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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Highlights from Japan, Part Two

Akasana, Tokyo
Photo by myself of an eatery in Asakusa, a historic district in Tokyo.

Mark and I traveled home today from Tokyo, Japan.

I must say that I didn't expect Japan to be so chaotic and yet so orderly. It was clean, brimming with people and energy but also relatively quiet. And of course, it was hot beyond belief. If you plan to visit, I would advise against going in July and August, since heat + humidity + walking around is tough on the body.

The lovely people and the country's incredible history made our trip absolutely precious. We will certainly be back soon.

Here are more highlights from our trip.


Ameyoko, Tokyo
The Ameyoko markets in Ueno, Tokyo, where tiny stalls are tucked under the train tracks. Very Bladerunner-esque.

Ameyoko, Tokyo
The stalls in Ameyoko sell everything from clothing to electronics to dried fish. One of the stalls was spraying a fine mist of cool water.

Ameyoko, Tokyo
It was insanely hot and humid during our stay. One fellow in Ameyoko cooled off by eating watermelon.

Aoyama, Tokyo
A young woman chatting on the phone in Aoyama, an upscale area in Tokyo.

Bird, Fukuoka Japan
A gorgeous bird stalked fish for his lunch, in Fukuoka.

Shibuya, Tokyo
A favorite pastime in Japan is gambling. Parlors for Pachinko and slots are open every day.

Related posts: Greetings from Tokyo, Buenos Noches from Mexico and Sunset Views, Mexico.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Highlights from Japan, Part One

Shibuya, Japan
Photo by myself in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Many eateries in this busy district are open to the street. The one above is a 'standing room only' sushi bar, where mostly young men in white shirts congregate after a long day of work.


It's hard to believe that our trip here in Japan is nearly over. Mark and I will be flying home starting Tuesday morning in Japan. Since we'll be crossing the date line, we'll be arriving in New York Tuesday morning, too.

The heat, the humidity, the crowds of people, the temples and shrines have made this an incredible trip. Japan is so photogenic! Finally, I thought New York was crowded, but Tokyo is the most crowded day in Herald Square to the 10th power.

Mark and I are very sad to leave. I'm posting some 'best of' photos from our trip. Part Two will follow tomorrow.

Fukuoka Buddha
A gigantic wooden Buddha occupies a room in a Fukuoka temple.

Fukuoka Temple
A gorgeous temple in Fukuoka. The sweeping roof is typical of this building type.

Fukuoka Temple
A close up of the roof tiles, each ornamented in detail.

Akihabara, Japan
One of the busy streets in Akihabara, Tokyo. Vertical signs describe the various businesses on each floor.

Related posts: Greetings from Tokyo, Buenos Noches from Mexico and Sunset Views, Mexico.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Trip to the Countryside, in Yufuin, Japan

Yufuin Rice Field
Photo by myself in Yufuin, a small town surrounded by hills, on the island of Kyushu, Japan.

Mark and I took a day trip to Yufuin, a small town a couple hours east of Fukuoka, Japan, where we've been staying. We traveled by rail through hilly terrain.

Yufuin is known for its many hot spring bath houses, called onsen, both public and private. Visitors can soak for long periods in baths of varying temperatures.

There are natural hot springs all over Japan, including urban areas like Tokyo. At public onsen, men and women occupy separate areas. Couples can spend time relaxing together at a private one. If you ever visit Japan, do visit an onsen. The hot water takes some getting used to, but you are relaxed for days afterwards.

Onsen, Yufuin Japan
Our private onsen in Yufuin had an outdoor and indoor bath. The spring water is naturally extremely hot, over 60 degrees Celcius (140 degrees Fahrenheit).

Most of Yufuin is taken up by farms, rice fields and a small town center lined with shops. The landscape is stunning, since the rice stalks are a brilliant shade of yellow-green, and the town is surrounded by hills.

Mark and I steeped together in a private onsen for an hour. It was incredibly relaxing. We then walked around the town and were overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the area.

Yufuin Rice Field
A closer view of the rice stalks, which grow in very wet soil. Large areas of land are irrigated with canals.

Yufuin Town Center
One of the many picturesque stalls in the town, selling made-to-order snacks.

Yufuin Foot Cleaning
One of the stalls featured tiny fish that nibbled away the dead skin on your feet.

Yufuin, Japan
The town center in Yufuin is a short walk from the train station.

New York Portraits is on vacation in various parts of Japan. I'll be returning to NYC on August 31.

Related posts: Tropical Luxury at the Caribe Hilton, Puerto Rico, A Short Visit to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and Sunset Views, Mexico.


Friday, August 27, 2010

An Update on NYC and Rupert

Lincoln Center, NYC
Photo by myself at Lincoln Center, at 63rd Street and Broadway.

I thought I'd break up the photos from Japan with a photo from New York. Here's Lincoln Center on an incredibly sunny day recently. The large plaza is a popular hang out area at all hours.

The fountain is part of the recent renovation, where large parts of this complex has been completely redone for the better.

For a photo from a visit last winter and more about the Lincoln Square fountain, click here.


While we're gone, we're missing our dog Rupert. He is being cared for by our excellent dog carers, Eva's Play Pups, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Eva's takes Rupert for the day when Mark isn't working at home. For longer stays like this one, Eva takes the dogs to a 52-acre farm in Pennsylvania, where they play outside in the country air. Mark and I have been checking on Rupert via video. We were worried but were quickly reassured that he's having a grand time with his buddies.

For a sneak peek at Rupert causing mischief with his friends, click here.

Smiling Boston Terrier

New York Portraits is on vacation in various parts of Japan. I'll be returning to NYC on August 31.

Related posts: Making a Splash in Lincoln Square, Playing Pianos as Public Art and On Collecting Cans and a Rupert Update.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

On Night Life in Fukuoka, Japan

Fukuoka geishas
A small group of women were dressed in traditional Japanese clothing in Fukuoka, Japan.

Mark and I are in Japan for the next few days. We traveled from Tokyo to Fukuoka via high speed rail. It took us six hours, with the trains running over 160 mph.

Fukuoka is a dense city criss-crossed by canals. Street food vendors park their wooden carts alongside the water at night, serving up barbeque and noodles. The carts are packed up again during the day, so the city looks different during daylight hours.

From what we can tell, there are a kajillion restaurants and bars here, all vying for business. Sidewalks are lit up with neon signs, menus and glass displays of the food. Restaurants tend to specialize, so you go to places that serve up mainly ramen or barbeque or sushi or other cuisines.

Fukuoka Street Vendors
Along one of the larger canals, street vendors barbeque food to order.

Fukuoka Street Vendors
Each wooden cart folds up during the daytime.

Fukuoka Street Vendors
Fresh seafood is displayed in glass cases at the bar.

One of the many great things about Japan is how safe it is here. You can stumble around drunk as skunks, lost down a dark ally, without fearing a thing. Perhaps I'm naive, but I feel as if nothing ever bad happens in Japan.

Red light district, Fukuoka
There is a large red light district here in Fukuoka.

New York Portraits is on vacation in various parts of Japan. I'll be returning to NYC on August 31.

Related posts: Get Your Street Sweets here, Street Eats, Midtown and Buenos Noches from Mexico.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On French Maids and Boston Terriers, in Japan

Tokyo maid
Photo by myself in Akihabara, in Tokyo, Japan.

Young women dressed in maid costumes handed out flyers in Akihabara. This neighborhood is known for its numerous electronics stores and huge neon signs. It is a bit 'Bladerunneresque', if you know what I mean.


For lack of time and brain cells, I'm posting some random tidbits from our trip in Japan. Pardon if I overgeneralize!

1. Stockings are 'in'.
Despite 90+ degree heat and extremely high humidity, many Japanese women wear stockings, like the French Maid above. Knee highs and leggings are in, too. (For men who cannot relate, try wrapping your legs in cellophane and walking around. You will feel very, very warm).

2. The Japanese are fond of McDonald's and KFC.
In Shibuya, Tokyo, which is sort of the equivalent of Times Square, I counted three McDonald's and one KFC within a small area. All were mobbed. This seems odd, since the traditional Japanese diet is rather healthy and everyone is very slender.

Shibuya KFC

3. Don't worry about staying hydrated in Japan. Or losing your nicotine high.
Just about every block has at least one machine dispensing cold drinks or cigarettes. I am not exaggerating. Often there will be one or two machines in front of each building.

The beverage machines are loaded with varieties of water (flavored and plain), canned iced coffee, green tea and energy drinks. Fortunately, all the plastic containers are recyclable.

Shibuya machines

Shibuya Boston Terrier

4. Last but not least, the Japanese love Boston Terriers.
Yeah. I didn't realize this but we've seen Boston Terriers on billboards here. Who knew?

Shibuya Boston Terrier

New York Portraits is on vacation in various parts of Japan. I'll be returning to NYC on August 31.

Related posts: Ye Olde Pub, Downtown, On the Soup Station and Snow and Colorful Eats at Kelly and Ping, SoHo.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

Tsujiki Fish Market, Tokyo
Photo by myself, from the Tsukiji Fish Market, in Tokyo.

Mark and I, freshly jet-lagged, woke up Monday morning at 4:30 to visit the Tsujiki Fish Market in Tokyo.

Above, just one of the many, many aisles inside a warehouse full of makeshift stalls. There were lights and scales strung up, and tiny booths that served as offices. It's hard to imagine that we witnessed a typical day there. Apparently the market process a total of 2,000 tons of fish every day.

The main event is a tuna auction, where tuna is bought for resale and restaurant use. Mark and I did not attend. Our guidebook says that limited spots are available for visitors. While in the warehouse, we were startled by a handtruck bearing two enormous tuna, tails cut off and put in their mouths.

Tsujiki Fish Market, Tokyo
Stalls are lined up in hodgepodge rows. Most of the workers are men.

Tsujiki Fish Market, Tokyo
Tuna is cut into pristine blocks with care. Some stalls employed bandsaws to cut larger fish, while others cut fish by hand.

The experience is not for the faint of heart. While tip toeing around, Mark and I saw vats filled wriggling baby eels, while large eels swam back and forth in tanks. Most of the fish were not alive, and were either lying about or packed neatly in styrofoam containers, ready for transport.

We saw gorgeous red snapper, sea urchin, sea cucumber, lobster and clams. There were fish I'd never seen before, some small and silvery, others long and thin. It was quite overwhelming to realize that just a couple hours prior, these beautiful creatures were in the sea.

Tsujiki Fish Market, Tokyo

Tsujiki Fish Market, Tokyo
Most fish were separated and arranged in styrofoam containers.

Since we'd arrived early, there were few other visitors there. As the morning wore on, we noticed larger groups. Generally the workers paid us no mind. I had the distinct feeling that we were tolerated.

After walking about, we settled into a tiny food stand outside for a breakfast of fresh sashimi and sushi. Unfortunately the restaurant did not permit photos.

Raw fish at 6 am? It was a fitting tribute to the fish.

Tsujiki Fish Market, Tokyo

For a video look at the Tsukiji Fish Market, check out the video I posted earlier, here.

New York Portraits is on vacation in various parts of Japan. I'll be returning to NYC on August 31.

Related posts: Ye Olde Pub, Downtown, On the Soup Station and Snow and Colorful Eats at Kelly and Ping, SoHo.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Greetings from Tokyo

Shibuya, Japan
Photo by myself in Shibuya, in Tokyo, Japan.

Greetings from Japan! I will be posting from various parts of Japan for the next several days. Mark and I are traveling through Tokyo and Fukuoka for vacation.

When we landed after a 13-hour flight, it was 3:00 pm. We stayed up until 10:30 pm or so, which is 9:00 am, New York time. We're staying in Shibuya, a district in Tokyo that is known for crowds of 20-something year olds, bright lights, eateries and tons of stores.

For dinner we managed to find a tiny restaurant specializing in ramen noodles. We had noodles with pork, egg and sliced scallions in a rich broth. Mmmm....

Noodle Shop, Shibuya
This restaurant seats about ten, crowded around a narrow bar.

Ramen, Shibuya
Perhaps the most scrumptious bowl of ramen I've ever had.

Condomania, Shibuya
We have at least one of these stores in Manhattan. Strangely this one had a Brooklyn sign in front (lower left).

More tomorrow, about our busy day today, which started out at 5:30 am at the Tsujiki Fish Market.

Related posts: Cold Noodles and Hot Shows, On Japanese Food and Fish and Serving Up Sushi, at 15 East 15th.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

On Street Photos in Midtown and Online

Performance, NYC
Photo by myself in Herald Square, at 34th Street and Sixth Avenue.

A young Korean fellow performs soccer tricks for all to see. A large crowd of people looked on, earlier this summer.


Mark and I are leaving for Tokyo today. We're all packed and ready!

What will I be doing for the 14 hour trip??

I have a stack of New Yorker magazines to go through, and I have a bunch of podcasts downloaded. One that you may like is called Digital Tips from the Top Floor, a podcast about digital photography.

Chris Marquardt is a talented photographer who travels internationally, teaching workshops on photography in different languages. He is German and speaks perfect English. His candid photos of people are stunning.

Upcoming workshops in San Francisco focus on street photography. You can take his classes in Canada too, or Germany where he teaches in his native language. Workshops focus on everything from food photography to post processing.

Check out Digital Tips, where you can listen to nearly 500 epsiodes. Chris' talks are informal, slightly rambling and entertaining. How amazing is it to get advice from a seasoned photographer, free of charge?

Related posts: Parading Down Fifth Avenue, Midtown, Avalanche of People, Midtown and On the Job.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Staple Street, Tribeca

Jay Street, NYC
Photo by myself at Jay and Staple Streets, in Tribeca.

I've not heard of Staple Street in Manhattan, until very recently. The street is only a couple blocks long. Tribeca is a photogenic neighborhood, with larger old buildings and some cobblestone streets.

Mark and I dined outside at Walker's recently, an old restaurant bar with great food. We had our dog Rupert there with us, and ate outside among people who also brought their dogs. There were 8 humans and 3 dogs. All got along fine!

Related posts: Layers in Time, Tribeca, Reflecting on Tribeca and Duane Street, Tribeca.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

On What's Down Under the Manhattan Bridge, and Down Under

Dumbo, NYC
Photo by myself, around Water and Jay Streets, in DUMBO, Brooklyn.
At the end of a cobblestone street, beyond the Manhattan Bridge, is the Brooklyn Bridge.

Named DUMBO for 'Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass', this neighborhood has its own vibe. There are many converted warehouses now used for offices and apartments.


Tuesday night, I was absolutely blown away by a short film called Salt which aired on PBS, a major public TV station here in the US. It was part of POV (Point of View), an award-winning, independent documentary film series.

Murray Fredricks, a noted Australian photographer, filmed his trips to the salt flats in his country. The landscape is stunningly stark. The isolation is incomprehensible.

Fredricks shacks up in a modest tent, in the midst of what looks like a moonscape. He reflects on stuff. He experiences. He is windswept. And his images are incredible.

Using a large format (film) camera, Fredericks photographed the night sky. Since it was film, of course, he had no idea whether any of his results were good until he returned to civilization.

You may have missed the TV airing, but you can still watch Salt online until September 17. Unfortunately the streaming version is only available in the US. For those not in this country, check out Frederick's still images, here.

For the POV website, listing other interesting documentaries, click here.

Related posts: On Display at Atlantic/Pacific, Brooklyn, Backstage in the West Village and Street Photography on Display, Below Ground.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Where the Kids Are - The L Train Platform

L Train Platform, NYC
Photo by myself on the subway platform at 14th Street, Union Square.

If you want to know where the kids are, get thee to the L train platform at Union Square.

The L train takes these young lads and lasses home to Williamsburg, Greenpoint and other Brooklyn neighborhoods. Everyone, male and female, is wearing a shirt two sizes too small.

The other day, a bluegrass band was the entertainment. No one looked older than 35.

Mark and I are counting down the days until we arrive in Japan. We arrive Sunday in Tokyo. (!!!)

I always thought I'd be limited to seeing Japan in photos. Beautiful, pristine, striking photos, of course. I've been to other parts of Asia, but for some reason Japan seemed off limits.


I don't know. Perhaps because it seems so perfect, the antithesis of New York - jam packed, urban, historic yet civilized, safe and clean.

A place full of incredible design. A place where good surprises lurked around each corner. A place full of wild food experiences. How can such a place exist?

To get me excited for the trip, Mark sent me a video (best seen in 720p). While watching I had the odd feeling like I was tuning into another planet. This incredible photographer has authored a whole series of videos using his Canon 5D digital camera, mostly of Japan.

No worries, daily posts will continue here. Mhmmm.

Related posts: Living in Style, in Williamsburg, The Hipster Olympics and Seranading the Crowds on the Subway Platform.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shooting in Tribeca and the Times

Tribeca photoshoot
Photo by myself at Greenwich and Laight Streets, in Tribeca.

A photoshoot for the clothing store J. Crew took place on a quiet street in Tribeca, this weekend.

A male model was wearing a tradmark pair of jeans and a maroon t-shirt. A small group of photo assistants stood off to the side.

Tribeca is known for having many renovated warehouses and cobblestone streets, which provide a rustic urban backdrop.


New York wasn't always so photogenic or safe.

Posted recently on the Times website, are some striking photos from the 80's. Angel Franco, a freelance photographer, tagged along with the NYPD over a 5-year period.

The US was doing well during that time, but New York was still struggling with a great deal of crime. Franco's photos are spontaneous but incredibly stark. You get the feeling that just anything was about to happen.

Many of his photos went unpublished due to context - according to Franco, many Americans in the 80's couldn't believe that bad things were going on. (Geez!)

Anyway, if you have a spare moment, check out the incredible b/w photos here.

Related posts: On Display at Atlantic/Pacific, Brooklyn, Backstage in the West Village and Street Photography on Display, Below Ground.


Monday, August 16, 2010

A Quiet Sunday in Tribeca

In Tribeca
Photo by myself around West Broadway and Walker Street, in Tribeca.

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, downtown in Tribeca.

People wandered around or brunched on the sidewalk. A small park was almost empty of people.

Related posts: Duane Street, Tribeca, Layers in Time, Tribeca and Reflecting Tribeca.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

On Kids in the Slope, and in the Country

Hanging Out, Brooklyn
Photo by myself on Prospect Park West, in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

A couple kids hanging out on the sidewalk.

Behind them, a typical stoop to an apartment building. Most people don't have yards, so kids spend their time in the streets or public parks.

The streets in Park Slope are lined with trees and charming brownstones. It's really not so bleak as it looks.


Speaking of children, it's the last gasp of summer but you can still help out with the Fresh Air Fund.

Host families are still needed to help kids have a break from city life. Families in nearby suburbs and towns can host children for a mini-summer vacation. Children are selected from the toughest New York City neighborhoods, where a vacation from the asphalt and pavement is unheard of.

If you can't host a child, you can contribute in other ways. The Fresh Air Fund runs five summer camps in upstate New York that help 3,000 kids each summer. Kids go hiking, swim, learn arts and crafts and make friends. I'm sure for most of these kids, it's a life-changing experience.

For more about the Fresh Air Fund and to donate online, click here.

Related posts: A Kid's Life, in Brooklyn, Playing Ball in the Public Courts and The Carousel, Bryant Park.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Waiting for Pies, Outside Lombardi's

Lombardi's, NYC
Photo by myself on Spring and Mott Streets, in SoHo..

There seems to always be a line outside Lombardi's, a restaurant in SoHo known for its thin crust pizza.

And why not? In my humble opinion, Lombardi's serves up the best pizza in New York. The competition is fierce, too, since there several excellent places, like John's, Grimaldi's and Patsy's to contend with.

I was lucky enough to work down the street from Lombardi's and a group of us would venture over whenever the workload permitted, to gorge ourselves. I highly recommend the traditional pie with pancetta and mushrooms. It is absolutely delish.

Related posts: From the Corner Deli, in SoHo, Baked Fresh Daily, in SoHo and Lure Fish Bar, SoHo.


Friday, August 13, 2010

The View Uptown from the Manhattan Bridge

Empire State from the BQE
Photo by myself from the Manhattan Bridge.

Looking northwest from the Manhattan Bridge, one can see from Canal Street all the way up through to Midtown, some 40 blocks away.

The tall building in the middle is, of course, the Empire State Building. The smaller building jusy to the right with the gold pyramid is the New York Life Insurance Building, at 26th Street and Madison Avenue.

Related posts: The Empire State on St. Patrick's Day, All Decked Out Below the Empire State and Different Vistas.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Steps Away from the Met, on the Upper East Side

On the Steps of the Met
Photo by myself at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the Upper East Side.

Another photo from my recent trip to the Met.

The steps here are legendary and are the ideal place to plunk down and watch people. Artists sell their paintings nearby.

Related posts: High Above the Metropolitan Museum, The Getty Villa, in Malibu, California and Another Look at the New Museum, the Bowery.