As I have mentioned many times in previous posts from 2016, I doubt I will ever run out of things to do or see in Japan while I am here. From the countless temples and shrines to the annual festivals across the country, and the meticulously-kept gardens to the many scalable mountains (Fuji-san, I hope to conquer you this summer…), I find it funny that I am beginning to run out of local destinations close to base. Sure, I could probably go to Tokyo and Yokohama five more times each and still not see the half of these cities, but in a lot of ways these cities are a lot of the same that end up lending similar photographic opportunities.
As it stands, I only have time about once or twice a week to go out and explore, and in those times, I am pretty confined to someplace within a couple hours train ride. On the occasional 4-day weekend or two weeks of leave in summer, I have the chance to really go outside my comfort zone like I did in Osaka and Sendai! Otherwise, I end up in these dead months of winter twiddling my thumbs trying to figure out a new and exciting place to visit within arms reach. Thankfully, I am not quite to the point of having seen everything, as I managed a trip with a friend to visit Odawara for a while last weekend on a beautiful but cold Sunday afternoon.In fact, the relatively small Odawara is home to a pretty nice number of photographs even in winter. On the second to last train station to the city, you get a beautiful look at Mt. Fuji nearly covered in snow. Silly as I was, I did not have my camera at the ready on the train, and the surrounding mountains in Odawara block any view of the mighty Fuji. Undeterred, my friend and I grabbed some Oyakodon for lunch (as I have preached many times before, this dish has become a new comfort food for me in Japan) and set out to the main attraction of Odawara Castle as fluffy clouds broke up the deep blue sky.
The castle grounds have many historically preserved features that lend timeless backdrops for portraits. So it was no surprise to see many cosplayers doing private impromptu photoshoots throughout the complex. In my case, I just wish the color temperature stayed a bit more consistent during the constant cloud shifts!
Throughout the day I also tested out the 120fps mode on the α6500 a bit more, this time without slowing down the footage any, and only using the in-camera stabilization. The α6500 does a nice job for handheld use, and I am sure it could handle anything with a proper steadycam setup and/or a little post-stabilization in Final Cut Pro X. Probably a fault of my own, there is some jitteriness in the frame-by-frame playback on Youtube, unfortunately. I imported the 119.88fps files into a 60p timeline, but perhaps should have done it in 59.94p (as before, FCPX is a work in progress here… 🙂 ). Oddly, playing back the file on a computer is perfectly smooth.
In addition to other small museums on the grounds, the entirety of the main castle is reconstructed on the inside to serve as a multi-story museum that showcases the historical significance of the castle, and holds a large collection of artifacts from past periods in the castle’s heyday. Most of the text and descriptions are in Japanese (of course), but there is enough English here and there for foreign visitors to understand the basics of what they are looking at. As is the case in most of these kind of museums, photography is frowned upon, so I mostly held onto my camera until getting to the top observation deck. A full 360-degree walk around lets visitors take a look across the ocean, peek through coin-operated binoculars at far off peninsulas, or catch a look at Odawara underneath a spanning mountain range.
With the clouds quickly overtaking the blue skies, and my left knee beginning to give me fits again, we headed back down to exit towards the beach, but stopped at the local shrine for a bit to take in some relaxed vibes.
Of course, some street photography ops came up along the way.
The beach itself was much different than I expected. Instead of fine sand like many other beaches in Japan, we found large, smooth rocks covering the entirety of the shore. Most were easy enough to walk on, but not so much with a fed-up knee…
With the sun finally getting behind the smaller mountains, it was high time for some sashimi at the local fish market about a kilometer away. And let me tell you, the long walk at this point ended up being worth the pain. Nothing better than a variety of fresh fish sliced to perfection with veggies and hot rice. Oh, and of course I couldn’t resist capturing the pink sky over one of the local shipyards and suspended highway.
Afterwards, it was just another long train ride back to base for some time to rest. Even with my brace on, I managed to hurt my knee again on this outing, but thankfully not nearly as bad as a month ago. I did not realize that I would be coming back to base with over 15,000 steps logged on my phone (and at least 230 feet of vertical distance climbed). Lesson learned for my next outing to try to walk a bit less and not climb around as much. With CP+ coming up later this week, I will have only a couple floors of climbing to worry about. Just like last year, I plan on covering as much as I can in a reporting post.
That’s all for this post, guys and gals! There’s still some local views to see before the Sakura really starts going in a few weeks, so I will see what more I can find before the warmth of Spring starts taking over. Until then, I will be keeping a close eye on strengthening my knees to better handle the walking lifestyle needed to get around in Japan. As always, have a great day!