Nagoya, Japan: Magic Hour Memories

In addition to the awe from dramatic sunset and the nostalgia that comes with the mellow one, I have always had a strangely contemplative feeling when looking at the sunset. It feels as if I were in an in-between state, but a positive one. This is random of me to say, but my love for sunset is intensified by all the dramatic and nostalgic scenes that happen at sunset in anime and Japanese video games, especially Kingdom Hearts. There is a place called Twilight Town in the game, where the sunset is endless because the town is situated between the realms of light and dark. My 15-year-old self found that pretty poetic and resonate with my feelings about sunset, up until now. The surroundings in the sunset become neither too bright or too dark; the air at sunset is neither too hot or cold (unless we are out in winter); and on good days, we can enjoy the sun, the moon, and the clouds at once during the magic hour (though unfortunately, I have yet to capture them all in one frame).

I wish I could enjoy sunset more often. Here in Bangkok, I must admit that I don’t get to watch sunset that often because office hours rarely allow me to (most Thai office hours are 9 to 6, but we often have to stay until later). But when I was studying in Nagoya, I had more opportunities to savor these ordinary yet magical moments thanks to classes being finished earlier and a good friend who is also a fan of sunset. My friend and I lived in the same neighborhood and she occasionally texted me when she believed the sunset of the day would be great. I am very thankful for her because sometimes, I would have missed out on some of these vibrant sunsets without her text.

Our former neighborhood in Nagoya may look simple, but I have seen one of the three most brilliant evening skies in my life there. This post is where I gather my treasured memories of the sun, the clouds, and the moon, from sunset and twilight to dusk.

By the way, I adjusted saturation and had to tweak highlight and shadow in some photos because the streetscape came out too dark. However, I didn’t make drastic changes to the colors. If you see purple in a photo, I saw purple when I took it and same goes for orange, pink, etc.

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Nagoya, Japan: Life Goes On (And Under, and Over the Ground)

In major Japanese cities, urban life isn’t just about what we see on the ground. The undergrounds and the sky-high buildings are just as happening.

Japan isn’t the only place in the world where the urban environments are characterized by well-utilized underground space and eye-catching skyscrapers. Still, I find many Japanese underground passages and high-rises interesting and I think we can’t talk about big Japanese cities without mentioning them.

To explore some aspects of these Japanese urban environments, come with me to Nagoya Station, locally known as Meieki. There is much to discover under, inside, around, and above this biggest train station complex in the world.

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Nagoya, Japan: Hydrangeas and Divine Histories in Chayagasaka

I am always excited to take photos whenever I travel anywhere, but the lesser known the places and the fewer pre-existing photos of them in the media, the more excited I tend to be.

Professionally-taken photos of popular attractions in Nagoya have graced countless international tourism brochures, travel magazines, websites, and social media and I had fun visiting and taking photos of those locations too. However, the opportunity to study and live in Nagoya for a few years led me to discover many hidden gems from local pamphlets and websites. Oftentimes, these sources included only a few pictures or even only one per recommended spot, and their professional photos barely exist on mainstream platforms. I truly enjoy and feel inspired by all the brilliant photos of professional photographers and fellow bloggers, but the sense of mystery before visiting also intensifies my photographic groove. Not knowing can help us become even more exploratory, I think. (Though admittedly, the amount of photos I am going to share may inspire you or lessen that sense of mystery I talked about, depending on your preferences, and I am sorry if the latter is the case for you, haha).

Chayagasaka area was among Nagoya’s local spots that really got me into my groove. You can go there in any season for a pilgrimage of Japan’s most famous and deified historical figures, but there is nothing better than an early summer visit for the nature’s beauty that is hydrangeas.

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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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Nagoya, Japan: The Pathos of Snow

I had the opportunity to call Nagoya home only temporarily. The closer my time there drew to a close, I inevitably grew more aware and more appreciative of my surroundings, no matter how seemingly ordinary.

Apart from the transient nature of my life as a graduate student in Nagoya, the fact that Thailand‘s capital city of Bangkok, my hometown and possibly permanent home from now on, only has summer, rainy season, and winter that rarely feels cold anymore made me appreciate the different colors of the four seasons in Japan even more. A country with four seasons does have its own pros and cons, but when it comes to a city with not-too-hot summer and not-too-cold winter (preferably with snow sometimes since I am fan), I have always been envious of how the locals get to enjoy the changing of the seasons. Which brings us back to the matter of impermanence.

Nagoya is one of the cities in Japan with moderate winter. I lived through three winters there from 2019 to 2021. In 2019, we didn’t get a single day of snow. In 2020, there were a couple of days with light snow and one very snowy night. But because I was holed up in my apartment working on my intensive course assignment and closed all my curtains, I didn’t notice that there was a lot of snow left in the morning. By the time I realized that it snowed from my friend’s messages and photos and hurriedly went out, the snow had almost completely melted due to Nagoya’s not-so-low temperature.

So when the 2021 winter started, I earnestly wished for at least one snowy day before my time in Nagoya ended in spring 2022. Luckily, my snowy dream came true on December 27, the day right after I submitted the first draft of my thesis. Plus it was snowing through the morning. I was so happy to finally be able to go out without worrying about academic responsibilities, but the weeks spent on thesis writing (read: cramming) made me too tired to go far in the cold. That was why I decided to just enjoy my local vistas. Armed with my coat and umbrella, I walked only in my neighborhood, but the snow made the scenery look so different that I couldn’t help taking so many photos to remember the fleeting beauty I saw that day.

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