Posts Tagged ‘ japan ’

Japan 2011 – Pre Tour


Japan Day 0 – 9th and 10th September 2011 (23)

Its finally here! My long, long awaited and unfortunately delayed return to Japan…..

Please note, the following is a quick opinion piece which may contain some sarcasm and is in no way reflective of the blogs that will follow this. They will be happy, happy pieces about returning to a place I love with ever fibre of my being

So lets clear up one quick thing before we start

If you are travelling in economy class on any long haul flight anywhere in the world and you choose to recline your seat you are, without a doubt, a first class, grade A, bell end – of course this is just a general statement and is in no way at all aimed at the hugely annoying gentleman (lets call him Spencer, after the most odious person i can think of) who was sat in front of me on Virgin Altantic flight VS900 from London Heathrow to Tokyo Narita airport, no sir, most definitely not

Most definitely not aimed at ‘Spencer’ despite the fact that he wasn’t even sitting in his assigned seat due to a hilarious mix up where he was too thick to work out the difference between row numbers

The person who show have been sitting in row 35, seat A seemed a nice chap – definately not a recliner – but after he arrived looking for his seat to find it already occupied by ‘Spencer’ he kindly offered to swap seats to save the hassle of making ‘Spencer’ move

Personally I love it when the small tv in the back of the chair in front is reclined so far thats it’s barely 4inches from my face (I believe this is the optimum viewing distance recommended for all tv these days) and my fold out tray is squashed so far up into my chest during dinner that I no longer need utensils, I can just lap at my (admittedly delicious) food like a dog

I like to think there is a special level of hell reserved for these ‘recliners’ – somewhere between people that molest the elderly and people who watch the BBC ‘comedy’ My Family

Anyway, enough gloom – I’m in Tokyo and lots of things to tell…….


New camera test

One thing that I’ve found on returning from my last couple of holidays, or from events, was feeling let down by the quality of the photographs I’d taken. As you can see from the picture above (taken with a Samsung HMX-U10) I was lucky enough to visit beautiful Tallinn in Estonia last year but, if you believe my pictures, the whole place has a been built extra curvy.

I have some great memories from that trip but I don’t have many pictures to back them up and, sadly, this isn’t the first time

In Japan we visited Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium, the most amazing aquarium I have been to. Set over 8 floors, you start at the top and work you way down around a giant central tank. At night, outside the aquarium, there are some beautiful light displays in the shape of stingrays, a droplet of water and a pair of whale sharks. I relied on my Samsung Jet S8000 camera phone for the most part while in Japan and, while it managed well during the day, it struggled at night and I found that a lot of my pictures were blurred

The english language website for Osaka Aquarium:

More recently, I attended a preview event at BFI Southbank where they showed the first episode of Miracle Day, from the new series of Torchwood ahead of its BBC1 premier. Following the episode there was a Q&A with cast members John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Bill Pullman and creator Russell T Davies. Again, I relied on my camera phone, this time a HTC Desire HD, and despite being in the third row my pictures were blurred almost beyond recognition

If you’d like to see the video of the Q&A (blur free), it can be viewed at the BFI website:

As you can probably tell I really don’t know the first thing about photography but after a one too many disappointments I decided it was time to try something new and, after some frankly brain bending research into different camera types, I decided to go for a bridge camera and settled upon the Fuji Finepix 2750HD and am going to use the next few weeks to test it out in different environments

My first test was a trip to Kew Gardens with some of my family last weekend and below are just a couple of pictures from the day out. unfortunately the weather was pretty awful and it rained heavily all day, so we didn’t get to see half as much as we had hoped to, but I’m quite pleased with my first attempt

At the moment I’m like a child with a new toy. Previously, if I’d wanted to get a close up of something, I would’ve had to walk up to it. These first couple of pictures were taken in the Waterlily House while I practiced with the zoom

These last two pictures were taken in a rare break from the rain as I wanted to try some more panoramic pictures, but I don’t think I had the camera set up very well so the colours in the picture look a little washed out.

Above is the waterfall behind Davies Alpine House and below is the Palm House viewed from the north

I’ll be uploading some more picture as I continue to practice over the next few weeks. Does anyone have any tips for a novice like me?

The website address for Kew Gardens:

I’m not even supposed to be here today…

Right about now, I should be on a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600 departing London Heathrow Airport and landing around 11 hours later at Tokyo Narita Airport, Japan – but I’m not, I’m here in ‘jolly ol’ England sat in front of my pc with a massive – I mean seriously MASSIVE – case of the blues

Following the terrible events in the Tohuku region earlier in the year we had to make a very quick decision as to whether we would continue with our tour as planned or re-book for later in the year. With so much uncertainty at the time and not to mention the scaremongering in the media, and with very heavy hearts, we decided to postpone and re-book for later in the year.

I wanted to give some kudos to our excellent tour company Inside Japan that we used on our previous trip to Japan (and are using again this time) who have been so helpful and supportive during the difficult period immediately following the tsunami and have kept in constant touch with updates and advice ever since.

On the positive side I had possibly the worst haircut in the history of the world earlier in the week so at least I won’t have to share my embarrassing barnet with the unsuspecting Japanese public. It will give me more time to continue my Japanese language lessons (which I really need – Nihongo wa muzukashii desu), more time to plan all of the places that we want to visit, more time to research all the weird and wonderful Kit Kat flavours that we’ll be looking out for (such as ‘Bubblegum’ and ‘Cheese’ flavours! – there’s a whole blog to follow about that) and more time to save extra spending money

Everyone points out that at least I now have something to look forward to later in the year and they are, of course, correct – but today it feels like little consolation

Kokuhaku (Confessions ) – Review

Kokuhaku (Confessions) – Friday 4th March 2011 at the ICA, London


It’s the last day of term and teacher Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) explains to her inattentive, unruly class that today will be her last day at the school. She explains her reason for leaving is the death of her 4 year old daughter, who drowned in the schools swimming pool earlier in the year in an apparent tragic accident.
She goes on to explain that she has since learnt that it wasn’t an accident; that her child was murdered and the murder was committed by two of the pupils in the very class in which she now stands.

Due to their age Yuko knows that these pupils, referred to as Student A and Student B, cannot be appropriately prosecuted so she has taken their punishment into her own hands. This is Yuko’s confession.

The film then follows the ‘confessions’ of those involved. Student B, now reclusive, shut in at home with a mother who is unwilling to accept that her child could be responsible for such an act. Student A, now vilified at school but defiant, unrepentant and desperately seeking the attention of the mother that abandoned him, and the one student, with a dark secret of her own, that that supports him.

Through these confessions, secrets are revealed, the truth is uncovered and Yuko’s revenge comes to a conclusion


It’s taken me quite a while to write my summary. In fact, this is my fourth attempt having completely discarded the previous three. The main problem being that Confessions is such an amazing film that I found that I could write nothing but gushing praise and just kept filling the page with superlative after superlative.

Every facet of Confessions borders on perfect. It’s visually stunning, coming from the team that brought you the brilliant and brightly coloured ‘Kamikaze Girls’, here the colours are muted and almost cold and clinical in comparison but each shot is so perfect, you could almost hang a frame around it. A slow-motion scene in the rain early in the film and another scene I won’t spoil near the conclusion are fantastically realised and vividly brought to life and are accompanied by a spot-on soundtrack, featuring the likes of Radiohead and Boris

The acting is flawless on all fronts from the detached, damaged teacher Yuko (Takako Matsu) to her over eager replacement (Masaki Okada) but the real credit here must go to the students, particularly Student A who plays the role of the quiet sociopath, brooding in the corner of the classroom in such an effortless manor as to be genuinely scary

Of course of all this would be nothing but window dressing if the story did not deliver and fortunately it really does. Japanese cinema can at times be almost impenetrable for a newcomer but Confessions, possibly due to its origins of being based on a novel by Kanae Minato, adopts a more familiar story telling structure and this makes it much more accessible.

Yet another stunning release from Third Window Films, Confessions is no ordinary revenge thriller and was understandably Japans entry to this years Oscars and is now on a limited cinema release. I urge you to see this film while you can

In the coming weeks it can be seen in London at:
The Prince Charles Cinema – March 15th, 18th, 23rd and 24th
The ICA – March 16th and 17th

Score: 9/10 – It’s not often I would even consider using the word ‘Masterpiece’ but Confessions really does deserve it. Dark, subversive and utterly gripping from start to finish.

More details of cinema's currently showing Confessions can be found on the Third Window Events page:

Third Window Events

Confessions is out on DVD & Blu-Ray on April 25th