Mount Fuji from Mount Takao, Black and White

Written by on November 25, 2008 in Blog, Photography, Photos along the way with 1 Comment

Traditional, modern Japanese dancers, in pictures

Written by on November 24, 2008 in Blog, Photography, Photos along the way with 6 Comments

We rode our bicycles to the park yesterday to catch a local festival here in Takao (Ichomatsuri). The kids promptly bought chocolate covered bananas, and I got okonomiyaki (because I’d skipped lunch). Then we walked over to eat and watch local dancing troupes. I enjoyed taking snapshots of the cute kids in between bites, including these girls who danced skillfully in front of us.

Then I started to leave (the kids were desperate to go find the cotton candy), but an old lady said we should see the next group. She insisted, so we stayed.

The next group didn’t disappoint. Their music and dance was a blend of traditional and modern melodies and rhythms so typical of Japan today. They rocked and inspired, and they had a lot of fun.

They changed costumes three times during the performance, and they had a menagerie of shiny and colorful accouterments tucked in their belts:  clackers, fans, samurai swords, and mutli-colored streamers.  The dust rose, the light streamed through, and the flags waved  behind as the dancers rushed about in frenetic displays occassionally stopping for a group pose with a flash of color.

Golden fans … what next?

They just kept piling it on. The girl with the drum, and two others like her, carried the exuberance to a new level with their high kicking drum beating whirls. They were wearing tight leather shots and tops along with their traditional tabi (boots with a split for the big toe).

Finally, the finale!

My kids all said their favorite memory at the matsuri was, um, the cotton candy — except for Mari, who agreed with me that these dancers were tops.

PS – Don’t miss the video in the previous post!

The Night I Met Miss Universe (Riyo Mori, Japan, 2007) and…

Written by on November 21, 2008 in Blog, Photography, Photos along the way with 8 Comments

…I also met Kurara Chibana (1st Runner-Up in 2006) and Hiroko Mima (Miss Universe Japan in 2008).

I walked into the Ginza Gucci Store, went upstairs to the cafe, and there they were standing in the middle of the room looking regal. Someone said, Why don’t you take their picture. So I did.

Riyo Mori, Kurara Chibana, and Hiroko Mima (Oct 25, 2008)

Then I walked around taking photos of everyone, sometimes pausing to grab some roast beef on a cracker or whatever else was coming around.

I was the photographer, and the event was a fundraiser for Room to Read. Room to Read raises money and uses it to build schools and libraries for children in impoverished communities worldwide. Previously, I wrote about my site visit to see Room to Read’s work in Cambodia here.

Later in the evening Erin Ganju, co-founder of Room to Read and future CEO, gave a presentation.

Room to Read got started because John Wood and Erin Ganju (and others) went traveling to see the world. Like countless others they were touched by what they saw. UNLIKE innumerable others, they did something in response. Now Room to Read is having a significant impact to help needy children get an education and access to books — things that really make a difference in their lives.

I hope you check them out, even if you just came here to see Miss Universe photos.

Okay, back to Miss Universe. They had an auction to raise money for Room to Read (Gucci is a big supporter apparently). First, they auctioned several Gucci bags. When I need a “bag” I usually grab either a plastic one with my local supermarket’s brand on the front, or I go “high class” and find a nice paper bag with one of them fancy department store logos on it. Anyway, I was just the photographer and not expected to fit in.

This is a men’s bag. I think they had a Seinfeld episode about mens’ bags.

Later they auctioned off a “Miss Universe makeover.” All three of the Miss Universe women were offering an intensive, full day personal lesson in how to become like Miss Universe. The bidding went to about seven thousand dollars (700,000 yen).

After the auction, they all gathered around the lucky winner, a young man and his wife (or girlfriend?). Riyo Mori turned and gave me a personal glance. Well, it looks like she did. You can almost see the lucky girl in the purple dress (who really didn’t need a makeover IMO) standing behind her.

Okay, that’s my story about the night I met Miss Universe.

Oh, I talked to her — to all of them — but that part was a disaster. I thought I should say something, but I didn’t know what. I’m really not good at meeting famous people. Once I’ve got the “famous” part stuck in my head, I have a hard remembering we’re all just folks. So I said some stupid thing, when I might have said something else, or just kept my mouth shut.

If we’d all sat down and talked for awhile (yeah, right) I would have invited each of them on one of our volunteer trips to Cambodia with Global Adventure. So in case any of you read this, please see the link and join a trip in 2009.

Preschool kids in Japan having fun on mountain bikes

Written by on November 19, 2008 in Blog, Personal, Photography with 3 Comments
Lined up

Before going to the starting line

Going for it

He really resented having a tiny bicycle and training wheels

Growing up

This year his father had him training hard for this


With a look of determination (and enjoying it)

With some help

This was his second day on a bicycle

Small but proud

He rode hard after his brother's record at that age


Pedalling hard up the hill

Mari and a stranger

The course passed through and around farmer's fields

The winner

Mari at the finish with a tired smile

All together again

The group returning to the preschool


This was the scene with Fall colors and blue sky

All lined up again

Drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies

The prize

Mari gets her medal, a proud moment

At the end

Posing with their medals and certificates

Yesterday the preschool kids had their annual bicycle race. The race is a one hour marathon. The one who goes the farthest wins. Reia won two years ago by going 14 laps. Last year a boy pedalled for 17 laps. This year Mari and Maika are the oldest, so they both hoped to win. It turned out to be Mari’s day. She went out hard and led the whole the way (15 laps).

Most of the kids in the preschool this year are very young. The two boys who are closest in age to Mari and Maika are quite small. Everyone worked hard. A few shed tears, beginning with the boy who fell off the road into the rice paddy on his first lap.

Click on the first photo and you can view the whole gallery with captions. I chose 15 photos that give an impression of the day!

Photos of Angkor Wat and nearby temples

Written by on October 28, 2008 in Blog, Photography, Photos along the way with 1 Comment
Dog at the Temple

Another vistor...

Roots of Decay

Yeah, a terrible title for another photo every visitor takes

Looking out

Temple walls and a receding pathway

Looking Up

Light streams in from above at the center of one of the temples

Face Shot

One of the giant faces of Buddha at the Bayon

Inside a temple

Temple workers and an image of Buddha

Vishnu of Angkor Wat

The statue of Vishnu that was enshrined at Angkor Wat


Images of Buddha were defaced after an ancient Hindu revival

Angkor Wat

A photo that everyone has to take before they leave

Here are nine of my favorite photos from Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. I’m not going to hash out the details (or even attempt to remember the names of all the temples); I’ll just let you enjoy the images (with brief captions). The history of the temples and the civilization that built them is too much for a simple blog post, but you can get a taste here.

I spent about 8 hours visiting 6 or 8 temples with a driver and a guide. It rained for about 6 hours. That meant carrying an umbrella with my heavy camera bad on my shoulder (and camera in hand). Oh, and struggling into a yellow rain pancho made from somone a foot shorter than I am. Interesting. If I ever go back, it won’t be in the rainy season. (The next day was all blue sky and cool breeze — witnessed from the bus back to Phnom Penh.)

Dog at the Temple in Angkor Wat

Written by on October 21, 2008 in Blog, Photography, Photos along the way with 4 Comments

I’ve been to Angkor Wat — been there and done that. I’m glad to have seen it, despite the rain. I’ll show a series of photos soon, but I thought I’d open with this one. It’s a bit different than the others, but I like it.