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Achi Kochi (Here and There)

Friday, June 09, 2006
I've been riding the scooter again. It's finally warm enough, and the moment I got back on the scooter for a tour of the island, I wondered why I had ever stopped. Clearly I stopped because it was bitter cold, but still. Getting back on the bike was a revelation. Riding a scooter is great - you have the sun on your back, you can smell the sea, the road, the flowers, you feel the wind on your body, and the view is always excellent. On top of that, it's exhilarating - winding through mountain roads, leaning into a long sweeping turn, tearing up a mountain and coasting back down the other side - these are things I had missed, but I'm back.

A few days ago Jack Snyder posted a comment on this blog. He didn't realize it, but he actually posted on an entry that was nearly a year old, but he was the English teacher here three or four years ago, and he said that the island really opened up when you take the scooter off the paved roads. I have pretty thoroughly scouted this island by scooter and I couldn't remember any dirt trails leading up into the mountains, and so Jack-sensei and I got to e-mailing. He told me that he had done most of his scootering around Higashino, and that I should check that out. I decided to do just that.

But while we're on this for a moment, I should point out that Jack posted a comment, and that was a rare occurrence. I know it's lame for a blog author to ask for comments, but here I am. When I post these things, I always wonder what people think. I don't care if it's two words, if it's your reaction to what I write, or what I say - then I want to hear it. Writing these things every other day and never hearing back is a lot like giving a speech to an empty auditorium. I know what I want to say, and I know people are reading this, but sometimes it feels like I'm shouting into the night and there's just no one out there listening. For those of you who have left comments recently, thank you. I don't think you realize how much I appreciate it.

Phew, enough of that. Higashino. Scooters. Exploration.

I realized after the fact that almost all my pictures are of bamboo forests. I haven't actually gone to these places to photograph them yet - these are the shots from the first time through, the scooter still running beside me. When I go back, I'll do them more justice.

I had forgotten that I was living in a tropical paradise - but this road reminded me.

Each bamboo forest has a different flavor. This one was quiet and cool, with a dusty blue color.

This one was the opposite, warm and sunny, with insects and a breeze that smelled like flowers. I should do a book, I can call it "The Moods of Bamboo."

Next up is Hiroshima. I went to Hiroshima on Wednesday for a couple reasons. First, I was getting a birthday present for Sabrina (It's her birthday today - happy birthday Sabrina!), and second I needed to practice taking pictures of people. Maybe I have mentioned that I am going to Tokyo again for a week to get those pictures of people that I didn't get last time and regretted missing. I go in a week, and I wanted to try out taking pictures of people in a city. I figured since lately I have gotten my chops photographing students, people on the street would be a little bump up in difficulty. No! It's hard! After about a half hour just to get the courage up to point the camera at people on the street, I spent a good three hours missing perfect photos and messing up the ones I did get a shot at. I finished the day somewhat depressed, but in retrospect I have a few good ones. My hat is off to you, Mr. Cartier Bresson - you made it look easy.

That was the result of the day, and while there are a few photos I'm happy with, there isn't one I particularly love. I will have to work my ass off in Tokyo to get the good pictures. Consider this a work log. This is where I start. Let's see if I improve.

Struggling with people all day made me appreciate how easy static objects are, and I did a bit of that too - photographing the city is quite different from quiet little Osakikamijima.

The spring and summer fashions.

My scooter is nice, but what if I had this? I might never leave. Notice the exhaust pipe. Also, behind the awesome chopper is a luxury scooter. I can dream.

DeoDeo - I basically have to go in every time I pass one of these stores. They sell every kind of gadget, computer, TV, video game, DVD, camera, lens, computer component, rice cooker, clock - the list goes on. It's an awesome store.

I caught a later bus to Takehara and had to wait about an hour for the ferry, so I decided to stroll around and take pictures in the fading light.

That just says that the road goes to Hiroshima.

There's an enormous bike parking area near the ferry port in Takehara. I had never been in it, before.

How cool is that? It's cool.

The ferry terminal. I know this room well. Also, point of interest. See those yellow lines? Those are so blind people can find their way around. They go down the center of every street, they lead you through train stations, and they have patterns of bumps and ridges to indicate different things.

The room where you can sit and wait in air conditioning or heating. It's so boring at night because the shop closes, so you just sit there and stare at the wall while you wait. No thanks. I just noticed the flowers in this picture. Nice.

And that's it. This weekend it's volleyball tournament and the last (thank goodness) sports day. We'll see what I come up with for Monday.

Kinoe Kids Are Easy To Photograph

Thursday, June 08, 2006
So after the frustration of Higashino on Sunday, and the pictures that I didn't particularly like, I had another opportunity on Monday. Kinoe Junior High and Elementary are having their sports day on the 11th, and Monday was a rehearsal. This wasn't just marching or jump rope though, this was the whole event, start to finish, except without spectators. They ran all the races, did all the games, kept score, and everything else. I was again asked to photograph, and with the familiar feeling of Undokai fatigue, I showed up with the camera.

Immediately, things started working. I don't know why. While I had to work and work for every decent picture at Higashino, Kinoe's photos came easily. Maybe it was the bright sun, the location, or the kids. I don't know. Maybe it was the field was smaller or because there were no spectators I felt freer to move around to take pictures. Either way, something just clicked, and I think these are better and feel easier than the Higashino photos. You be the judge.

I actually took a picture of the chairs in Higashino too. It was not very good.

Having happy smiling kids helps.

Photographing the same thing many times over helps too. When it was time to put on the hachimaki, I knew what to expect, and what kind of photos I wanted. I guess that's how wedding photographers work. After enough weddings, anyone could take good photos.

Even though I have been through all this before, I still like this picture.

There's a girl at Kinoe junior high, a second year who is one of the funniest and loudest people I have ever met. She doesn't particularly like English, but she likes me, and whenever she sees me she screams my name. That includes in the supermarket, in my car, or any other place. It's cute. She is one of many students who hates being photographed. She's pretty though, and I had a feeling there was a good picture to be had. I persisted, and in a moment of hachimaki adjusting, I grabbed this picture, which I think is one of my better ones. She told me to delete it immediately, and all her friends told her it was very cute.

Of course, the folding mirror.

This girl is the star girl athlete, and she looks every bit the part in this picture.

The gym teacher, MC of the Undokai.

Two points about this picture:
1. It is about 15-20 minutes after everyone put on the hachimaki, and I count three girls still adjusting theirs.
2. Most every school has a reproduction of Rodin's The Thinker in the schoolyard. Strange, right?

While we were getting ready, I noticed an old jungle gym, old, rusted, and well used. I took a couple pictures that are thematically out of place but I like them and this is my soapbox, so here they are.

Again, thank you new lens.

Now usually I am not the type to post silly misspellings of English here, but this is just too good.

I wonder what that means? As far as I can tell it keeps water and that's it.

Again, the transferring of the flag.

And the piano music with the exercises everyone does.

This was something different. It was a hot sunny day, and two kids started acting strange and woozy, and they were pulled into the tent. They were overheating, and were sat down with a thermometer until they cooled back down to normal temperatures.

This kid waited impatiently. The moment his temperature read normal, he leapt off the chair and ran back into the field.

This girl had more problems. She came in looking flushed and then started shivering and rubbing her arms as if she was really cold. She put on her tracksuit and waited maybe an hour, and the she too went running back to the action.

The principals, regal in their administrative tent.

And now, just some pictures that I don't think need much explaining.

That says white (shiro) on the left and red (aka) on the right.

Ok, fine, I'm obsessed with the headbands.

The view behind the stands.

Feats of Strength:


This is the single most amazing running face I have ever seen. If I saw this behind me, I would let him pass.

Folk dance with kindergarteners.

The last game was awesome. Seven truck tires were placed on a line in the middle of the field. On either side, third and fourth graders lined up, probably ten or twelve per team. When the start pistol was fired, the only rule was that they had to pull the tires to their side. No instructions as to who should go where, or how best to pull, so what you get was a sort of free-for-all tire pulling melee.

The kids got their pulling gloves on.

And then it was hauling time. I love those two kids in the foreground.

Things got pretty serious.

And that's it for the Undokai practice. On the 11th, I have to go to the real deal and most likely photograph it again. We'll see how that goes. I realize this post is a little late, but while it's Thursday here, it's still Wednesday in some parts of the world. See you on Friday.