the city as a base while I explored the bigger draws nearby like Inuyama, Takayama, and Shirakawa-go, so I promised myself that after moving to Nagoya in April, 2019, I would take my three years as a student as the opportunity to get to know Nagoya better.

While I am still going to continue writing about Hokkaido, I want to throw in some posts about Nagoya and nearby from time to time since I haven’t been writing enough about where I live and my three years in Japan are almost over… It has also been so long since I last made a film photography post, so it is time for a Nagoya article with the first batch of film photos I took in Japan in October, 2020. I was back from Bangkok for about a month, the COVID-19 situation in Nagoya improved, and the autumn air was pleasant, so what better time to test the Kodak M35 reloadable film camera I bought when I went back to Thailand. It was also a good time to visit the uncrowded and underexplored places in Nagoya that I hadn’t been to for photography inspirations. The photography trip ended up being very interesting for me and I enjoyed the different vibes from the Nagoya attractions that I visited in 2015. More laid-back and more local overall and also historic. It was a lovely surprise that embodies “old is gold”. But unlike the gold rush, most of these old spots in Nagoya haven’t been discovered yet by the majority of international travelers. I hope these places won’t become too commercialized, but they do deserve more attention, so when the pandemic is over and you can come to Nagoya, do consider visiting these hidden gems before Nagoya experiences the (g)old rush. If that still doesn’t sound appealing enough, let me tell you that all these places are free to enter and conveniently located near subway stations.

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