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A glimpse of Jakarta

With a couple of hours to kill in Jakarta before boarding my flight back to Tokyo after an express business trip, I used the little time I had to visit the Monas and the Istiqlal Mosque.

The Monas is a 132m pillar-looking tower, built to commemorate Indonesia’s fight for its independence and the end of the colonial administration of the Dutch East Indies after the end of WWII. There is a replica of the Indonesian independence proclaim script by Soekarno inside. You can also take a lift to the top for a panoramic view of the city, but nothing to really write home about unfortunately.

The Istiqlal Mosque is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. It was also built after the end of the colonial era, and its name Istiqlal Mosque can actually be translated into “Independence Mosque”. I tried to include people in some of the images to give a sense of scale. It must be very impressive when the main prayer hall is full.

2 hours is obviously not enough time to visit a big city like Jakarta. However, while I always enjoy my time there thanks to the kind people I meet and the delicious street food, there are many beatiful places throughout the country and I would personally not allocate much time to Jakarta compared to Jogjakarta or Borobudur for instance. The pollution of the air in Jakarta is a real problem in my opinion, which gets exacerbated by the hot and humid climate.

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The Gassho-Zukuri farmhouses of Shirakawa-go

Shirakawa-go is a small village located in the North of the Gifu prefecture. It was awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995 for its gassho-zukuri style farmhouses, with their distinctive steep thatched roofs.

Shirakawa-go is located in a mountain area, surrounded by a river and some rice fields, so the scenery will change a lot depending on the seasons. I went there during Golden Week this year with my relatives who were visiting from France at the time. I would say it is probably the worst time of the year to visit anywhere in Japan, as there are several national holidays tied together, meaning any place worth checking out gets overcrowded.

We were visiting Shirakawa-go as a day trip from Takayama, and in fact the whole area was so crowded that we spent around 2 hours stuck in a big traffic jam at the entrance of the village. Something to be expected during Golden Week for sure, but that basically meant that we had to rush out time there while the heat was at its peak of the day, and we got back to the bus stop way earlier than scheduled as we could not afford to miss the last bus in case too many people wanted to get onboard. This proved to be a smart decision.

After this first rush-hour visit, I am definitely planning on coming back to experience the area in better conditions, sleeping overnight in one of the gassho-zukuri style farmhouses when the region is covered with snow in Winter.

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A day trip to Oarai part2: Girls und Panzer

Click here for part1.

Something very special about Oarai is that it is the town where most of the plot of the manga/anime Girls und Panzer (ガールズ&パンツァー) takes place. The series tells the story of high school girls who somehow battle with WWII-era tanks as a sport. The kind of plot that could be stamped with a big “Only in Japan” mark… but which had a respectable success since it first aired in 2012.

   
 Saying that Oarai is embracing the (relative) popularity of the series to boost its tourism and exposure would be an understatement. The advertisement for the summer festival of the city that can be seen in the trains in the area is showcasing proudly some of the main characters of the story.

The same thing can be said from the shops, restaurants and hotels along the main street, all showing their link to the events seen in the series.

Even the bus stops are filled with ads using characters from the anime.

What is the most surprising though, is that the anime has even made his way to the most sacred place of Oarai, the Isosaki-jina shrine, where you are welcomed by a group “picture” of the main characters of the series.

But there is even more: many ema hanging at the shrine are decorated with some Girls und Panzer fanart… Ema are wooden plaques where people visiting Shinto shrines can write their wishes. They usually look like this:

But in the Girls und Panzer town, mixed with those traditional ones you will find these:

Visiting Oarai was definitely worth the trip!

Talk to you soon 😉

 

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A day trip to Oarai part1: Isosaki-Jinja

Click here for Part2.

Oarai is a small town located North-East of Tokyo in the Ibaraki prefecture, known for its fishing port, its beach and its famous aquarium. But the place that I personally wanted to visit there was its shrine located just opposite to the seafront: Isosaki-jinja.

The shrine is only a 30-min walk from the Oarai train station, but I decided to make a small detour via the port area on the way there, so that I could see the Marine Tower:

Isosaki-jina is located on a small hill directly facing the Pacific ocean, that you can access directly via stairs, with a large Torii gate at the bottom.

Once you arrived to the waterfront, you will find a small Torii gate built upon rocks right into the ocean, which creates a beautiful scenery.

The shrine itself and its surroundings:

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Portrait Session on the Beach at Sunset in Okinawa

All the pictures in this post were taken with the Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 lens mounted on a Fujifilm X-T1.


 

I’m back in Tokyo after having spent the Easter week-end on the main island of Okinawa. Just a couple days relaxing on the beachside with the Ms. We stayed at the Busena Terrace hotel, which was built to host the G8 summit back in 2000. Not a photo trip, but could still used this opportunity to grab  few quick portraits of the Ms. by the beach…

  

… followed by a bit of jazz by the pool. 


 

As far as gear was concerned, I only wanted to use my carry-on luggage, so I only took one Fuji X-T1 body with the XF16-55mmF2.8 mounted on it with me. I just had enough space remaining to throw-in a Yongnuo flash with a remote trigger on top of my stuffs, which came in very handy for those backlit portraits. You can see below how I just handheld the flash at arm length for some easy off-camera lighting in this serie of images. Sure, bigger light modifiers could have provided a better quality of light, but as far as family holiday pictures go this works well enough for me. 

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