30 April 2007


28 April 2007

View While Climbing...

...Mount Rokko.

27 April 2007

Lousy Day

21 April 2007

Subway Lamps

Auto Portrait 2

18 April 2007

Namba Fair

Something was going on near Namba Hatch by the Dotonbori canal, and I wasn't sure what.

14 April 2007

Coffee Chime

Visually Impaired

Standard signal button for the visually impaired, Namba version.

12 April 2007


Well that was a quick two months.

For anyone who was checking this blog regularly, my apologies for the long hiatus. It has been about two months since the last entry. With the end of the Japanese school year in February I became especially busy but that was compounded by apartment-hunting (which took ages and all of my spare time) and then the subsequent packing, moving out, moving in and unpacking (which mysteriously takes ten times as long as the packing). After all that I took off to Bali for a few days, and upon returning to Osaka it took a good three weeks before having an Internet connection re-established.

Anyway I am back. I have made thirteen "retroactive entries" to cover the time I was gone, since I did take a few shots here and there but never had the time to upload them (click on the link to see the entry or just scroll down this page):

Rusted sign
Garage Door
Subway Men
Early arrival
In need of a reader
Birthday Flower
Cherry Blossoms & Garishness
Luscious Bali

Luscious Bali

Greenery. That is my lasting image of Bali after escaping from the cement fortress of Osaka and visiting this small luscious island in the Java Sea. Everywhere there was thick tropical foliage: squat banana trees, tall coconut trees, slender bamboo, rice terraces, lush creeping vegetation.

R and I avoided the touristy part of Kuta and divided our time between Ubud, a large town near the central mountains that is considered the cultural capital of Bali, and Pemuteran beach, a very secluded area in the northwestern part of the island between mountains and the Java Sea.

Balcony view in Ubud

Our hotel near Ubud, the much recommended Bali Spirit Hotel & Spa, was surrounded by jungle and overlooked a river in which local people bathed. It had a pool, spa, spacious rooms decorated with Bali artwork, and a large open-air eating area. Tropical flowers and palm trees dotted the huge hotel grounds, making the distance from the room to the any of the hotel facilities a very pleasant walking experience.

Swimming pool in Permuteran

In Pemuteran, The Aneka Bagus Hotel & Spa --where we stayed in a private villa-- was likewise huge, open-aired and dotted with flowers and foliage, with a swimming pool over-looking a rocky beach.

To be constantly surrounded by nature was a wonderful experience. There was all that greenery, but there were also other things, like the industrious ants that snaked their way along the dining area floor, moving small chunks of toast to their hole. Or the myriad of bright flowers, some of whom would fall from trees above into our paths. Or the awesome power of a thunderstorm that rattled the roof all night long. Or the expansive, multi-terraced rice fields that blanketed a hill, with its just-sown paddies reflecting the orange hues of a setting sun. Or the regal lotus flower in a pond of lilly pads in a temple surrounded by thick bamboo. Or the constant flight of birds or bats overhead whether day or night.

Our experience with Balinese people was delightful too. Coming from a society where strangers don't smile at you and greet you while walking by, it was at first embarrassing to come across welcoming smiles wherever you looked. Balinese usually followed this by a cheerful "HELLO!" while the children often added "PHOTO!" and would gleefully line up to pose. What is striking is that, away from the touristy areas, where you can mingle with local people, one could easily sense their sincerity and friendliness. Any kind of interaction was a pleasant one.

So I left Bali and returned to Osaka charmed and relaxed. It was such a short trip (only four and a half days!) but there is a long list of great memories.

More pictures are on the an-fi photo gallery page (62 images). As usual I don't pretend these are authoritative pictures of Bali. I was just a short-term tourist, these are just vacation-type pictures and most were taken within the near vicinity of my hotels.

10 April 2007

Cherry Blossoms & Garishness

It is April and the cherry blossoms have arrived in Osaka -- a time when everyone takes a trip to parks around the city populated with cherry trees for the annual rite of ohanami (cherry-blossom viewing). Groups of friends, co-workers or relatives spread out their "picnic blankets" (usually ugly industrial blue tarps) and congregate under a flowering cherry tree to eat, drink and chit chat until late evening. A typical weekend afternoon will see hordes of boisterous, drunken people milling about in these parks. It is a very festive nature with nary a policeman in sight; the sight of open BBQ fires, huge piles of trash and drinking alcohol in public would make most newcomer-foreigners whisper how this would be illegal in the home country. But it is all just plain fun, and walking along the paths there is an infectious communal spirit of playfulness and camaraderie in harmony with the small pink petals that can be seen everywhere.

Among the more popular places to see cherry blossoms in Osaka is the area north and east of Osaka castle, called Sakuranomiya (sakura itself means "cherry" in Japanese). Here cherry trees line the canal for a stretch more than a kilometre long, and cherry trees can also be found lining the moat to Osaka castle. The Osaka Mint, located nearby, is especially famous for its promenade of cherry trees. The grounds, which are normally closed, are open to the public only during the cherry-blossom viewing season. Throngs of people come to walk down the long paths that run parallel to the canal and are flanked on both sides by tall thick cherry trees. Collective gasps of wonderment and the clicking of cameras can be heard all the way through the grounds. (There is also the megaphone screeching of security guards trying to guide the mass of people along the route -- on a busy day there will be very little elbow room as you are carried along by a river of people.)

The grounds of the Osaka Mint are spectacular for viewing the blossoms, but the route directly along the canal in front is also gifted with a wonderful collection of cherry trees. This area would be pristinely beautiful if it were not for the massive caravan of vendors that descend on the canal banks every spring, selling all sorts of snacks, souvenirs, and trinkets. With the dizzying numbers of people, the constant shouting of vendors selling their wares, the ear-splitting loudspeakers, and huge trash bins that dot the paths, it isn't exactly an ideal way to enjoy one of the loveliest sights in nature. Still, viewing cherry blossoms is always worth doing with friends or family, and Japanese take this time as one of the most important social events in their calendar.

Along with the beer and octopus snacks, it's hard to do ohanami without a camera. Anyone who has seen cherry blossoms in Japan can attest to the unstoppable urge to capture them on film. But I think most photographers realise it is deceptively difficult to get a decent shot of cherry blossoms. Even harder to get something original. I didn't really try and opted instead for pictures juxtaposing the vendors' garish signboards with the cherry blossoms. It struck me as ironic that most of the cherry trees along the route near the canal are obstructed by these vendors. And yet there is something unmistakably Japanese about that.

09 April 2007


05 April 2007

Birthday Flower

01 April 2007


Interesting interior of the Asian Trade Centre, Osaka.