31 December 2006


I played a little with Fireworks today...

Original image is here.

That's a Tottenham Hotspur hat by the way...

30 December 2006


Izushi is a 30 minute bus ride from Kinosaki. It's another small town dubbed "little Kyoto", complete with a canal, a dozen or so shrines, wooden houses and shops selling Japanese snacks and wares. To the south, there is a small hill with a path lined with flaming orange torii gates that lead to an aged, half-demolished castle, from which one can get a gorgeous view of the town and surrounding rice fields. Thick redwood-like trees abound, and there is the constant bird-calls of hawks black kites (see edit) that circle above.

Izushi's main fame is soba, noodles made from buckwheat. There are many restaurants specialising in soba; one could be forgiven for thinking it's all there is here. I spent only a few hours in the town, but would love to return another season.

28 December 2006


Kinosaki is a small town on the Japan sea about two and a half hours from Osaka by slow train; it's famous for its hot springs. It is a great place to visit if you have the time.

You need to stay for the night, enjoy at least one of the half-dozen public hot springs, relax in yukata at a Japanese traditional inn, take a stroll through the streets in geta (wooden footwear), and most importantly, enjoy a banquet of crab in the comfort of your own tatami room.

Add to that: take a hike in the nearby hills, peruse through some of the souvenir stores selling wooden crafts, gawk at the prices for fresh crab on sale along the streets, eat tamago-onsen (soft-boiled egg made with hot spring water) and take a short bus to any of the nearby towns competing with Kinosaki for tourists.

It's a good way to spend two free days in the winter. A touch of snow would have made my visit on Boxing Day a bit more charming; instead there was rain and overcast skies. But the crab was absolutely delicious. It's a fun spot for any photographer.

25 December 2006

Christmas Day Lights

Christmas Day shots at Nakanoshima, Osaka.

There was a lovely display of simple Christmas illuminations on this island flanked by two canals that run in the centre of Osaka. Throngs of people meandered up and down the paths, enjoying the collection of lights and the unseasonably warm weather.

A spirited light show on the sides of a government building was beautifully matched with classical music.

When the light show was over, everyone whipped out their cellphones to take a picture, inadvertently making their own light show!

A massive Christmas tree stood in front of nearby City Hall, a gift from the city of Droibak, Norway, dubbed "The World Linking Tree." The green sign in front explains: "The trees from Norway, placed in totally different parts of the world will be shining the message of 'Love, Peace, and Friendship'.... We can all understand the beautiful message the trees stand for, even if our nationality, race, religion and language are different. We can understand each other when we look at the heart-warming, brilliantly lit trees. This is a truly international effort as heart-warming as the spirit of Christmas all over the world..."

21 December 2006

Heartbreak: Inter 1 FC Barcelona 0

The loss was really hard to bear. I had a good seat and great expectations, but in the end it was dashed hopes and a long, sleepless bus ride back to Osaka.

Frank Rijkyaard made some poor tactical decisions, I think. Oh well. Hats off to Internacional, which scored the winning goal with less than 10 minutes to go, on one of it's few chances on net. Deco and Motta played particularly well. Why Motta was subbed totally mystifies me. He was so solid in the midfield. I bet if he hadn't been subbed Inter wouldn't have scored and Barca would have prevailed.

This was my second time to watch Barca play at the magnificent Yokohama stadium, the first being in July 2005 when they played to an exciting 3-3 draw with Yokohama F. Marinos....

Some shots from the heartbreak:

20 December 2006

The Great Buddha (Kotoku-in)

The Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kotoku-in) is, of course, Kamakura's main attraction. It was cast in 1252 and stands more than 13 metres tall. It is the second largest Buddha statue in Japan, the largest being the one in Todaiji temple, Nara. More information on Kotoku-in is here.

Yokohama Chinatown

Yokohama Chinatown, the biggest Chinatown in Japan. Big lights, big butamans, big prices.


With FC Barcelona due to play in the Club World Cup in Yokohama, I managed to get a game ticket for the big event on 17 December. So I spent the day before the game in Kamakura, a seaside resort town 30 minutes south of Yokohama by train.

There's a bit of everything to suit all kinds of visitors: long narrow streets lined with snack food vendors and shops selling crafts, rustic temples with gardens and cemeteries, bamboo groves, hiking trails with hilltop views, and a one-of-a-kind mammoth buddha statue that is the town's main attraction. Wherever I went, I wasn't far from two or three hawks black kites (see edit) circling above, constantly cawing.