Wednesday, December 31, 2008

looking back, and ahead

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Last year, I promised myself that I would do three things:
1. Take more picutres
2. Write more
3. Learn Learn Learn!


I didn't imagine that I would engage in those three things to the extent that I actually did. I'm just getting my feet wet with photography and all the constant learning that goes along with it, but I am truly enjoying what I have done so far. Networking has been difficult for me being that I am on a different continent than the photographers have inspired me and answered so many of my questions. But I have been fortunate enough to get in touch with some friendly and helpful people that I hope to someday meet.

Since it's New Year's Day, I thought it would be appropriate to show a big part of what Japanese do for this special day. They go to their local shrine and give thanks for a wonderful year and pray for a successful upcoming one.


This is the big shrine in my neighborhood. You have to walk these steps as part of your journey to get there:

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Once you have arrived to the top, and before you can enter, you must wash your hands and mouth out with this water (which was freezing!) as a sign of respect...

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Around the shrine, you can find these brightly folded origami cranes. Many believe if you fold 1,000 of them, you will be granted a wish. Many people fold them when someone gets sick, to pray for their recovery.

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These are wooden prayer tablets. Hopeful people write their dreams, wishes, and prayers on the tablets and hang them at the shrine for the priests to bless. I have filled some out in the past as well.

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These red gates are called "tori" and are found in front of shrines. This particular shrine had a bunch of them layered all the way down towards the smaller shrine.

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This year I hope to do a lot more. Within the next few months I want to:
1. Get my own head shots taken (a blog is not complete without one!)
2. Get media access to a sports event to get some action shots (workin' on that now)
3. Attend at least two workshops or follow a pro.


Now that my lesson on shrines is finished, Happy New Year! :)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fashion Friday

Often, the first thing foreigners notice when they visit Japan is the way Japanese dress. It's difficult to describe because it varies so much and is very different from the way many people in America sport their clothes. One thing is for sure: Japanese are not afraid to mix and match some fierce looks.

So I got to thinking that every Friday (as often as possible) I will post a new "look" that I find noteworthy. Just because their styles are difficult to describe using words...




This photo was taken on Christmas day in Omotesando. It was about 50 degrees or so outside, but this girl was walking around like she was in jeans and a sweatshirt. This is a pretty common look for Japanese girls right now, despite the freezing temperatures. I'll try to find some more unique looks for future Friday posts.

A Japanese Christmas: How they roll

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Well, Christmas came and went rather quickly and, even though Abe and I couldn't fly home to Cali to celebrate with our families, we managed to have a great holiday anyway. I decided to capture some moments during Christmas week to show how Japanese celebrate, because although there are many similarities, there are definitely some differences as well.

First off, Christmas reminds me a bit of Halloween here in Japan because everywhere you go, throughout the month of December, you are sure to find people (and animals) dressed up in something related to Christmas. In this picture, Abe and I did some shopping and found a man walking his pet goat which was wearing a hat. Hmmmm....


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We saw this guy jogging through a busy Tokyo intersection on Christmas day. If you can't make out what he's wearing, it's a reindeer costume over a hot pink running outfit. Some people looked surprised while others acted like it was no big deal.


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These Brex fans sat courtside to watch one of Abe's games during a Christmas event. I don't know if you'd see this back home...


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Another fan...or was it? (Hey, who said Santa couldn't be Japanese?!)

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And what would Christmas be without a new H&M store in Japan? My friend Anna and I went to Harajuku to check out the newest location which was 4 floors. We were in heaven!

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Ohhh, this was one of my favorite things. My mom sent me a package that had ingredients to make gingerbread men. I had never done it before, and most of my younger students (aged 3 to 5) had never seen a gingerbread man before so they didn't even know what they were. So I turned it into a lessn:

First, I had them color a gingerbread man while explaining to them that he was a cookie with candy eyes and buttons that could run away if you didn't watch him!

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Then, we decorated real cookie gingerbread men. The kids were so stoked! They were smiling so big and kept saying "Tabetai" which means "I want to eat it!"

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This is Reia. I must say that she really had a way with decorating her guy. Lovely!

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Ahhh...and back home in our apartment with our little tiny tree that couldn't have been more perfect...

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And the most awesome surprise this holiday season: Santa TOTALLY reads my blog!!! I know this because I wrote an entry a while back about a certain lens that I thought would make the perfect addition to my growing collection. Lo and behold, on Christmas eve, I found a bag that I hadn't seen before. Only to open and find a real beauty indeed:

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Meet my new baby...Mr. 18-200mm. I know this isn't exactly the best portrait lens, but I'm going to be making magic with it at some basketball games if I get the chance. Thank you Abe...uhhh, I mean Santa! :)


I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I surely did, even if it was thousands of miles away from home.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Weekend!

This has been one crazy week! Abe had two big games on Thursday and Friday in Tokyo and I was soooo excited about it because 1. It's TOKYO (people speak English, lots of restaurants and shopping, etc.) and 2. My friends live out there and it seemed like forever since we had last seen each other.

As far as basketball is concerned, Abe's team lost the first day, and won the second. So that was good for my friends and myself. It was so much fun seeing everyone from Abe's old team again. I can't get over how many adorable children they have...and they all play together like they are a part of the same family.


And speaking of cute kids...can you say future model? (like her mommy)


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Ok, and yea, she totally cried when she saw me this time. But once she saw that I was cool with her best friend, Monchichi, she shared a few smiles. Here's one of my favorites:

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I also got to see Naomi again. She is always as chill as can be. And her eyelashes are sooo long.

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Oh yea, and some exciting news! I finally found a photo place by my house that I can make photobooks of the images I take. I had been looking for a while now but could never communicate enough about what I wanted to do. So I made a couple of samples for my mommy-friends and I really liked how they came out...

Here's a peek at Asia and Naomi's book:


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There are several variations (and prices) that these can be done in, and I'm excited to experiment with my pictures! Woo hoo! I can't wait to do more in the future.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some Pleasant Surprises

Nothing makes me feel more homesick than being in Japan for Christmas. I was fortunate enough to go home and celebrate with my family the first year I moved out here, but now I am getting ready to spend my third consecutive Christmas in Japan, and wish it wasn't so. We actually got the time away from work but the plane tickets were just so expensive, it would have put us back a couple months and Abe's season will be done in about three months anyway, so we had to make a choice.

In Japan, Abe and I usually put out our little Christmas tree that I bought when I taught on the army base, but this year, in our cramped apartment, I just didn't feel like taking it out. I thought about it, but have been busy, and well...yea. But something happened this week that served as a much-welcomed consolation...and it came in the form of two (yup....2!) brown packages. From my mommy and daddy. They decided since we couldn't go to them, they would bring a little Cali Christmas to us. I promised my mom I wouldn't open the boxes, but she remembered there were some perishables in there so I was allowed to open a box, but the gifts were wrapped, so I'm not cheating.

And then, another surprise came today. After a long day of teaching, I drove home down our dark little alley-street and saw twinkling lights flashing from behind our linen curtains. Apparently Abe spent a little part of his day off putting the tree out and putting up the decorations. Awwwww. It's almost Christmas now! :)





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We put the wrapped presents under the tree and even left the Wheat Thins (thank you a hundred time for those Mom!) under there so they can't be consumed until Christmas. Yay.

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I realize that the point is not to be excited about the presents. I mean, I'm not 10 anymore. But feeling even a hint of what it's like to go home...it makes being abroad a little bit more bearable.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pinku-Daak-BooRaUn

I have been in desperate need of a haircut/color for sometime now, but my weekdays are pretty busy and my weekends usually consist of busses or long car rides to basketball games. Last week, I tried to get a haircut at a salon I'd never been to but sadly, they rejected me (they said they were booked, but I was the only person in the salon...but that's a story for another blog post!).
Anyway, I had a day off this week and went to my favorite place, Colors Hair Control in Utsunomiya. They are really friendly there and usually do what I ask. Well, I had a certain style and color in mind...sideswept bangs and black hair...something different this winter. I guess people don't usually dye their hair black in Japan, because the stylist looked at me like I said I wanted my hair neon green. He kept repeating, "Blaaaack?! Honto ni?!?! (Means "really")...I said yes, but he said that the trend now is Pink Dark Brown. "Huh?" I asked? He said that it's not that noticeable but it's still dark. I figured what the heck, so I agreed. I didn't really notice anything special about it when I left the salon, but I'm really starting to notice it now. Execpt my hair looks more purple than anything else.


This girl is working the purple hair...
...me...not so much!






Oh well, I'm in Japan. My job is pretty laid-back so it's not like it's the end of the world. And at least it's not a mullet, like the last bad hair experience I had 2 years ago.

Monday, December 8, 2008

She Returns

This past June, when I first began to figure out my Nikon (I'm still learning everyday) I needed a test subject. Naturally, I practiced my skills on Abe, but he quickly got frustrated at me pointing that camera in his face, at his feet, his hands...you get it, right?

Needless to say I had to venture off elsewhere to get some new shots. So, I turned to someone who has always been willing to try anything: Sachiko. She's a Brex wife and one of my students (who is getting really good, by the way!) and, although she can be a bit shy at times, she is always willing to help a photographer-in-training out.

This weekend, our boys had a game in Oyama and I remember the gym from last year because of it's gorgeous landscaping, and being that it was a gorgeous day, we decided to get some shots in...here is what transpired...




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I like this bike shot. This mama-chari --translation: "mama-bike" is the standard by which schoolchildren, businessmen, grandmas, and anyone else who pedals around town use in Japan. Abe and I have a matching pair as well.





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I am so hardcore/daring...I risked my own safety for the good of some cool pics. I wasn't going to let a few happy, snuggly snakes scare me away! (I think it's so funny how Japanese signs always have the cutest 'mascots' on them, no matter what the warning is.)




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She was really excited when she found one of these on the ground. They are called "donburi" and they come from trees. What's funny is that when I was little, my grandmother used to play this Japanese record album and one of the songs was called "Donburi"...I immediately started singing the song when Sachiko picked it up and she was so surprised that I knew the song. Now I know what I was singing about. :)




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I'm hoping to take some more good photos before the end of this year. Hopefully, I'll get some more opportunities soon.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

sachiko: preview

This weekend really flew by. Abe and his team played in a city about an hour away called Oyama and they won both days, which is always good news! I enjoyed the weekend because I got to relax a little, catch up on some reading, and take more pictures of friends!

We just got back from our exciting weekend, and I'm way too pooped to edit/post all of the pictures I took, but here's one for now...we had lots of fun at this spot. Hopefully, I'll get some more up this week. Hope everyone had a great weekend!


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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Abe's Milk Ad

Abe's team wants everyone to drink milk! It's so important that they made a poster/ad for drinking milk. I actually like the poster...I like the way Abe looks...such a cheesy smile!
(He's in the bottom row, the second guy)...If you can't read the Japanese, he's saying "Every morning, I drink milk!" hahaha...He really doesn't, but Japan doesn't need to know, right? ;)



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The Brex play this weekend (Saturday and Sunday) in Oyama. It should be a successful weekend as far as they're concerned, but nothing is ever certain in Japan, so we'll see.

Oh, and I'm SO excited about a little photography thing that I did, but it involves a Christmas surprise, so I can't blog about it yet...it's nothing big, but still a surprise so I'll show it later this month. (I know, I hate when people do that) :)

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I've been challenged

So my friend Anna "challenged" me to put my 6th picture from my 6th album up on my blog. She looked like a sexy-mama in her beach picure in Cancun. Mine, on the other hand...not so sexy. It was taken almost 3 years ago and I'm singing karaoke (AKA Japan's favorite past time) and it looks like I'm really into it. Ahhh, I must admit, I love karaoke. It's fun, and after a glass of wine, I swear I get better. haha...Abe would probably disagree!



It's a split

So Abe's team played Hitachi this past weekend and they split with them. They lost the first, and won easily in the second game. Abe twisted his ankle on Saturday so he didn't produce like he had hoped to. But the weekend was pretty relaxing and I got my first taste of snow! They played in Yamagata which is north of Tochigi so it was much colder and after the game we saw some snow...not enough to photograph, but I got some cool pictures from the hotel window...

Day view:





Night view:




Hope everyone had a good weekend!

Friday, November 28, 2008

a different kind of thanksgiving

This year, while all of my friends and families were in temperatures around the mid-80's, Abe and I were bundled in our winter best deciding if we should try our hardest to find a store that sells turkey deli meat (they don't sell whole turkeys in Japan) or if I should just make plain old chicken. It's that time of year again. The time of year when everyone is at home, getting all excited about Christmas and I am traveling around Japan watching Abe and the team play basketball games. We ended up having a fun little Thanksgiving...with Indian curry, saffron rice, and nan bread. Very international I think! In any case, it was a wonderful day because Abe finished practice early and we got to spend time together. No rushing or stress. Just relaxing. Yay!

As for the next big holiday, Christmas, that may be a little easier to do here. KFC is VERY popular, you know, because that's how westerners celebrate Christmas. Apparently, Japanese people feel that's the best way to celebrate the holiday, so KFC stays open for 24 hours that day and there's usually a line out the door. The shop staff at different locations even feel a connection with the Col. Sanders that they dress him up for different holidays.

Anyway, hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving filled with yummy food and family.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh, the colors!

If there's one thing that the local people here in Japan look forward to around this time of year, it's the foliage. I must admit that I get a little excited now too, since we don't get to experience the full-on colors and weather change in LA like I get to now. And now that I have my Nikon, I can appreciate it a little more.

This past Sunday, Abe had a game in Kanuma (a city near Utsunomiya). Being that the team makes him get to the gym hours early, the other players and staff's wives show up early too. I couldn't let a beautiful autumn afternoon go by without a quick 10-minute impromptu photo shoot with the trainer's wife.



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Meet Mayumi! She is one of the most cheerful and funny people I have met here in Tochigi. She really is always as "genki" as she looks in these photos...



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I love this one:


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These carp were HUGE...much bigger than the ducks that were competing with them to eat the chips we were feeding them.


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Hopefully, I'll be able to take more photos of people before the reds, oranges and yellows fade away...Thank you Mayumi! :)

a preview of a nice sunday

Sunday was a good day. The weather was nice, the team won both of their games, and I got to take some pictures of Mayumi! I'll post them soon, but here's a preview for now:

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ehhhh?!

So, on some of my blog entries about basketball, you may have started to notice some squiggly symbols (AKA Japanese kanji). That's because I've discovered that I've been getting lots of hits on my blog from Japanese readers. Cool! I think they're interested in the Brex (maybe not so much in my photography, but at least peeps are checking out the blog!) but nonetheless, I thought it would be nice to include Japanese readers. So, if you don't speak Japanese, excuse the writing in some of the entries. And if you do speak Nihongo: 私のページへの歓迎!

Oh yea, I found this sign in a public restroom on a road trip this weekend...so, just in case you weren't sure:



Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I love Nikon! :)

Ok, so anyone who's into photography knows that the two biggest camera makers are Canon and Nikon. I had a Canon SLR back in the day, before I knew anything about cameras. But Abe bought me a Nikon and I just love it...so much. So much that I take it EVERYWHERE with me. And, I was lucky enough to find another Nikon-lover, with the lens that I've been dying to try (18-200mm...you will be mine someday). So I had to take the opportunity to take lots and lots of photos at last week's game against Panasonic. The Brex lost, but it was an exciting, tight game til the very end. So just a warning: lots and lots of pictures (you'll notice more zoomed in than normal, thanks to my new friends!)

Pregame Goodness:







I really like this one for some reason...I like the GO BREX signs in the background...

Fan favorite, Tabuse:

Abe running down court...

Randy...AKA Wandy!

The reason I got to use the awesome lens...Ito's parents. They are learning photography as well and were kind enough to let me use their lens the whole game!


And this is Ito...doesn't he look like his parents?! Abe and I think he reminds us of a Japanese Scott Baio...don't you agree?



Santa, if you're reading this, I really liked that lens. It just felt so right. It fit like a glove.... :)