Mt Fuji sunrise

Japan 2017 – 2018

January 9th, 2018

Its been over 2 years since I was last in Japan, and I find myself there yet again. This time I went Kyoto, Kanazawa, Shirakawago, Mt Fuji and Tokyo. The majority of the trip was to meet up with friends and to take photos of Shirakawago and Mt Fuji. But of course being the otaku that I am, comiket was also on the list.

Day 1 – 24th – Kyoto + Osaka

The first few days I spent in Kyoto and Osaka. I met up with my old friend Kosuke, who took me around famous anime locations in Kyoto. These included and were not limited to: KyoAni shop, Shimogamo Shrine, Kamogawa river delta and Demachi shopping arcade. In the evening of the same day, I went to Osaka to have dinner with Tsujikawa-sensei, my teacher from Arc Academy, which I went to in 2010. We have a pleasant catch up and chat in a local izakaya (bar) on Christmas eve.

Day 2 – 25th – Kyoto: Arashiyama & Gion

Next morning Amy and I set out to the shopping areas around Gion and Nishiki markets. Then we went to Arashiyama, the famous bamboo forest and the surrounding temples. After lunch we headed back to Gion to visit the Gesha district. That was a very beautiful location and I managed to take a lot of great photos there.

Day 3 – 26th – Kanazawa + Shirakawago

On the next day, at 6:50am we set out to Kanazawa. There we visited the old chaya (tea houses) and walked around their fish markets. In comparison to Kyoto the weather in Kanazawa was worse. It started hailing at one point. But nevertheless, we broke through the winds and hail and got back to the station to catch our bus to Shirakawago. I was praying that there would be snow when we got there, but I wasn’t ready for what we saw. We drove right into a snow storm. There was a good half a meter of snow at Shirakawago, and it just kept falling. Thankfully there was no wind, so it was very pleasant. Unfortunately due to the snow, I wasn’t able to get any good shots of the area, as it was just too snowy. Another great thing about Shirakawago was the onsen. Onsen are my favourite thing about Japan, and I am so glad I got to bathe in them again. Since we were staying in a ryokan (japanese style inn), we got treated to delicious food and drinks for both dinner and breakfast.

Day 4 – 27th – Shirakawago → Tokyo

The next morning, after another hot bath in the onsen, we set out on a long trip to Mt Fuji. 1hr bus ride to Kanazawa, 2hr shinkansen to Tokyo, 2.5hr express train to Mt Fuji. When we finally reached the town, it was already sunset and very very cold. If in Shirakawago it was snowing and about -2°, in Mt Fuji it was really windy and -7°.

Day 5 – 28th -Mt Fuji + Tokyo

In the morning I set out for the first proper sunrise photo shoot during this whole trip. It was gorgeous. Mt Fuji lit up in red and then yellow. Even though there was no sun, it wasn’t too cold as I had 4 layers of clothes on; just like during my photography trip to New Zealand. Once the sun rose, and the transport started running again, we took a cable car up atop a nearby mountain to get some shots of Mt Fuji and the town from up top. Then we went to one of the most famous locations in all of japan the Chureito Pagoda. Because it was so beautiful up there, we staying a bit too long and almost missed our train to Tokyo. In the evening Amy and I went to a butler cafe in Ikebukuro called Swallowtail.

Day 6 – 29th – Comiket

Early morning, lots of lines… Thats what comiket is all about, right? Being back in the otaku scene was great, but unfortunately it has changed quite a bit since I last came. There is a lot more focus on gaming these days and less on anime. I did buy some goods, but not many. At the end of the day, I got sick and could barely move. But first I had to go to meet up with my friends from Kagoshima, who are all working in Tokyo right now. It was a great night, but would’ve been a lot better if I wasn’t sick.

Day 7 – 30th – Sick day

Tried to go to Tsukiji markets to buy knives in the morning. Bought some, but then realised how sick I felt and went back to the apartment. Then just spent the whole day sick in bed with a 38° fever 🙁

Day 8 – 31st – Shopping & NYE

Fever gone, time to go shopping. Literally spent the whole day running between Tsukiji, Ginza, Tokyo, Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Akihabara and back to Kinshichou, where we were staying. Had steak in Akiba for dinner and celebrated the Sydney New Year there as well. Then went back home for the Japanese New Year and took a hot bath. So now I am hoping that I will spend all of 2018 in hot baths (in Russian we have a saying: how you meet the new year, thats how you will spend it).

Day 9 – 1st – Hatsumode and Akiba

By Japanese tradition, on the first day of the year you must visit a shrine and pray to the gods there for luck, fortune, happiness, whatever. So we did that just that. Went to a small shrine in Ueno, threw some yen and prayed. After Amy left for her flight, I went to Akihabara to play games, shop for some cheap anime goods and just enjoy my last few hours in Japan.

 

Thats all folks. I don’t know when the next time I visit Japan will be and where in Japan I will go, but I must definitely go back at some point, I cant stay away from the land of the rising sun.

Photos here:

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sri lanka bird

Sri Lanka 2017

October 31st, 2017

Another year, another country ticked off the list. #53 – Sri Lanka. Its been over a year since I’ve seen my parents, so this reunion was well overdue.

We arrived in the capital – Colombo and were welcomed by rain and clouds. The forecast never stopped showing rain, but the weather had other plans for us. It got really hot and humid really quickly.

Our itinerary this time around was to travel around the country for a week, then rest on the beach for a week. So in this first block, we spend the majority of our time in the car – traveling from temple to ruins to museums to factories.

Every time we left the car, it felt like we are in a different climate zone. On the third day it was particularly weird: we started of at a temple – it was cloudy but hot; then we got to an elephant shelter, where it was supper sunny, hot and humid; then we went up into the mountains, where it was sunny yet cool; and the by the end of the day we are at the top of one of the highest peaks of Sri Lanka – a hotel that used to be a tea factory near the plantations, where it was 14°, windy and cold (we had to turn on the heater at night!).

On the second last day, we went on a safari, but once again all the elephants (but one) were nowhere to be found. I still managed to get some really nice shots of the nature of the area and the wildlife (like the bird you see on the top of this post).

Afterwards we just relaxed on the beach, ate a lot of fish, and celebrated my dad’s 60th Birthday!

Photos available on my

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Queenstown Sunrise

NZ Photography Trip – Day 9

April 24th, 2017

Well, looks like this is the end, its time to go home. My flight back to Sydney was at midday, so you know what that means? I can go for another sunrise!

I don’t even know where we went this time, we just drove alongside the coast of the lake for about 20 minutes and then reached this lookout point. From there we had a great view of the lake, and the valley. Today was actually the first time when we had proper clouds during a sunrise. Both Anton and I were really happy that we managed to get some bright red colours on the clouds and mountains. Even if it only lasted a few minutes.

That’s all folks. I am now heading back to Sydney and getting back into my old routine of work, club, and chilling with friends. Time to edit all the photos I took. (Edit: ended up with exactly 100 photos from this trip, down from 1.2k)

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Look at how much I walked during the past week! I think I beat all my records.

Queenstown Hill

NZ Photography Trip – Day 8

April 23rd, 2017

After that really long hike up and down Mt. John, Anton and I were definitely not up for another hike, especially at 6am in the morning. So we went around the lake, looking for some decent photo spots. Took a few shots here and there, went back to the tree…

Not much to say about that morning, aside for the fact that we had to frantically pack up as we had a long trip to Queenstown next!

On the way to Queenstown, we stopped in the Arrowtown. Its a small old style town by the side of the mountains and near a river. I really liked the architecture and the autumn colours, and I wish I took some photos, but it was very crowded. It was right in the middle of their autumn festival, so there were tons of people – both tourists and locals from around the area. We had some delicious lamb steaks and then continued our journey to Queenstown.

Even though Queenstown sounds like a small city, it was the biggest one we visited while on our trip (excluding Christchurch). The original plan was to camp about 10km out of town, however after a week of sleeping in a tent in the cold I had enough. I booked us a twin bed room in a backpackers and I don’t regret it one bit. We could finally take a warm shower, lie in a soft bed and I can pack up for my return flight!

But before that, there is one more sunset (and sunrise). This time up Queenstown Hill we go. Not a big hike, and with decent views of the city and the lake.

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MtRoy

NZ Photography Trip – Day 7

April 22nd, 2017

The town of Wanaka in beautiful autumn colours. How better to capture it then to go to the world famous Wanaka Tree. We thought that we are the most prepared photographers, we got there a good hour before the sunrise. When we got to the tree itself, we quickly realised that this was a very popular spot as there were about 20-30 people gathered around the tree with their tripods. Anton and I tried our best to get a good view of the tree, but we found it to be impossible.

We tried to get a few shots, but with not much luck, so we gave up and went off to search for an even better photo location. For that we didn’t have to go far, just a few meters away we found a pond with perfectly still water, which ended up being perfect for our ideas of taking photos of the reflections. On the way back, we noticed that most of the photographers have dispersed and so I took a few quick pics of the tree.

It was a rather lazy afternoon – we just had lunch, walked around Wanaka and then waited for the sunset.

Then we set out to Roy’s Peak, but little did we know that the next hike would be our longest and hardest of the whole trip. The hike up Mt Roy takes about 3.5 hours one way and is a constant incline. It goes from 300m above sea level to 1.5km above sea level. It was tough, mainly due to the scorching heat and the heavy backpacks – all that camera gear + tripods + food + warm clothes. So after this long hike, we finally reached the top… or so we though. There are actually 2 peaks, and the peak of Mt. Roy was another 40 minute hike up from where we were. So after some consideration and looking at how low the sun has already set, we decided to just stop there, and take all the photos of the sunset from this mini peak.

As you will see, the photos from the evening turned out fantastic, with a gorgeous display of colours and the stunning landscapes.

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Mt Cook Pukaki Lake

NZ Photography Trip – Day 6

April 21st, 2017

Our next destination is the lakeside town of Wanaka, so we set off for there. But first we had to take one final look at Mt. Cook, this time from the other end of lake Pukaki. We stumbled upon a Chinese photography tour group and decided to tag along and see what they are up to. They led us up to this hill, which had a stunning view of Mt Cook and all its surroundings. That morning was definitely worth the time to wake up early, drive for about 40 minutes and then take these great shots.

Then the 3 hour trip to Wanaka began. But not long after leaving the town of Twizle we found a lake with crystal clear water that reflected the autumn trees that surrounded the lake. We went from snowy cold mountains to beautiful yellow autumn colours in the span of 1 hour.

We arrived in Wanaka, went for lunch, did some shopping and then spent the evening hiking onto Rocky Mountain (near Diamond lake) hoping to still get a glimpse of the sun shining onto Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains. But alas, we did not make it in time. I still think I managed to get some decent shots of around the area.

The day and the night were much warmer then previous days, but not warm enough to comfortably sleep without any extra layers of clothes on.

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Tasman Glacier

NZ Photography Trip – Day 5

April 20th, 2017

When we woke up this time, I didn’t feel cold, as I was wearing 4 layers of clothes while sleeping in my warm sleeping bag. But once we opened the tent, we quickly realised that it was around -2 as we could see the frost on the tent. Somehow our bodies have already gotten used to the early rises so waking up for the sunrise was not a challenge anymore.

The plan for today was to head over to Tasman Glacier (6km away) and hope to see the sunrise over the lake / glacier. Unfortunately we didn’t get the great views we were expecting, but we still made do with what we were presented.

The day went pretty much the same as the previous 2, with battery charging, eating and some driving around.

As we were completely drained from the sunset yesterday, when we had to go up 2200 steps, we decided to go for the same lookout at Tasman Glacier as it was simple and had potential.

As you can see, today was more of a break day, as the plan for tomorrow is Wanaka its Diamond lake and Rocky mountain.

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MtCook

NZ Photography Trip – Day 4

April 19th, 2017

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any colder… 0° tonight. It’s 5am again, and we’re off for another sunrise photoshoot.

Rinse repeat with the battery charging – me sitting in the visitor centre waiting for everything to charge, while Anton is off taking photos somewhere. Some instant soups, apples and bananas later, its time for another hike!

Today to see the sunset we didn’t just hike a mountain. Oh no. We went up 2200 steps of Sealy Tarns Track to get a great view of the whole valley. It was tougher then expected. Hiking up a incline is one thing, but going up steps for 1.5 hours is a completely different beast.

The whole time we were going up – not a single cloud (at all, just clear blue skies; thats not that great for landscape photos). We finally reached the top of this track and we got a gorgeous view of both Mt Cook and the valley with the village.

Just when we thought that walking up was hard, going down was even worse. We could feel our legs shaking by the end of it, but we knew we had to keep going. It was pitch black and all we could see is the step beneath us thanks to our flashlights, and the stars above us. Oh the stars were absolutely amazing. We could clearly see the whole Milky Way every day, as no light pollution at all!

Once that was over, what awaited us was going to be the coldest night of our whole trip.

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NZ Photography Trip – Day 3

April 18th, 2017

Another day, another early rise. This time so we can get to our next stop – Mt Cook Village. But first a sunrise at lake Pukaki. After driving about 5km on a dirt road, we stumbled upon 2 cars parked next to a pond, and a bunch of people with tripods next to it. So we figured that that must be some kind of photography group or tour, as there was 1 guy who was teaching people what to set their settings to, to achieve certain creative effects. “Perfect” – we thought to ourselves, “if a photography group is here, this must be a good spot!”. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get many good shots, due to the mountain ranges being pretty much fully covered in clouds, but was still a good stop.

Mt Cook Village is a small touristy village, with a grand hotel, visitor centre and a few restaurants. It also has a camp site – White Horse Camp Site, which is 2km away from the village itself. Unlike the one in lake Tekapo, this one doesn’t have electricity or hot water. That proved to be a rather big issue, especially because I only had one battery for my new camera, which would die after 1 day of shooting and a night of freezing in the cold.

We improvised by going to the local (back in the village – 2km drive) cafe and visitor centre to replenish the power in both the battery and our own bodies.

The plan for the sunset for today was to go to Hooker Valley – 1.5 hour hike one way. It wasn’t a hard hike, more like a walk, but still took a while. During the walk we made numerous stops to take photos of Mt Cook – the tallest mountain in New Zealand. And then at the end was the glacier lake – Hooker Lake with a gorgeous view of Mt Cook and its reflection in the lake.

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Lake Tekapo

NZ Photography Trip – Day 2

April 17th, 2017

Early to bed, early to rise right? Well, it was 5am and we had to be ready to hike up a mountain. Mount John was our first target. Apparently the whole lake would have been visible from the top, if it wasn’t covered in clouds… We only got a small glimpse above the layer of clouds and fog, until it consumed us as well.

That was not the best morning, but shortly after coming down form MT. John the clouds cleared up and gave us some beautiful views of lake Tekapo. After brunch and some shopping we went on another photo hunt, this time with seasonal trees and beautiful mountains.

For the sunset we went up the same mountain, but this time, the sky was completely clear, and the valley was just breathtakingly beautiful. We welcomed the night on the top of Mt John and then got some great shots of the milky way above it.

At that point I realised that my battery was dying on me and that this might prove a problem for the whole trip. A full charges takes about 2 hours, and I couldn’t just leave it overnight in the communal kitchen of our camp. That was a rather long evening of sitting there, charging my batteries and playing Pokemon Moon on my 3DS.

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