Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Inokashira park again

I went back to Kichijoji and Inokashira park, ate some ramen and had a nice day. The ramen shop was a tiny one down this odd street I don't go much (by WEDsday English cafe. That's not a typo) and the ramen was delicious but the music was almost painful. Just really wacky annoying odd shit. It was humorous for a bit, but it got old fast.

Anyways, I really just want to share some pictures of Inokashira in the winter.

This is on the way to Kichijoji from my house and still technically in Mitaka, I think.

Here's a nice shot of the shrine in the park.

Here's a different angle of the lake.

Yeah, these shots aren't in chronological order. Give yourself a pat on the back if you noticed that. Blogger changed how the order of how you upload things and it's frustrating me because I was used to the old style.

Here's the temple from another angle.

Here was an odd beverage that I've never seen before.

Make of that cartoon character what you will. I'm just impressed with the macro mode of my camera. The preview looked terrible but the end result was nice.

And I'll leave my last post of 2008 with an HDR shot of Inokashira.

Happy new year everyone!


Yesterday I went to another Mojaco show. For those who don't know, Mojaco is a band that I have befriended here in Tokyo. I try to go to their shows because it's always fun, I like their music and it gives me a deep look into Japanese culture. If you haven't seen my mini documentary on them, I recommend you do.

Anyway, this show was in Shibuya. I thought I'd try out my camera and take a picture of one of the most photographed areas in Tokyo.

Not a bad picture for barely trying. Too bad I can't hold the camera right.

I've been to this club before and it's a cool place, but for some reason I had a hard time finding it. When I did, there was a guy playing solo on guitar.

He wasn't that good, but he was having fun.

After that, this duo of a girl on drums and a guy guitarist came up. This is the second girl on drums/guy guitarist duo I've seen in Japan (White Stripes style), and they were pretty good.

They didn't blow me away like Highered-Girl did, but they were good.

And then Mojaco went on.

I've seen them quite a few times, and I think for this one, the crowd was one of the largest (behind me. This picture makes it look deceivingly empty) and probably their best show that I've seen so far.

Action shot:

I feel the need to mention again that I really like this camera.

Akiba had a pretty rock star moment at this show. He even swung from something hanging above him. I didn't get a shot of that.

Generally passive Akane was rocking that bass too.

And Musashi as always was shining brightly.

Somebody smacked into my camera mid show, but it didn't seem to have any affect. It did stop me from taking more pictures, which is fine.

After they went on, Musashi told me she was nervous before and now she was ready to party.

The band after them was this kind of Ramones meets heavy rock kind of deal. The drummer was singing most of the time. They were also pretty good.

I accidentally took an awesome shot where I was zooming in and taking the picture.

After them, an unusual band went up. The drummer was really boisterous, aggressive, and really hairy. He'd often get up and start shouting and doing all sorts of crazy things. They were a bit lacking on songs and shy a little on talent, but they really made up for that with stage presence.

After the show, Mojaco, some friends, and I went to an Izakaya. It was a particularly nice one, and one I'd be happy to go back to again. There was a lot of food that was outside my comfort zone, something that doesn't happen that much these days. I had sea urchin and pickled squid guts for the first time. I didn't hate either, in fact sea urchin was kind of creamy and nice, but a tad overwhelming. One thing that looked creepy but was amazing was raw young tuna backbone.

You took those shells, scraped meat off the back and ate it. If you've ever had tuna sushi or sashimi, the flavor is quite similar, but better. That meal set me back a bit, but it was worth it.

Yet again, I had another great Mojaco experience. I'm not sure if it was luck or just trying something new, but I feel honored to enjoy the company of such fine and interesting individuals.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Dekotora is short for Decoration Truck, and apparently in the late 70's and 80's they were quite popular. I first heard about them from Pink Tentacle quite some time ago, and I see them from time to time, but usually driving and I can't get a good shot, but today I saw one in Mitaka parked by the station.

It's not the most dramatic example I've seen, but it was also in my neighborhood, no somewhere showing off.

Curry World

I am a big fan of curry. I like it all types, so pleasing me with curry is not a difficult task, but it is rare that I see something different in curry. In Nakano, there is a tiny shop called Curry Wold and they offer "European curry" which seems to be a bit lighter, more elegant, and more flavorful than Japanese curry. I've been to this place three times now, and they always please me with their flavors, presentation, and selection.

They also have some rather lovely Creme brulee and offer a nice relaxing atmosphere. They're fairly inexpensive, especially for dinner as (I think) lunch and dinner menus are the same. Either way, it's a nice stop if you're in Nakano and hungry for something other than fast food.

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Megruo, Nakameguro, and getting lost.

Yesterday, I intended to go to a year end festival in Meguro and Nakameguro. That didn't exactly happen. I kind of forgot to write down where these festivals were happening, so I ended up walking for ages. The intention was to walk to Nakameguro, but after 2 and a half miles (4 KM), I ended up in Toritsudaigaku. Of course I brought my new camera along and I took pictures.

Before Meguro, I took this shot at a burger place in Shinjuku:
Looks safe to me.

This is some river in Meguro.

Down this long street there were a lot of really cool boutique shops. It was surprisingly nice.

The next few pictures are my attempts at HDR photography. Looks like I need to learn more about HDR and my camera. Oh well. I'm having fun trying.

That's a few blocks from Meguro station.

This is my third attempt at processing this picture.

That's a bridge on the way to Toritsudaigaku. I thought it would make for a good shot. I don't hate how this turned out, but it could be better.
And here's an alley right by Toritsudaigaku.

After that, I went to Nakameguro, which was on the surface kinda bland, but after walking through the back alleys by the river (I think it's a different river from my picture), it seemed to be quite a nice area.

It wasn't the day I planned, but I had a lot of fun. I had company and that really makes a difference when walking long distances.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Festival in Mitaka

Right now I'm organizing my photos. Since I've been fighting with blogger to upload photos easily, (Dear Blogger staff: Your photo uploading is obnoxious, and why can't I just stick things in Picasa straight on to blogger? You can blog from Picasa, why not the other way around?) I've been looking at all the photos I didn't write about.I'm not going to say much, but there was a huge festival in Mitaka on September 13th and 14th.

I have written about some festivals in the past and I've been to a lot more. What makes this one special is it was literally right on my street. It was pretty crazy watching it go by right in front of my house. There are tons of pictures here and some pictures from Kichijoji here, which is one train stop away.

I shot some videos with my camera, and they are of a big drum that was rolling around town:

Festival in Mitaka: Giant Taiko. from Keith McCreary on Vimeo.
It was really loud and could be heard several, several blocks away.

There was also a dance performance at the shrine really close to my house.

Festival in Mitaka: Dance performance. from Keith McCreary on Vimeo.

It was a lot of fun. Check out the galleries for more pictures, but here are two that I'm quite proud of.

Return to Ontakesan.

I had a christmas package sent to my old address at the dorms in Ontakesan, so I headed there to pick it up. Unfortunately the dorm manager Aki wasn't there, but it was quite fun to walk around. It was nice to see the old place, and even though I hated living there for sound reasons (you can hear everything), it wasn't a bad place. Sure, the neighborhood is a bit boring, but it certainly isn't a bad place.

on the way back, there was a nice sunset I tried to capture.

That's Mt. Fuji in the background. Unfortunately, the fence on the bridge was in the way. Oh well.

Ontakesan main street. (I didn't take this picture)

And here is a nice sunset from the train station.

Anyways, Ontakesan was fun, and I see that the people living there have more chairs, more game systems, a bigger TV, and a lot more entertainment than I did. Too bad they have the same crappy doors that do nothing to block sound.

My new camera.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I very recently got a new camera. Actually, I got it Thursday night (It's now Sunday night). That camera is the Olympus E-510.

To explain why, first off, my cell phone used to take great pictures, but for some reason (moisture I think) the camera has become terrible, and now only takes low resolution pictures that are usable, so the once glorious 5 megapixel phone now only does 640X480. It's still good 640X480, but it is far from it's former glory.

Secondly, when I went to the Hayao Miyazaki press conference, I brought my Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6 camera, which I got for cheap about 2 and a half years ago on clearance. Now it is a 3 and year old camera, and when I brought it to the press event, everyone had their professional cameras, I really felt way behind. Also, the pictures clearly showed this, as one was used on the Japan Times website, but the other 300 I took weren't. Maybe less than 10 of them could have been used.

The other reason I got it is I got a teaching assignment one Saturday. It was quite profitable, and in the end paid for the whole camera.

Also, I did PLENTY of research on Digital SLR cameras. I settled on the E-510 for a few reasons. First off, I am a digital camera guy. This is digital camera #4 (5 if you count my phone), and I am not used to looking through a viewfinder. Lots of DSLRs don't have live preview, which means I have to use the viewfinder and can only see the picture after you're done. I almost got an unfortunately named Canon Kiss Digital X (also known as the 400D in Europe and the Digital Rebel XTi in America) that I found new for 35,000 yen, but I couldn't get over using nothing but the viewfinder.

I looked at the Olympus E-420 and E-520, and I liked the shake reduction of the 520, but it's a pretty pricey camera. I also looked at the Sony A-300, the new Panasonic G1, and a few others. I am on a budget, so while these are all great cameras, they all were pricey too.

Then one day I popped into a great used camera shop in Nakano called Fujiya Camera. There they had two E-510s for sale at quite a reasonable price. They didn't have any lenses included, but they sold them separately, for a quite reasonable price. I also saw the same camera being sold as a clearance floor model in Akihabara for more than Fujiya wanted, which I'm sure was much more manhandled.

I did research and found that there wasn't a huge difference between the E-510 and E-520 (which was actually the biggest complaint about the latter), and I also checked online store and auction prices and found even compared to Ebay, Fujiya was a good deal.

When I went back just to look on Thursday, one of the two E-510s were gone, and with the fear of not being able to get it, I snapped up the other one.

It's way more complicated than any other camera I've used, but I am happy with the results. It's an entry level DSLR and not really pro, but for the price, I am quite satisfied.

National Diet Building


I went to the National Diet Building today. It was quite interesting to see. I was a little surprised to hear that it was made out of 99% Japanese materials. Not surprised so much at the fact, but more shocked that even in 1920, they imported building materials.

The tour guide told everyone that located at the top of the Diet Building was a room that was 2 tatami mats (about 71 x 71 inches). When asked what the room was used for, he kind of started stuttering, turned red, and started talking about elevators for some reason. I think he knew what was up there and I think it's a Ninja.

On an unrelated note, after much searching, I bought a nice new(ish) camera. It's a barely used Olympus E-510, and I think it is perfect for me. Considering I got the whole package of Camera, lens, memory card, and all the accessories for less than I earned in one day of teaching, I am quite pleased. Too bad I don't get paid like that every day.

Since I can, I'm trying to learn about HDR photography. Here is one example:

Nice, isn't it? It still doesn't look quite right, but since it's my first attempt, I'm pretty satisfied.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More professional work!

Sorry again for the huge delay in my writings. I just need to find more time. It's the end of the semester for me, and I have a ton of papers to write, but first, let me tell you what I've been doing lately.

Japan Times wrote a big article about Hayao Miyazaki, and wanted me to attend the press conference to take pictures and shoot some video, which I happily did. After several hours of subtitling, here are the results:

I'm pleased my work can get out there, and hopefully it will be seen by tons of English speaking Miyazaki fans.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sorry guys...

Sorry for not updating forever. Personal, occupational, and scholastic reasons have kept me overly busy lately. The semester's almost over, so soon I won't have to worry about that, but for now, I apologize.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Professional work.

For those who don't know (which is probably most of you), I'm an intern at Japan Times right now. I mention this because partially that's a reason why my posts have slowed down, but mainly because I finally did some work for them that I want to show off.

I have various tasks around the office, but my most exciting one has been going to cover the launch of a car. I did all the video work, and in less than 30 hours after posting, it's got over 2000 views!

The conditions for shooting and editing were a bit rough, as I didn't exactly have a pro-level camera or a tripod, and all the editing was done in less than an hour using iMovie. The camera did a decent job, but colors were a bit odd but not having a tripod and being really far away made it tough, but I think it came out decent. Editing with iMovie was killing me, though. After using Final Cut Pro and going to iMovie is like going from driving a car to a go-kart that's on a track, has a broken tire, and pulls to the right. If I knew nothing about video editing, iMovie would have been fun and easy, but since I DO know some stuff, the limitations were killing me.

Anyways, considering the limitations and the amount of time I spent on it, I was fairly happy with the result.

If you're interested in the background behind the video, the article is here. I felt a bit silly with a hand held camera while everyone else had pro gear and was from top news agencies, but besides that the event was a lot of fun and I hope to do more things like it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Campus life.

I'm on the Temple University Japan website!

You can see me here in Japanese and here in English.

Okay, it's not that exciting, but I was pleased to see it. Even though it's a kind of bad picture and I was sick that day (I'm not that pale).

Anyways, just thought I would share.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hippie festival in the middle of nowhere.

In early August, I was persuaded to attend a music festival pretty far outside of Tokyo. From what I could gather, it was pretty much a "hippie festival" and I had mixed feelings about attending. As much as I get behind standard 'hippie' ideals such as peace and environmentalism, I often have an issue with the methods 'hippies' use to get the message out, I'm not a big fan of mind-altering and I have dramatically opposite opinions about technology as some self-proclaimed hippies. Also, I feared it was going to be a weekend of one big drum circle, which for me, wears out it's welcome after maybe 20 minutes.

But my traveling companion really wanted to go and what the hell, maybe it'd be fun. Also, it was outside of Tokyo, and I'd wanted to leave the city for a little while anyways. So, we got some camping supplies and headed out.

I mentioned before that Takao was the furthest outside of Tokyo that I had been. Well, we had to change trains there and move on. Time to say hello to my friend again.

After we changed trains, I learned that Takao was really the end of civilization. As I said before, it was clear that Takao was NOT Tokyo, but it was still a town and it was in commutable distance from Tokyo, if you didn't mind a really long commute. There was a city there and while it wasn't a metropolis, it was still a city. I didn't realize that after Takao there is NOTHING! I don't mean like it's just houses and fields, I mean there is nothing there. You go through a tunnel and all you see are mountains. It's quite amazing. The only real civilization are small towns around train stations.

Also, train stations in Tokyo are pretty close, being no more than 5 minutes apart and generally only a minute or two. These stations were a good 10 or 15 minutes from eachother and the train was going really fast. Way faster than Tokyo trains. I was very much enjoying the trip out there. But, it seems most people didn't care.

Our train was way older than the Tokyo trains I'm used to and quite a bit sketchier. When we went under tunnels, sometimes the power would go out. The first time was a bit surprising, and this one kid on the train started screaming and crying which was, honestly, really funny. I could feel that most of the train wanted it to happen again.

After riding for quite some time, it became apparent that we missed our stop. So, we had to say goodbye to our old rickety train and get on the next one back.

We were in the middle of nowhere. Some people say that in Tokyo meaning that if there's only a convenience store and a McDonald's it's 'the middle of nowhere'. But, no. There was NOTHING here. Just like two shops on one side of the station and three houses on the other.

My ghostly friend was aware how far out we were.

For those interested, this is Torisawa, in Yamanashi prefecture. The complete English history of Torisawa from the wikipedia page is as follows:
June 1, 1902: Station opens.

Deep history.

So, we had to wait for a bit for our train to come, and it was really refreshing to be surrounded by nature instead of buildings. I've said it before that I love it here, but sometimes I want some nature. This was a really refreshing trip. And I didn't mind getting lost.

I took a picture of a guy who was being quite curious of the foreigner at his station as he was boarding his train.

This picture confounds me because he was stepping onto the train, not off, and I don't know why that girl is on the ground. I'm getting confused just looking at it.

I saw this pass by:

So, our train finally did come, and we headed back to Fujino, where we were supposed to go to begin with.

Fujino was a small mountain community that seemed to have missed out on the last 30 or so years of lifestyle changes. There was one convenience store and it wasn't a chain, but an ancient mom and pop place run by what I can assume is an actual mom and pop, or more realistically a grandmother and grandfather (at least). There was a 'snack' which is kind of a food/bar place that used to be popular and still is among older crowds, but have been replaced with 24 hour convenience stores and izakayas.

My camera did not do a good job with night pictures, but I stole some from someone else.

We got on a rickety bus that took us to this abandoned elementary school up in the mountains. There were bright lights, loud music, and lots of people. About half the people were dressed like 'hippies'. There were ample food vendors and some arts and crafts. There was a main stage and old classrooms used for crafts and a giant gym used for sleeping.

This is a picture taken facing some booths and a tent holding sound, lighting, and video equipment.

We dropped off our stuff in the gym and went and got some food. Since this was kind of hippie oriented, we were supposed to bring our own dining tools, which I think was a good idea. We ate some tasty food and checked out the concert.

There were a few bands that night, but most of them varied between decent but forgettable and bad. The headliner, however, was absolutely amazing and blew me away.

The band was called Sun Paulo and their performance was quite exceptional. They seemed like bland techno at first, but they had a live drummer, guitarist, and keyboardist.

I wasn't expecting much when I saw them on stage with Native American headdresses, but they really put on an amazing show. You can listen to them here but their concert was so much better than their recordings. Not to say the recordings are bad, just not as good as hearing them live.

Also, there was a woman who was doing some acrobatics with two sheets of cloth while the band was playing. It was quite amazing to watch that while there were people rocking out on stage.

It was a really good show. I'd like to see them again sometime.

After the show, we were a bit worn out, so we went back to the giant gym to get some shut eye. This was nearly impossible because it was really hot and there was this experimental noise noise musician (apparently all the way from America. Woo!) who was 'performing'. As someone who has performed live as a noise musician before, I can say he wasn't that interesting and the mood was terrible. Everyone was tired and a little soft music would have been great, but he was making loud grating noises.

We decided it would be better if we went outside and camped under the stars. It was a bit hot, but it was hot inside anyways. We had nothing to lay down, so we 'borrowed' a tarp (which we did faithfully return) and had an uncomfortable night of sleeping on a steep hill in a hot, humid chunk of woods. It was actually a lot of fun. Wouldn't be a lifestyle for me, but it was fun for a night.

Early in the morning, at 6:30 AM, this loud song started playing. I didn't get it, but my companion instantly jumped up and ran down to the stage area.

Apparently they were playing the song that EVERY elementary student exercises to in the morning. This was a throwback to a childhood that didn't exist for me, so I didn't join. Plus, it was 6:30 AM.

I slept a bit more, and then packed up camp. The view was nice in the morning.

The whole setting was great. It was quite a large school and very much in the middle of nowhere. I kind of see why it was abandoned, but it was really great.

That's the view near the gym, which is on the left.

We took the rickety bus up here in the middle of the night, so it was a bit hard to tell how exactly far out there we were, but during the day it was quite clear.

There was a golf course.

We wandered around a bit and saw this abandoned pool.

IT was pretty crazy and surreal, but it was an abandoned school so I guess really not that odd. The strange thing is the bottom was kind of springy, like a big sheet of rubber with nothing underneath.

There was a nice view from the edge of the pool too.

But, the second day wasn't nearly as good as the night before. It was getting to be too hot to enjoy it and the afternoon was mostly a giant drum circle, which was my initial fear. Also, someone was selling these clackers which were like two small balls with stuff inside tied together, kind of like two small maracas on a rope. You can swing them around and clack them together to make interesting rhythms, and when one person is good, it can sound really neat. When 20 people are doing it, regardless of talent, it's obnoxious. And everywhere there was another person doing it.

So, we decided to leave in the afternoon, giving us time to go home and relax. While waiting for the bus I saw this guy.

And the simple parking lot was really nice too.

Everybody was crowding around these uncomfortable rocks, so we decided to lie on the grass. We saw some cicada shells, which forcibly got attached to me.

I don't really like them, but they're harmless containers of protein.

The festival was odd. It seemed like a lot of people were enjoying 'hippie' as a trend, and for a hippie festival in the woods, it wasn't very friendly. Not to say that people were mean or rude or anything, it's just they were slightly more warm and friendly than a Tokyo train, which is to say not very much at all. It was a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, though. I'm glad I went and I did have a good time, but I'm not sure I'd go next year if it's in the middle of the summer.

As we were leaving, I noticed something in the trees nearby.

It's a giant love letter in the mountain. No matter what I thought of the festival, Fujino was really lovely and was a breath of fresh air.