2013, The Year of the Snake

2013 Year of the Snake-11Just like every year since I moved to Japan back in 2008, 2013 started for me by a visit to the Hie Jinja. And just like every year, there was a huge crowd waiting for praying and making some wishes for the coming year.

2013 Year of the Snake-6

If people keep on coming back, I guess their wishes must have come true 🙂

Hie Jinja has always been one of my favorite shrines. It’s certainly not the most beautiful, but it is simple and welcoming. Also, it is guarded by some famous monkey statues, which i guess is worth a few extra points for me by itself 😉

2013 Year of the Snake-10

Anyway, I decided this year to take an extra-step, and instead of praying in front of the shrine, as usual, I actually went inside the shrine to receive some sort of special “blessing” by a Shinto priest. Since there are so many people asking for it, groups of around 40 people have to succeed themselves inside the shrines, for 20min-long praying sessions. Behind us, we could see the people praying from the outside behind the curtain.

2013 Year of the Snake-1

Inside, we had to sit on our knees and bow respectfully while the priest was giving us some blessing by singing some sort of litany including everyone’s full name and full address (that you have to provide when you register)! That was quite a suprise to me, and as my knees were getting soar I was hoping that most people had short addresses…

2013 Year of the Snake-2

Obviously, if you want to do this specific prayer, you have to give some money to the shrine, and the amount will actually depend on the shrine you go to. But, on top of the “blessing”, you will also get a bag full of gifts/standard new year items. I basically got a hamaya (“demon-breaking arrow”), some good-luck charms, some sake, some biscuits and a little plastic snake.

2013 Year of the Snake-14

If you don’t to do the special “blessing” inside the shrine, you can still buy all of these separately, including the must-have hamaya.

2013 Year of the Snake-7

The hamaya comes with a label, on which you can write what you wish. Then, you need the arrow to get “blessed”  by a small ritual.

2013 Year of the Snake-8

Of course, you can’t start a year with a visit to the shrine without getting your fortune told by an omikuji. These are small strips of papers that will give you a full outlook for the coming year regarding health, happiness, work, money, love… If you don’t like the fortune your omikuji is promising to you, just tie it on the dedicated strings (that you will recognize thanks to all the other omikuji already attached there), and you will be protected.

2013 Year of the Snake-9

The gift bag from the shrine also came with a voucher for the shrine’s restaurant, so I concluded my 2013 “new year ritual” with some special edition of Sapporo beer. 🙂

2013 Year of the Snake-12

With all these lucky charms, prayers and blessings, I am set for a fantastic 2013 😉
By the way, don’t forget to return to the shrine your lucky charms from the year before…

As usual, if you liked this article, please subscribe to the blog updates and help spread the news using the social network sharing buttons just below… This is much appreciated, thanks!

Heavy snow in Tokyo for the 2013 Coming-of-Age Day

Coming of Age day under the snow in TokyoToday was a national holiday in Japan, to celebrate the Coming-of-Age Day. If you don’t already know what this is, you can check out the blog post I wrote about it last year.

Coming-of-Age Day 2013 - Heavy Snow-4

Just like last year, I was planning on hitting the streets of Tokyo to get some pictures of the usual Coming-of-Age Day kimonos parade, but when I woke up this morning it was just pouring rain outside, and I got instantly much less excited… Another glance through the window a couple of hours later to check if the rain had stopped, and suddenly I realized that one of the biggest snowfalls of the recent years in Tokyo was happening outside. It was one of these times, when you don’t even know It is has begun to snow, but suddenly when you look outside there is already a huge white blanket of snow upon  your familiar streets.

Coming of Age day under the snow in Tokyo

Well, right away I knew it was a stupid idea, and that all I would get from that would be dead shoes, wet clothes, drowned gear, and most likely a cold, but there was just no way trying to resist… I had to go outside and get some pictures of this very special 2013 Coming-of-Age Day. Here are some of them…

Coming of Age day under the snow in Tokyo

As usual, if you liked this article, please subscribe to the blog updates and help spread the news using the social network sharing buttons just below… This is much appreciated, thanks!

Fujifilm X100s… and what it means for the X-E1’s future!

Fuji just announced yesterday, at the CES show in Las Vegas, the launch of the new X100s, designed as an upgrade from the 2-year old X100. A lot of the improvements that Fuji incorporated into the X100s were a direct response to legit criticisms by the X100 users, so it is good to see that Fuji is paying attention to the feedbacks from the community.

I am not going to go here into the details of the specs of this new X100s, as some specialized websites will do that in a much better way than me. Also, I am not planning on buying one myself: i am already using the Nikon D800 and Fujifilm X-E1 (check my review here) as my favorite cameras tag team, so the last thing I need is to spend more money on a new camera. In fact, what I am more interested in is to know which of the improvements of the X100s might be brought to the X-E1 (and X-Pro1), maybe via a firmware update. Unfortunately, Fujifilm has so far remained tight-lipped about sharing any of the refinements of the X100s with the other X-series cameras, which might be a bad sign.

Faster AF with newl methods for manual focus?

Right off the bat, there is an important hardware difference between the X100s and the other X-series cameras: it sports an hybrid AF system, with both contrast and on-sensor phase detection. Thanks to this hybrid system, the X100s should have a greatly improved auto-focus, a domain where its predecessor proved weak. The other X-series camera don’t have those pixels on the sensor dedicated to phase detection, and therefore will not be able to benefit from the supposed faster autofocus performance of the X100s. That also means that it will not be possible to use the “digital split image” manual focusing method on the X-E1 and X-Pro1, as it relies on phase detection. So this will be something for the X-E2 and X-Pro2 (in 2014?)…

On the other hand, I would expect the focus peaking method to be something that Fuji could bring to the X-E1. I would be quite happy if Fuji did it, but in the same time it would not be a game changer for me either.

Better implementation of the Auto-ISO feature

On the X100s, with the Auto-ISO feature you can set your maximum ISO (no suprise there), but, unlike on the X-E1 you can also set the slowest shutter speed that you are ready to use. Setting both these values is the whole point of having Auto-ISO, but for an unknown reason Fuji forgot about the shutter speed part on the X-E1, making the feature totally useless (in my opinion). So please Fuji, bring this correction to the X-E1 ASAP!!! I can see myself using the function most of the time if it can get fixed this way.

More video capabilities

The X100s offers 1080p video at 60/30fps, while the X-E1’s Full HD capability is limited to a single video mode (1080p at 24fps). The bit-rate of the video on the X100s is also said to be higher for better image quality, but to be honest as a still shooter primarily I will not miss those upgraded features on my X-E1.

On the other hand, the big problem with the video mode of the X-E1 is that you lose access to most of the camera controls once you have selected it in the DRIVE menu. For example, you have to go back to still mode if you want to change your ISO, and then back to video mode… Also, once you have started to film, you can’t change your aperture value anymore. Those quircks have been fixed with the X100s, and I expect that Fuji will bring those improvements to the X-E1 in a future firmware update.

For those more interested in the X100s than in the future of the X-E1

I should be able to put my hands on a real X100s at the upcoming CP+ photo show that will be held in Yokohama in less than a month. That being said, I don’t expect Fuji to provide any official comment regarding a future firmware update with some of the features mentioned above at this occasion… Meanwhile, here are few links for those more interested in the X100s itself.

Here is a link to the X100s dedicated website.

Here is the presentation video by Fujifilm:

And here is a hands-on video by “the Fuji Guys”, including a live demonstration of “digital image split” focusing, as well as focus peak highlight:

If you liked this article, please share it with your friend using the social networks buttons just below, thanks!