Japan through a lens
We talked to Kasia Sykus from Brisbane, Australia about her travels and experiencing japan for the first time as a photographer.
Written by Kasia
On my recent trip to Japan and also being my first I was excited to discover some of its best secrets. From the delicious food, the welcoming locals, beautiful scenery, and fantastic fashions. I had always been interested in capturing the everyday culture of a place and documenting what is as is. To my surprise I slipped into the background of the everyday ongoings so seamlessly in Japan. If I ever were noticed in a crowd with a camera a lot of the people on the street tended to just carry on unphased - just the way I like it.
I had the pleasure of travelling with the No More Ugly Backpack during my trip and it never left my side! This versatile little beast is a well disguised camera bag that blends just as well as I like to blend into scenes as a photographer. The backpack served me well on long train commutes from Tokyo to Kyoto and vice versa with a back pocket for my laptop and so much space for all my photographic gear that I carried three cameras and still had enough room to pack everyday items. It's weather sealed zips left me with no worries when I ventured out in bad weather too.
Just over two weeks in this fantastic country was by far not enough and I felt very much like a tourist capturing photos throughout the trip. I wanted to take myself out of that mindset and focus on finding the things in Japan that maybe others wouldn’t notice in their day to day lives. Here is a list of Japanese travel highlights for your viewing and some interesting notes about a few of the places if you haven’t been before!
1. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto
The bamboo forest located in a quite suburb of Kyoto is a visual place of peace and tranquillity. Upon arrival I was amazed to actually find that the it's only just a small stretch of path and about all you see in this photo. The neighbourhood surrounding it was quaint but a train station is pretty much right next to it that you can hear! If you want great pictures it’s best to get there by at least 8am off season before it gets too busy.
2. Nagano Snow Monkeys
These cheeky characters took their time to visit the hot springs only ariving later on in the day around lunch as it is not cold enough for them to swim in spring/summer seasons. Leaving them with little desire to come down the cliff and visit. The park ranger however called for and enticed them with feed and soon twenty odd of them descended! They were great entertainment and it was interesting to watch tourists interact with the monkeys and see how close they would get for a good social media picture.
3. Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kyoto
Visit in the early hours of the morning as the sun is rising for the best light. The place actually felt magical and the walk was a lot longer and harder then expected so good footwear is advised. There is a few sly looking fox statues throughout the trail. I shared with my travel companion about a Japanese legend of how some believe that foxes here turn into people. The trail of shrines had hidden paths that lead off to private properties on the mountain and there were also a lot of wild cats, mostly black.
4. Nara Park
Have you ever seen a deer use a pedestrian crossing to cross a road? I have and couldn’t believe it! If you are wanting to visit the park give some credit to these smart and curious animals that have even learnt to bow their heads to increase their chances of a tasty deer snack from a tourist. They weren’t just in the 'park' they were on the street, walkway, next to the shops and happily mingling with humans. You can tell the Japanese have a lot of respect and established tradition around their countries animals.
5. Toy dogs of Tokyo
Compact living equals compact tiny dogs for the city! Much to my amusement I approximately got to pat around 20 dogs during my time in Tokyo and every owner was happy to stop and tell me their dogs cool Japanese name. You can find them being pushed in dog prams, in the baskets of bikes, minding shops with their owners and out and about on a sunny day.
6. Vending Machine Mayhem
They are EVERYWHERE and ingrained in Japan’s lifestyle and culture of a easy and readily accessible society. Thirsty? No worries I can guarantee that you will pass at least ten on your way back to your hotel. They’re situated in groups at train stations, in front of private houses and local businesses, heritage sites, shrines, in alleyways and even on empty lots in forests? This type of convenience caught my eye and it was perhaps the one concept I captured most in Japan.
Find Kasia's work here: