At the time of this story, I haven’t yet started to work as a photographer in Tokyo Metropolitan Area. Settling in a new country isn’t the easiest of tasks to do. Although Japan is a beautiful country to live in, it presents more than a few challenges for newcomers, with the language barrier at the top of them all.
A year later, after moving to the Land of the Rising Sun, I decided to write about what I have done in Yokohama in the first Month. You’d probably think that it wasn’t much, but I have been walking more than 100km according to what my iPhone step counting up says. It was the first time for me to experience Yokohama, and I was eager to see everything.
After enjoying all the goodies it offers, leaving South Korea after five beautiful years living there, moving to a new country wasn’t easy. I have left behind friends, places, but kept the memories. It’s true; I took with me all of the good memories. Even though I have been visiting Japan before more than once, little things like buying toilet paper can be troublesome at first for newcomers. Where do I go to purchase properly sized socks? You know, Asian sizing… “in/frustrates” me quite often, but it also keeps my pockets fuller. 😉
What it is like to live in Japan as a foreigner
I had a month to discover downtown Yokohama, before moving from the short-time rented apartment in Minato Mirai to a quieter detached house with a garden, and to decipher how things work. And I thought I had discovered.
Every day I would take long walks with my camera hanging around my neck. All the photographs you can see in this article are taken exclusively during the first month after moving here. I was snapping here and there, people, cityscapes, and everything really, I had considered attractive enough. Because most of my walks weren’t meant for street photography solely, I kept making a decent amount of photographs.
Assuming you know the big super or mega markets all over the world, I tell you that Japan is quite different. Well, it took me a month to realize that except Costco, they don’t exist. Most of the “super-markets” look closer to convenience stores in South Korea, for example, and are very focused on the local consumers within a couple of blocks rather than having an exact range similar to other places. In part, this is because of a lack of space.
The first couple of days I have been sick and the weather wasn’t up to the Land of the Rising Sun, but nothing to worry, only cloudy days with little rain and only with degrees on the positive side of the scale with a minimum raging between 5-7°C and a maximum ranging 12-17°C. It seems that Yokohama and Tokyo have a warmer climate compared to the rest of the country due to the mountains sheltering the area and the opening to the sea. As a photographer, I can’t even ask for more. Once I felt better, I started to discover the Minato Mirai area, which is beautiful. It’s a relatively newly built area, with plenty of high-rise buildings, both designated for living and offices for companies headquarters.
In the meantime, I stick with Save the Date and After Wedding Photos. The latter, known as Trash the Dress, too, in some parts of the world (sometimes literally).
I’ve been waking all around the Rinko Park, Yokohama Cosmoworld, Kishamichi Promenade, from the last place seeing the Anniversaire Cafe, which is both a restaurant and a wedding hall, quite an exclusivist one if judge by the prices. I couldn’t help myself thinking about shooting as a professional wedding photographer in such a place, but later on, I had found how things go for these events on the local market. Most brides and grooms are renting a wedding venue, which comes with a planner that brings the whole package needed for the entire event, including teams of photographers, videographers, wedding dress, tuxedo, shoes, floral table arrangements, menu, wedding invitations. The wedding lasts for about one hour and a half, usually. At the end of the celebration, the entire visual production is already edited. Photos and videos are handed to the groom and bride and the guests on the way out. That sounds like a factory, but the local wedding market pays for it, many $$$$ more often than not.
In the meantime, I stick with Save the Date, and After Wedding Photos. The latter is known as Trash the Dress, too, in some parts of the world (sometimes quite literally).
Day by day, I was learning new things about how things work in Japan, how people seemed to adapt to be living in such small homes, and even got stunned seeing restaurants, very well rated, taking activity in places not much larger than my actual bedroom. Wow!
The next discovering was “Fit Care DEPOT,” for which you have guessed already, my wife was very grateful. 😉 Google that if you don’t take my word for granted. 😛 Nearby it, it is Yamashita Park, a lovely park with a beautiful design, with a green dome, built and donated by the Indian Union to console the souls of Indian people who have died in Japan during the Great Kanto Earthquake. I hope I got that right.
The park has more landmarks and attractions, another one that I like a lot is the garden area, filled up with various flowers. Now I know about the flowers, but in January (2019th) last year, there weren’t many, the fact that I didn’t even notice them.
From the park, people have access to Kihawa Maru, a retired luxury liner used from 1930 to 1960. It can be visited and view the inside, something that I have yet to do.
During the First Month, I have learned a lot of things, some worth mentioning, and some other not so much. Because I’m an avid cyclist (please read “was”), I was checking all the bike shops in the area accessible on foot, from Y’s Road to Trek.
In one of the days, I have even walked past a vast cemetery, and by checking to the map, it seems that it’s not only one but more of them, one next to another. The house agent took my wife and me to a nearby house to see if we want to rent it. My wife didn’t like the idea of having so many silent neighbors. I couldn’t care less; I even liked the house. 🙂
Another place I have discovered was the shipyard where workers have restored the Sail Training Ship; unfortunately, I didn’t visit the site every day with my camera, but I did it without it. However, I could see the entire process with every step they took to drain the water around it, cleaned it, welded, and painted it. The photo you can see down below is from the beginning of the process.
On the west part of Sakuragicho Station (on my way to Y’s Road bike shop), I was walking one late evening through the tunnel formed on the side of the street (not sure what purpose is serving). It got me thinking of going back there with my camera and doing some street photography during the night, capturing the people going to and from the station. Quite interesting. It reminds me that I have some great night shots I took in Tokyo, September 2018th, while raining. Yeah, sounds intriguing, right? That’s for another blog post tho. 🙂
Going further “down” towards the south-east, I have found Mooneyes, which has been a blessing to my eyes: a vintage car store. Ohhh! Beauties over there are so classy and well maintained that you can’t just walk past without noticing that something is going on, on a big scale.
During my walks, I could find a lot of small alleys that have their specific feel, which sets them apart from the big boulevards. I could say their vibe and their musicality made me raise my camera to the eyes and photograph them. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t have my computer with me to download the photos from the camera’s memory cards (remember, just moved here, and all my stuff was in a container), and I have kept low the number of them. Next time I’ll be better prepared, although absolutely, I am not looking forward to moving again soon.
Of course, I have been walking through the fantastic Yokohama China Town, but since I was lazy, I haven’t had my camera with me. Thus, no photos; remember, I am talking about only the first month here. Fear not, I have hundreds of pictures and videos taken in the best-looking Chinatown on Earth since then. In the middle of it, there is the Chinese Masobyo Temple, and for that, I will write an entire article, as it is beautiful, and I fell in love with it. I find this place to be fantastic for me, and I can’t get enough of it, be it street photography, Chinese foods, restaurants, vibe, everything.
Politeness beyond words, in Japan
Having the opportunity to visit many places on Earth (not as many as I wish), I can see many differences between Japan and elsewhere. One of the most astonishing thing for me is that people smile all the time and are incredibly polite, to an extreme; they go over and beyond the definition of politeness. Sometimes I feel awkward because I say thank you and do a little bow only once, while the locals follow proper etiquette, until the last bit of it. Thank you for taking the time to thank me is the daily norm; this is something that could serve as inspiration in many parts of this beautiful world we live in, us humans. The explanations I got about this behavior is that Japanese people, due to their culture, treat everyone -every day, no matter what- like it’s the first and the last time they meet someone. I find this to be very interesting, and at the same time, I appreciate it.
With the above, I am closing the short version of the story of my life in the first Month on Nippon land.
If you plan to visit any place in Japan, please drop me a message, I might have some insights to share. It goes without saying to contact me if you need to hire an English speaking photographer in Tokyo. Cristian Bucur Photography is at your service, “day and night,” depending on my schedule.
Take your time to visit my Instagram Travel Profile or just type in the search tab of IG @crisphototravels and follow my profile.
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Last but not least, I already have another blog post in the making about my experience as a professional photographer in Japan, so, stay close, will follow shortly.
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