Thursday, April 10, 2014

2014 Sakura, cherry blossoms

Hi everyone. I'm back to blogging. Sakura, otherwise known as cherry blossoms, were in full bloom last week and the week before last in many parts of Japan. At present winds are sending lots of petals fluttering down. It is a really beautiful sight. I like watching the falling petals.

If you ask Japanese people, "What do you like about cherry blossoms?", I'm 100% sure that many of them would answer, "I like the way the blossoms fall down." You can see pretty pink patches of fallen petals here and there now.

I'm always a little bit crazy about sakura. This year I went to several places to see the blossoms. What you see below are some of the photos I took in Tokyo, Boso peninsula in Chiba prefecture, Kobe, and Yoshino in Nara prefecture.

There are in fact many types of sakura -probably more than 100 types in this country. Generally, the first bloomer is Kawazu-zakura which starts blooming in early March. Its pink color is deeper and brighter than other types of sakura blossoms.

Kawazu-zakura blossoms ↑↓

Kawazu-zakura blossoms ↑↓

weeping cherry blossoms

Somei-Yoshino blossoms ↑↓

And then, usually in the middle of March, Somei-Yoshino cherry trees begin to bloom along with other types such as Oshima-zakura and so on. The petals of the Somei-Yoshino are white with a hint of pink in their center. It is the most popular and numerous variety now in Japan. 

The Somei-Yoshino is in fact a crossbred cherry, the origin of which is obscure, however, a lot of people say that it is a hybrid of Oshima-zakura and Edo-higan cherry trees. 

Oshima-zakura blossoms

The Somei-Yoshino was first cultivated in the Edo period by gardeners in a village called Somei in Edo (Tokyo). It takes its name from this village, and also from Mt. Yoshino, the most famous place for cherry blossoms in this country. 

The ones in Washington DC are also Somei-Yoshino. As the Somei-Yoshino cherry trees all over Japan and in other countries are supposed to come from cuttings originally taken from a single tree in the Edo period, all of them are in fact the clones of the original tree. 

Somei-Yoshino blossoms ↑ ↓

When I was in Kansai recently, I had a chance to go to Mt. Yoshino in Nara prefecture. Located in the deep forests of the Kii Mountains, Yoshino is one of the three sacred sites in the Kii Mountains range, which have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Surprisingly, there were few Somei-Yoshino cherry trees there.  Instead, mainly Shiroyama-zakura, a type of mountain cherry (yama-zakura) native to Japan, were in bloom there. ↓

cherry blossoms cover the whole mountain in Yoshino. 

Yoshimizu Shrine ↑↓

In the 14th century the shrine served as the temporary seat of Emperor Go-Daigo after he set up a competing imperial court (the Southern Court) at Yoshino. 

I ate sakura-flavored ice cream in Yoshino.

there were lots of tourists and hikers.

This year I saw sakura in bloom in cities and fields and on mountains. I think wherever they are, they always brighten up my heart. I'm sorry that cherry blossom season is almost finished leaving pink petal tapestries on the grounds. Oh I forgot -Double-flowered cherry trees are going to bloom soon. They are beautiful too! 

coming soon!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hand-made tote camera bags

A good friend of mine, Chikako, handmade a new tote camera for me. It is wine red. This is it! I'm really excited to use it. It is extremely neat and smart so I'd like to share it with you.

Made of synthetic leather and well sewn together, it is lightweight, sturdy, and water repellent so you can carry it anywhere you go even on rainy days. You can use it as a shoulder bag as well. 

I think I'm a little bit shy. I don't feel like carrying a showy camera bag that stands out or that obviously reveals what's inside. Instead, I want to carry a stylish, lightweight, and versatile one that I can use not only when I go out taking pictures but also when I do shopping or have business meetings. 

I'd been long looking for an ideal camera bag (I usually carry a lot of stuff, including a big camera and lenses), but what I found in stores were traditional ones which looked alike.  

Last spring Chikako made me a black tote camera bag for the first time at my request. This is it! It is also made of synthetic leather. The bag has always been so useful and convenient that I asked her to make me the same bag in a different color.

For the wine red bag light colored floral pattern lining cloth is used while for the black one light colored yellow camera pattern lining cloth is used. The lightness in color helps me to find small items in the bags. If the linings were black and dark, I think it would be harder for me to find small things such as lens caps in them. 
Each bag has five pockets in total inside and outside and five metal rivets are installed on their bottoms to keep them from getting dirty when they are put on the ground. They are also just the right size so when an inner padded bag is needed, it can be inserted smoothly into them. ↓

My cat was very curious about the bag.  

To my surprise and delight, two accessories she crafted, a small pouch for the wine red bag and a smart phone case for the black one are attached to the bags.

I think good hand-made things are suffused with the makers' warmth, thoughtfulness, creativity, and in my case friendship as well that store-bought products can't ever have. These tote camera bags are the only two of their kind in the world. I think I'm so lucky to have such a good friend who is a very talented designer and good at leather work. Thank you so much Chikako! 

Tulip flowers were beautiful on the day when I took pictures of the wine red bag. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Affected by Turner's yellows

I was back in Kobe, my hometown, for a while on some family business. During my stay there, I had a chance to go to see the Turner exhibition titled "Turner from the Tate: the Making of a Master" at Kobe City Museum with my sister.  This exhibition was in Tokyo last fall but I missed it because I couldn't afford time to see it.

It is not too much to say that J.M.W. Turner is one of the Western painters Japanese people love the most and his past exhibitions have always attracted a lot of viewers.  As for this exhibition, about 300,000 people went to see it in Tokyo and it is attracting a lot more in Kobe. I think it was a nice exhibition and I was so glad to be able to see his "Regulus" in person.

Turner is well-known for having used yellow pigments a lot in his water and oil colors. I was really fascinated by his beautiful colors, especially how well his yellows worked in his works. While looking at them, I was thinking of how to get a similar wonderful effect of yellow in photos, though I know that Turner illustrated light and shade, hues, and atmosphere with complex technique.

Conscious of Turner's yellows, I did a little experiment. These two photos (below) were taken in Kobe after I saw the Turner paintings. I changed my camera's White Balance to yellowish by biasing it on the in-camera chart. Hmm. I have to admit that I'm a person who is easily affected by people and things I admire.

The photo above was taken with one of the normal color settings. 

It has been getting a bit warmer since I came back home from Kobe but it is still quite cold. However, some pretty flowers are now in bloom in my town, braving the cold. It is so true that "Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men". 

ume blossoms ↑↓

Kawazu-zakura, a type of sakura (cherry blossoms) ↓