ROLI at NAMM

I spent a few days with ROLI at the NAMM music trade show in LA. Here's what happened in the ROLI room. 

Nepal

My first stop after leaving my life in Japan was Nepal. I spent my time in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Kathmandu was bustling, charming and at times overwhelming. Life seemed to spill out everywhere. Pokhara was more laid-back, offering chances to relax or set off on an adventure. Workers at the Boudhanath in Kathmandu chip paint from the aging facade of the holy Buddhist site. The stupa, one of the largest in the world, had accumulated many layers of paint over its existence.

20131110_nepal1154lr
20131110_nepal336lr
20131110_nepal227lr

This sādhu, or holy man, left, approached me in Kathmandu and gave me a tikka, a red spot on my forehead. Then he asked for money. Anyway, sādhu live on the edge of society after renouncing material goods. Right, a woman sells dyes in a square in Kathmandu.

20131110_nepal195lr

Clothes lie drying in the sun near an outdoor water fountain used for washing in Kathmandu.

20131110_nepal339lr

A man carries eggs in baskets through the streets of Kathmandu.

20131110_nepal256lr

A woman in Kathmandu Durbar Square.

20131110_nepal408lr

Dye adorns a statue in a small Kathmandu temple.

20131110_nepal523lr

A man relaxes in Patan, an area south of Kathmandu.

A motorcycle zooms through the streets of Kathmandu.

20131110_nepal946lr

Women carry baskets in Pokhara beneath the Himalaya mountain range.

Boats lie empty at dusk in Phewa Lake in Pokhara.

Under the Gates

In my last week in Japan, I spent a couple days in Fukuoka on Japan’s Kyushu island. The city is famous for tonkotsu ramen of which I ate three bowls over the course of about 24 hours. No regrets. While not slurping down pork bone-based noodle soups, I visited a few temples and shrines in the city. 20131026_fukuoka085lr

This worker at Kushida Shrine in Fukuoka walks under a series of gates carrying a box of donations made to the shrine. Kushida Shrine is famous for a festival in the summer in which participants carry giant floats, some taller than ten meters and weighing over two tons.

I’m sad to be leaving Japan after spending three years here, but excited to travel in Nepal and the US before moving to London this winter.

 

Japan in Summer

Summer vacation this year took me down to the cities of Osaka and Nara in the middle of Japan, and then up to the northern island of Hokkaido. We camped, slept in capsules, dug out hot springs, barbecued, rowed across a lake, and generally had all sorts of fun. Here's a sample of the trip.

Eric wades through lake Kussharo, the largest lake in Hokkaido. The lake is actually a massive volcanic crater that is home to the legendary creature Kusshii. Though I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this legendary dino-creature isn't going to surface any time soon.

Eric wades through lake Kussharo, the largest lake in Hokkaido. The lake is actually a massive volcanic crater that is home to the legendary creature Kusshii. Though I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this legendary dino-creature isn't going to surface any time soon.

The Five-Story Pagoda of Kofuku-ji, a temple in Nara. 

The Five-Story Pagoda of Kofuku-ji, a temple in Nara. 

This is one of the famous deer that live among the temples and shrines of Nara. If you feed the deer, they chase after you. I do not believe there is an elegant way to do this.

This is one of the famous deer that live among the temples and shrines of Nara. If you feed the deer, they chase after you. I do not believe there is an elegant way to do this.

A wooden wall at Kofuku-ji in Nara.

A wooden wall at Kofuku-ji in Nara.

Iozan, a mountain in Hokkaido, constantly emits sulfur gas, creating these yellow formations. 

Iozan, a mountain in Hokkaido, constantly emits sulfur gas, creating these yellow formations. 

Eric braves the smell.

Eric braves the smell.

Back in Osaka, I stayed at a capsule hotel. It looked like a space station. And yes, I was able to fit inside. Surprisingly comfortable.

Back in Osaka, I stayed at a capsule hotel. It looked like a space station. And yes, I was able to fit inside. Surprisingly comfortable.

Fields and mountains covered the landscape in Furano, Hokkaido. 

Fields and mountains covered the landscape in Furano, Hokkaido. 

Both fields and mountains covered the landscape in Furano, Hokkaido. Will takes pictures of Furano from a moving train.

Both fields and mountains covered the landscape in Furano, Hokkaido. Will takes pictures of Furano from a moving train.

Lake Kussharo. We barbecued on this dock. It was a bit too cold to swim, but we rowed a boat 4km out to a massive island in the middle of the lake. All told, a lovely summer vacation.

Lake Kussharo. We barbecued on this dock. It was a bit too cold to swim, but we rowed a boat 4km out to a massive island in the middle of the lake. All told, a lovely summer vacation.

Bouldering on the Beach

The highlight of my trip to Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture, was bouldering next to the ocean. I've been bouldering in a gym in Tokyo for more than a year now, but this was the first time I've done it outside on real rocks. I went bouldering with Will, and these pictures are of him on the rocks. 20130504_okinawa135lrWill jams his feet into climbing shoes before starting. Climbing shoes are designed to be incredibly tight to help provide grip on rocks.

20130504_okinawa174lrWill laces up his shoes.

20130504_okinawa223lr

A reach for the final hold on a route we designed ourselves.

20130504_okinawa219lrConcentration, pain, or both. The sharp coral rocks on the beach were a lot more painful than the plastic holds in the gym.

20130504_okinawa129lr A lot of the routes we found on the rocks were difficult, but the soft sand underneath provided a nice cushion if we fell. When there were rocks on the ground, we spotted each other to make sure it was safe.

20130504_okinawa193lrThe beach was a beautiful place to go bouldering. When we took breaks, we sat on the beach and looked at the waves. Not a bad way to spend the day.

Summer in the Southern Hemisphere

I can cross one more continent off my list: Australia. Though I was confused by Christmas trees set up under balmy weather, and spent a considerable amount of time trying to avoid deadly snakes and insects, I found Australia to be a lovely and even familiar place. The architecture reminded me of the US, as did the beer selection, but there were plenty of exotic creatures to see and places to go. Hello! A friendly Emu pokes his head up at the Healesville Sanctuary near Melbourne. Silly things can't fly, and it's commonly believed that they, along with kangaroos, can't walk backwards. The two "forward moving" animals are on the Australian coat of arms, and it's said that they represent a country always progressing. But there seems to be some dispute about whether they actually can walk backwards or not. But I digress.

Australian wilderness! Sort of. This is in the Healesville Sanctuary which is located in a rural area, and the scenery beyond the fences looked a lot like this. The animal sanctuary had natural environments for all sorts of Australian animals like kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, dingos and koalas.

Emily works to cut off the "beards" of mussels before boiling them. We collected a few dozen mussels from rocks near the beach shack we stayed in outside of Hobart in Tasmania. The mussels use their beard, technically called a byssus, to cling onto rocks. In non-mussel news, the shack we stayed in barely escaped a large bushfire just a day after we left.

We cleaned the mussels before boiling them in green tea. They tasted incredibly fresh and were just a little bit sweet.

Visitors to Hobart's Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) interact with a piece of art. Each section of the piece pulled out like a drawer, and a different voice would repeat "I love you."

A visitor to MONA ducks into a small gallery.

20130105australia059lr

A man in Melbourne waits by the ocean during a chilly summer night to see a flock of Little Penguins, the smallest species of penguin, return to their nests. It was too dark to get a good look at the penguins, but they were probably cute.

Kamikochi

The mountainous valley of Kamikochi sits high in Japan's Nagano Prefecture in what some call the Japan Alps. Surrounded by mountain peaks, the highland area features beautiful ponds, a peaceful shrine, and leisurely hiking trails.  A number of dead trees protrude from Taishoike Pond, giving the water a pretty, though eerie feeling.

Nathalie, left, crosses a wooden portion of a hiking trail. Right, visitors to Hotaka Shrine examine boats and mountains near the shrine's pond.

 The Azusa River flows throughout the valley of Kamikochi.

The Myōjin Bridge crosses over the Azusa River near Hotaka Shrine.

Awa Odori Festival

Dancers and musicians perform at the Awa Odori festival in Koenji in Tokyo on Sunday, August 26. The dance festival is part of the summer Obon celebrations in Japan in which Japanese honor the spirits of their ancestors. There are choreographed dances and a traditional song the performers sing. The festival in Koenji attracts thousands of dancers and many times that number of spectators.

Lanterns function as signs announcing a group of dancers.

Lanterns function as signs announcing a group of dancers.

Performers play the shinobue flute, a traditional Japanese instrument.

Performers play the shinobue flute, a traditional Japanese instrument.

Angkor

A thousand years ago, visiting the region of Angkor in Cambodia might have been equivalent to visiting New York today – it might have felt like it was the center of the world. Angkor was the largest pre-industrial city in the world, serving as the seat of the ancient Khmer Empire which controlled much of Southeast Asia from about the 9th to 15 centuries. The civilization had advanced irrigation systems and constructed impressive Hindu, and later Buddhist, temples. Today exploring the ruins of this once-great civilization produces the feeling of being an explorer, stumbling upon something magical and mysterious. Angkor Wat, the centerpiece of the ruins of Angkor, is the most well know temple in the region in addition to being the largest. Built as a Hindu temple by a Khmer king during the 12th century, the temple later became Buddhist.

A statue of the Hindu god Vishnu awaits visitors in one of the entrance halls to Angkor Wat. Because Buddhism later became popular in the region, the statue is now treated as a depiction of Buddha.

On the left, Matt observes the central structure of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat may be the most famous of the ancient sites in Cambodia, but it is far from the only one. On the right is Ta Prohm, a Buddhist monastery that has nearly been swallowed up by moss and the surrounding jungle. In other areas, trees snake out of the complex's walls and ceilings.

A monkey hangs out on a tree root near Bayon temple.

Left, a giant stone face – one of 216 – adorns a tower of Bayon temple. The faces are suspected to be modeled after either a Khmer king, a Buddhist symbol, or both. Right, a Cambodian man rests after a short, but heavy, seasonal rain.

In contrast to the ornate style of the ancient temples, many Cambodians today live in small houses built on stilts to serve as protection against flooding.

Islands in the Sun

Sunscreen and sunglasses. Sand and sandals. Coconuts and crabs. Ahh the beach. The beautiful Philippine island Palawan played host to my recent relaxing vacation.

Coconut trees dominate the coastline of Palawan.

A local man helps guide a boat towards land to retrieve fresh fish to cook for me and my friends later.

A different boat guide uses a pole to launch our boat toward another island, Isla Arena.

Isla Arena, a tiny island off the coast of Palawan, features a sanctuary which works to protect endangered sea turtles. Near the island is a beautiful coral reef I got to snorkel in.

We got to examine a number of ocean creatures near Isla Arena, including starfish, horseshoe crabs, and puffer fish.

Sena holds a feisty horseshoe crab by the tail. Horseshoe crabs are an ancient species having variants existing as long as 450 million years ago. And their blood is blue. Cool.

Tiny Isla Arena sits in the tranquil sea.

Trees Surround

Ahh it's finally spring! And for just a short couple weeks in Japan, spring means cherry blossoms. Beautiful cherry blossoms!cherry blossoms in tokyoHere visitors to Kitanomaru Park (北の丸公園) in Tokyo walk under cherry blossoms in bloom. The park is within the grounds of the old Edo Castle which no longer stands.

party in the park

Will and Andrew partake in an ancient Japanese tradition: drinking under cherry blossoms. There's a bit of a cherry tree down on the left there, so it counts. But within and around the park there were dozens of cherry trees. Quite beautiful.

The Water Temple

Hidden under an unassuming soccer field outside of Tokyo lies a massive column-filled chamber like something out of a video game or an action movie. And indeed, this cavern has been used as a fantastic setting for super hero movies, but its purpose is very practical: flood prevention.

water temple

A cameraman for Fuji TV waits between shots while filming a TV show in the huge cave which lies near the end of an extensive anti-flooding system. The system diverts water from swollen rivers into a 6.3 kilometer-long tunnel. The tunnel ends in this cavern where potentially-surging water pressure can be controlled before it is pumped out into another river that can handle the water. Each of the pillars is 18 meters high and weighs 500 tons.

water temple japan 2

The remains of dried dirt cracks near stairs leading down into a 72 meter-deep shaft that is used to contain excess water before it flows into the cavern. When the system is not in use, and the water is drained, the area is open to tourists.

Racers

[wpcol_1half id="" class="" style=""]

[/wpcol_1half] [wpcol_1half_end id="" class="" style=""]


[/wpcol_1half_end] Motorcycles and Formula One race cars fill the display floors of the Honda museum in Motegi, Tochigi, Japan.

Elements of Hakone

Steam surrounds a worker in Hakone, Japan, as he prepares to extract 黒玉子, or black eggs, from the sulfurous water of a mountain hot spring. The eggs boiled in the water take on a black color from the sulfur. According to legend, eating one of these eggs adds five years to your life.

Steam rises from a hot spring on a mountain in Hakone. The high sulphur content of the area gives the landscape an dark orange tint. The picture was taken from a cable car suspended above the mountain.

sand

Artist Motoi Yamamoto's "Forest of Beyond" installation is seen from above in the Hakone Open-Air Museum. The artist spread individual lines of salt on the ground to create the room-sized exhibit.

Speed of Light - Video

The ceiling sounds like the sky threatening to rain as trains thunder by on tracks overhead. Ticket gates in the distance whine with the constant "beep-beep" of passengers entering and exiting with electronic cards. Eyes look to the ground, look at cell phones, or look for a quicker path through the crowds. People here in the center of the station either run or walk. Few stand still. This is Shinjuku Station in central Tokyo. It is the busiest train station in not only Japan, but in the world. More than 3 million people travel through the station everyday, rushing to transfer to trains, buses, jobs, stores, and homes.

But all this commuting may have its downsides. A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Economics suggests that longer commuting time translates to a decrease in happiness, and in a recent survey, Japanese reported having among the longest commuting times in the world. Squeezing into packed trains for long rides may actually be squeezing the fun out of life.

Here the video and still images of commuters in Shinjuku Station are squeezed and stretched as well. Commuters passed by blank panels of lights in the station that are usually used to display advertising. Using a long shutter speed, the camera captured a distorted picture of the travelers as they rushed around at what seems like the speed of light.

Some of these photos were published on the Sankei Shimbun website. And you can check out the Japanese translation of the story after the jump.

頭上からは路線を通過する電車が今にも雨が降り出しそうな雷に似た音を響かせる。 長く続く改札では出入りする乗客が絶えずICカードの電子音を響かせている。 目線は地面か携帯電話へと落とされているか、少しでも速く人混みの間を通り抜けようとずっと遠くを見つめている。東京の中心となるこの駅では人々は立ち止まることなく、歩き続けるか、走り続ける。数人を除いては。 ここは日本で、いや世界一、一日の利用者が多い駅、新宿駅だ。 3億人以上の人々がこの駅を乗り換えに、仕事に、はたまた家路へと忙しく通り過ぎる。 しかし、この駅から始まる旅路は全てが幸せへは続かないようだ。 スカンジナビア経済ジャーナルの研究によると、一日の移動時間が長いほど幸福感を感じにくくなるという結果が出た。また最近の調べでは日本人の一日の移動時間が平均して世界一長いことが分かった。ぎゅうぎゅうの満員電車は、幸せまでおしくらまんじゅうで車外へと押し出してしまっているようだ。 今回の動画は、新宿駅を行き交う人々が伸び縮みする様子をイメージした。 乗客が空白の広告掲示板の前を通り過ぎる瞬間を撮影した。 シャッタースピードを意図的に長目に設定することで、通り過ぎる人々が忙しく移動する様がまるで光速のように描写されている。 Translated by Sena Fujisawa (藤澤瀬奈)

Kansai

A man walks through torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. The gates lead up a mountain toward various shrine buildings. Many of the thousands of torii gates are donated by companies and individuals. This is sort of the standard picture people take of Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto. But there you go. It's a pretty thing.

A big rock and a smaller rock and lots of very tiny rocks. This is a zen garden. The garden at Ryōan-ji is actually pretty large, and there are 15 of these main rocks surrounded by moss. The rocks are cleverly arranged so that you can only see 14 of them at any time. When you achieve enlightenment, you can see the 15th rock. So I'm just going to assume birds are enlightened.

Osaka Castle looms over the moat surrounding it in the middle of Osaka, Japan's third-largest city. The original castle, destroyed a number of times since first being built in the late 1500's, played an important role in unifying Japan in the 1600's. Today the reproduction of the castle features a modern museum in the interior. There's nothing really historic inside unless they had elevators in the 1600's. It's actually kind of depressing.

 

yo

Where do some of the best yo-yoers go to practice? Apparently they go to a park just outside of Tokyo. I spent a few hours photographing three young yo-yo experts while they practiced the art of the yo-yo. Former world yo-yo champion Takumi Nagase practices in a park in Kawaguchi using two yo-yos, his specialty.

Nagase, who won the world yo-yo championship in 1999, is also an accomplished skateboarder.

Tsubasa Onishi, who won the world yo-yo championship in 2010, practices with two yo-yos.

Onishi is famous for tricks in which his yo-yo is not connected to his string, letting the yo-yo sail through the air attached to nothing. However, he still uses a string to toss and catch the yo-yo.

Nagase and Onishi are practicing ahead of a local competition organized by Kota Watanabe, center.

Nagase shows off the simple inside of his yo-yo. The yo-yoers take care of their tools, oiling them and using different types of string for different situations. Additionally, different styles of yo-yos are used for different types of tricks.

Onishi surprises Nagase when he flings a yo-yo close to Nagase's face as he rests on his skateboard.

Nagase, Onishi and Watanabe relax with skateboards and yo-yos while background music plays from an iPod.

Tokyo Eyes

I'm working on a project for a Japanese newspaper right now. There isn't much more detail to the assignment than that. They want to me shoot something. The photo directors I talked to said they liked the angles at which I shoot subjects eyes. So I'm thinking about that a lot at the moment. Here are some things I've been working on for the project. violinI think this is an example of the "eye photos" that the directors liked. Here Ayako Okunuki waits between songs while playing violin with the band Pamfu in a studio in Shibuya, Tokyo.

bandJames Francis, top left, and Andy MacKenzie, right, play along with Ayako's violin in Pamfu. Full disclosure: I play harmonica with them. The harmonica is probably in the hand during this shot.

jugglingA juggler who calls himself タクゾー (Takuzō) practices with juggling pins in Kawaguchi City, near Tokyo.

gyozaA worker at 原宿餃子楼 (Harajuku Gyōza Rou) takes an order for gyōza, a Chinese-style dumpling, in Tokyo's Harajuku district.

standing barNick Erickson, bottom left, enjoys the atmosphere of a small standing bar with a crowd of people in Shibuya, Tokyo.

barA man who gave his name as りゅう (Ryū) sits listlessly in a bar in Shibuya around 1:00 in the morning while hardcore music plays in the background.