I initially started looking into a trip to Japan to photograph the winter wildlife several years ago. I picked up some brochures and other information while at the Birdfair event at Rutland Water. I contacted some of the people whose details I had been given, after a number of e-mails between myself and a couple of guides things went quiet. Time ticked by and for one reason or another nothing was ever finalised so the trip never happened.
After my trip to Kamchatka with Marco we discussed the possibility of arranging a trip together to Japan. I forwarded all the information and contacts that I had made previously and he began to put things together. Marco already had some trips planned early in the year so we had to arrange our trip to Japan around these commitments. This was a couple of weeks earlier than I really wanted, however it was yes or no and I really wanted to visit Japan to see these locations that I had only seen in photographs or on the television. With everything booked we headed to Japan. We had decided to use the services of a local guide/driver/interpreter, however it must be stressed this has advantages and disadvantages. There were times when patience was stretched! I think our guide was straight out of “Driving Miss Daisy” he also required a sat-nav to navigate a straight road! I would recommend the services of a good guide who is flexible when undertaking a trip like this.
I flew with British Airways on a direct flight as I always try to, as they have a better carry-on allowance than most airlines. This was a little more expensive than some of the flight options available. Taking a 600mm f4 lens as carry-on luggage can pose problems with some airlines and a direct flight saves a lot of unnecessary hassle.
I was the first to arrive at Tokyo’s Narita airport after an eleven and a half hour overnight flight from London. Marco’s flight from Italy arrived shortly after. We used the airport shuttle bus to transfer us to the hotel where we would spend our first night. Having checked in and freshened up we decided to head in to Tokyo for the evening. We took the bus into the Shinjuku district which is the area in the city where all the camera shops are located. We both had our cameras with us so we did a bit of street photography while we were there.
I think it is fair to say we were both in awe at the number of shops and the items they had in stock, this truly is an amazing place. Just about any photographic item you could think of is on a shelf or in a glass cabinet in one of these shops. The streets outside are brightly illuminated by colourful neon lights and the place is buzzing even on a sunday night. One of the shops we looked in comprises of one large city building with each floor dedicated to a particular product category.
The ground floor is what overloads your senses first, this area is full of all the latest cameras and lenses from all the manufacturers. All items can be handled and scrutinised. The only lenses I did not see on display were the Nikon & Canon 800mm lenses, all the others were there. Any memory card in any format and in any capacity was there. Lens to body adapters in any configuration, filters of all shapes and sizes, macro, astro, m4/3, full frame, medium format, large format, accessories of every description. One floor was backpacks and cases, another floor solely for tripods, another floor for studio equipment yet another floor for traditional film printing and darkroom materials. Just about everything you could be looking for associated with photography is under this one roof.
There are also stores dedicated to selling used equipment both digital and traditional film systems. One particular shop we visited looked like an upmarket jeweller’s inside and had a floor for each brand. The glass cases were filled with row after row of cameras and lenses in immaculate condition. The Japanese must have a need to own the latest technology, therefor the used market is huge.
Between visiting numerous shops we wandered around and took a few photographs. As it was only a quick visit to pass away a few hours neither of us had a tripod, so it was a case of shooting hand held with a fairly high ISO to obtain a reasonable shutter speed. At night Tokyo must be the most brightly illuminated and colourful city I have ever visited. It also felt the safest city I have been to, the people were all smiling and friendly. There was no looking around to check out the people around me, as I find myself doing in most other towns and cities when I am carrying a fairly expensive camera.
Tokyo is definitely a city I would love to visit another time and spend a few days. With the effects of a long flight catching up on us and the time getting on, we made the decision it would be a good idea to catch the bus back to the hotel where we were due to be collected by our guide early the following morning to head to our first location for wildlife photography – Jigokudani.
Winter in Japan Part 2 to follow……
You can view images from my trip on my website www.derekwatt.co.uk
© copyright Derek watt 2016.