nature

Getting Comfortably Lost in the Chiba Countryside

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Rice Paddy with Twist, Yorokeikoku, Chiba, Japan

I am fortunate to have a friend like Tomo.  He and I take a photographic journey every summer.  Each year we go someplace different and wander around with our cameras chatting away as we go.  This broiling summer Tomo suggested that we head to Chiba Prefecture’s country side.  A place called Yorokeikoku Valley.  We were blessed by some cloudy weather, so it wasn’t as hot as it could have been.  We even got caught in some rain, but it didn’t dampen our mood one bit.

It was a bit of a challenge to just get to, but the journey is what makes it so magical.  I met up with Tomo at Shin Urayasu station and boarded the Keiyo Rapid train out to Soga.  At Soga, we transferred to the Uchibo Line until we reached the little station commuter station of Goi.  There the real journey began.  We bought an all day pass to ride the Kominato line.  It is known for its one or two car trains.  The train otakus (geeks) love to ride and photograph this line.  There was even an old fashioned train girl who would sell, inspect, and punch the traveler’s tickets.

We got off about 3 stations before the last one and started to walk some of the old country roads.  It was a great feeling to be out of the heat of the city, and be surrounded by farms, cicadas, and trees.  We passed though some tunnels which here in Japan have the reputation for being haunted on our way to the next station.  We had to wait a good 45 minutes since the Kominato line comes only about once or at the most twice an hour.

Being out in the country I am reminded how much more there is to Japanese society than the city.  In fact, most of Japan was an agricultural society up until very recently.  Most of the society were subsistence farmers  just a few notches above.  The rural life was the Japanese life.  Walking along the old roads and coming to a rice paddy that tucked into one corner is the family cemetery.  The hillsides were dotted with tiny Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

In an odd way I was reminded of the parks between the hills Berkeley and Contra Costa County.  They are very country, even though you are only 45 minutes from San Francisco  there are reminders that the city isn’t that far away.  There were still signs of Japan’s industrialization at just about every turn we took.

All that is true, but the country is the country.  The loud tranquility was a beautiful excursion from the hustle of Tokyo Life.

I look forward with an open heart to wander Japan’s rural side with camera in hand.

Rice Paddy with Cloud Hole, Yorokeikoku, Chiba, Japan

 

Cedar Forrest, Yorokeikoku, Chiba, Japan

 

Country Road, Yorokeikoku, Chiba, Japan

 

Le Petit Rapids, Yorokeikoku, Chiba, Japan

 

Constructed Pond, Natural Sky

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Constructed Pond, Natural Sky

I inhabit a world were the constructed and the natural interact with each other.  They often don’t even know that they are intersecting one another.  It is only through the photographic medium of fixing pixels on a sensor that these universes meet each other.

I am attracted to discover the truth in this meeting.  I am exploring how human beings craft environments both on a personal home based level or in our public spaces.

Architects make decisions based on how their structure will be perceived by the viewer.  Other times their decisions are only a consequence of some cost benefit analysis.  In either case the manmade structure will impact the view on the natural world.

As society has attempted to isolate themselves from nature we are only a thin plate of glass away.  We only need to look up to see a piece of sky, if we are lucky enough to not be blocked my smog or buildings.  Our eyes can shift to the ground to see the weeds sprouting up in cracks in the pavement.  These precious pieces of sky and green are there.

It is in the greenery we plant to remind us of the natural world.  I am guilty of this too. For I have planted a garden in my own concrete suburb  to create a connection with nature.  I want to bee reminded of a time when we needed a garden for our survival.

The two worlds must be in harmony with each other.   Mankind needs to take steps to respectfully preserve nature.  We need to live in a world that utilizes nature to stimulate our lives through.  Let the sunshine wash our homes in natural light through UV energy efficient window.  Let us make homes that use simple green technology.  We want to create shared spaces where nature is free.

Let us not view the world in US versus NATURE, but be in harmony with nature.

 

 

 

 

Intersection of Natural and Man’s Creations

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Concrete Slab, Drainage Pipe, Hydrangeas Hillside

June is quickly drawing to an end.  The rainy season has come, and without many downpours it has seemed to have already moved on.  There was the unseasonably early typhoon and the heavy Friday rain of last week, but that is about all that has really intensely fallen.

The weather still has been quite odd.  I even had to pull on a sweater on Monday due to the chill.  I am NOT complaining!  I am only observing this oddity. I am thankful for a bit of cool summer weather because, I know that the sticky hot months of July and August will be upon all the city dwellers soon enough.  Those days where the humidity is so high that walking out one’s front door is like getting slapped in the face with a hot wet blanket.

As I stroll around in the spare moments that I have I am more attracted to the way nature and mankind’s creations interact with each other.  Sometimes that interaction one of the two is winning the battle; however,   there is often quiet détente playing out between the uncomfortable neighbors.

The large blooming hydrangeas cast sharp shadows over it’s concrete neighbors.  The concrete prohibits the flowers’ roots from seeking more fertile ground.  There they both exist influencing each other.  No one wins no one truly looses.  In the camera’s mixing palette both gain an non combative posture.  In the lens they acknowledge each others presence.

We must deeply love the natural world.  Without love we will never be able to survive as a species.  Our interactions must be done out of love and respect for nature.  Let some areas be completely wild, while we attempt to tame others.  Let us bring some of that wildness into the spaces that we occupy with our homes, offices, and public spaces.

In the meantime I continue to inhabit this détente between the two dynamic spheres.  My heart sees the two clearly, and I search out those frames where there isn’t a struggle it is only cooperation.

That is the intersection between the leafy green and the poured concrete. The delicately balanced harmonious interactions between those worlds that enter my heart by way of a piece of ground glass.

Stop and Smell the Fungus

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Verge of Orange, Temple Fungi 01

I almost missed these orange hued wonders as I made my way back to the station.  On Tuesdays, I like to cut through a buddhist temple in Ichikawa as part of relaxing end to my day.  It helps to put the world back into perspective as I come out of the fluorescents and into the sunshine.

The temple building itself is pretty new but its grounds must be a few hundred years old.  They include a hand hewn stairway that passes through an old wooden gate making the entering of sacred ground.

After being in a building for most of the day I like to get out into the small garden of this temple.  Last week the park was crammed full of cherry blossom watchers, whereas today the grounds were still.  I walked past a large tree when a few blips of orange caught my eye.  They were tiny in size but bold in the color they spoke, orange.

I had to turn around and get down on my knees in order to get the fungi into my view finder.  They were well worth the time.  The short pause after a long day is necessary.  The selfless act of noticing something so tiny that most walked straight on by with out even giving these little ones any thought or admiration.

They are on the verge of being.  They are there if we notice or don’t.  It is really up to us to take the time to breathe in the world around us.  To take in these lovely orange wonders for our stimulation.

Please take some time to stop and smell the fungus.

Verge of Orange, Temple Fungi 02

Seeking Balance between Natural and Built Worlds

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Since the March 11th Tohoku earthquake I have been exploring my relationship to the natural world around me through my photography.  How do I fit into this world?  I came to photographing nature partly because I had been on a mission to explore the geometrical structures that are built here in Japan, and how that space is created for humans to inhabit.  I found it fascinating how these manmade structures could conform and fit so elegantly within the framing of a square.

After the earthquake I found the geometry uninviting.  I couldn’t find myself to use my lens to seek out those wabi sabi interactions between the places humans inhabit and the squared world I had been putting them into.  I wanted to explore the revival and survival natures of man, and this manifested itself though the training my wide angle lens on the flora and fauna.  The roots seeping into the soil and sprouting forth new leaves among the dust and hustle of post quake Japan.

Now, I am beginning to see an integration between these two seemingly oppositional forces.  However, they do compete for the same physical space, and then they also inhabit the same space peacefully.  I want to explore this element more.  I look forward to see what I shall see.  Also, who knows where the next great theme will come from.

Ivy Creep, Mailbox Communist Party Food

Gate and Weeds, Mimomi, Chiba, Japan

Squared in Ginza, with Plants

Monday, October 17th, 2011

My friend Brancolina reminded me the other day about how much she enjoyed my urban wabi sabi images.  Those are the images I created using the canvas of the urban constructed world of Japan.  How all the structures and creations that man has built can fit neatly into squares of my eye.  I loved taking these images.  I still do.  I still am surrounded by these blending of mundane urban elements.  It is not that I no longer desire to enjoy these geometrical collaborations, it is that after the March 11th disasters and the subsequent problems in Japan I needed to change my view.  I needed to chase after a new image.

This is when I became interested in photographing the natural world.  Those flowers that began to bloom soon after the quake were signaling my spirit the rebirth of Japan, and in essence the rebirth of my own character.  I remarked to Brancolina and others that if you had asked me a year ago would I be taking images of flowers and fruit I would have thought you to be mad.  I never considered it.  Do not get me wrong.  I love nature.  I enjoy going out and being in the Creators world, but I never thought about trying to express nature though my photography.  That now has changed.

Even now as the days get shorted everyday.  I still am amazed that there are flowers still in bloom.  These late bloomers are there catching those long autumn rays and giving an explosion of color before the cold Siberian air arrives.

So, I livicate these to images to my fellow photographer Brancolina (and her blog) and her respect for my photography.  I look forward to sharing more challenges and discoveries through the lens.

Finally Shuttered in Ginza

Trendy Tree in Ginza

Urban Greeny Green of Ebisu

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

The other day I went out to visit my mate in Ebisu.  I love Ebisu.  It is a vibing area between the hustling trendy Shibuya and  Meguro and the exclusive Daikanyama.  Around the station the movement of people can be mind boggling.  It isn’t the bustle of the Shibuya crossing, but the station is busy enough that if you enjoy people watching it is a heights spot.

For me, I’m not to into the busy scene.  I prefer the quiet side of things.  Even though Ebisu sits in the heart of urban Tokyo, I prefer to get lost on the backstreets and and the residential rows of house and apartments.  Now when I get lost, I am never really that lost because, no matter how lost you might think that you are in Tokyo, you are never that far from a train station.  Just to wander those streets.  Looking for where the greeny green of Ebisu interacts with the asphalt and concrete of its human dwellers.

A year ago my lens would have been attracted to the concrete, steel, and wood of the living spaces but, since the March 11th earthquake my lens has been all about nature.  How does nature overcome adversity. How nature brings beauty even if it is confined to a tiny curbside garden.  The lovely green patches of Ebisu were a delight after a couple hours of reasoning with my friend.  There is, if one looks for it, a green heart to Tokyo.

Angel's Trumpet No Entry Corner, Ebisu

Vine Sign Climb, Ebisu

Urban Bush Building, Ebisu

The Little Things at Nokogiriyama

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

The fog and mist enveloped just about everything at the abandoned stone quarry, Nokogiriyama.  The fog rolled over the mountain and just drenched all the surfaces.  The stone appeared to soak up the water until it couldn’t anymore then the rocks just shone.  They were glossy and covered with moss, lichens, water, and all sorts of things in between.

The little things all add up to the big picture.  They build and accent each other.  All harmonizing together to become what I experienced in the jungle at Nokogiyama, in the wilds of Chiba prefecture.

Lichens, Nokogiri Yama

Up Through the Stones, Nokogiri Yama

Wild Chestnut, Nokogiri Yama

A Few More Bits from Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Today was a bit of a lovely day.  I didn’t get the chance to go out photographing today, but I did get out on my bicycle for a good hour.

A few more details from the Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden.

Hope you enjoy them.

Grass pon Rock, Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Sun In, Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Blue Eyes, Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden

Terraced Gardening in Kasai, Keeping in Touch with Nature

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

The wind is howling with the threat of some heavy rain to come later in the day.  The clouds of dust and sand just are twirling around in the air.  I grabbed my camera to hit the neighborhood  before the rain hits.

I love the way my neighbors squeeze so many plants into tiny spaces.  There is no wasted space in our neighborhood gardens.  The potted plants crowd corners, spread across the entrance ways to little backstreet shops. I guess living in this urban sprawl we all try to stay in touch with our agrarian roots.  We want to be able to get our hands dirty with earth.  To help bring forth some color in beauty in what sometimes can be overwhelming times.

The plants, flowers, and gardens are there to remind us of our delicate relationship with the natural world.  We have been given dominion over the living world, but this does not mean we can exploit it.  We must act as protectors and nurturers of the natural world.

Plant those seeds, and watch them grow.  Give them the love that they need then we all can appreciate.

planting seeds….

Terraced Flower Garden, Minami Kasai

Step Up Garden with Hose, Minami Kasai

Barbershop Garden with Gnomes, Minami Kasai

Trying to Re-sync with the Nature Around Us

Monday, April 18th, 2011

As the wind was whipping up around me last Friday, I used the time to mull over in my mind my relationship to the environment.  Being in the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo we sometimes forget that there is a rhythm to life that is not set by the subway timetables.

There are seasons to be observed.  The Japanese were very in tune with nature, and their attention to the arts reflect this connection; however, the connections between man and nature are being severed.  For example, I heard from a friend a few weeks ago that some residents across the river from me were in a complete panic when they found yellow powder in the streets and on the buildings.  They immediately jumped to the conclusion the radiation from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant’s radiation has reached their homes.  Even though, radiation, is odorless, colorless and tasteless.  The officials checked the suspicious yellow powder, which turned out to be just plain old pollen.

Have we so lost touch with nature that we have forgotten that at certain times of the year pollen dusts our neighborhoods?  I try to live my live with a balance between the urban and the natural.  It isn’t always easy, because of the way we isolate ourselves from nature.

Take the time to notice the seasons.  Take the time to notice how the plants have grown, shed, or changed since the day before.  Take notice of these things as they meld and mix with the concrete and steel around us.

Nature is the Real Power

Starflowers Concrete and the Cyclists

Tokyo Harmony and Hope

Monday, April 11th, 2011

There is a beautiful park in my neighborhood.  There are cherry blossom trees, a manmade hill that children slide down of pieces of cardboard, jungle gyms to climb on.  It really is a nice park.  But there is a little secret about the park.  The only reason that there is a park there is because of the huge power lines that are running over the park.

So rather than run from the power, and the man made I have decided to embrace the harmony.  The blossoms working in harmony with their man made wires.  The seemingly random fractal growth of the branches, intertwined with the straight and designed power lines.

On the one month anniversary of the great Tohoku-Kanto earthquake we were reminded with an aftershock of 7.1 magnitude that the power of the earth has not yet settled.  However, let us look to spring as a reminder that there is beauty outside.  There is manmade and there is the beauty that only the creator can make.  Sometimes the most thrilling of them is when they work in harmony with each other.

Stay safe

Stay blessed

Stay positive

Nature and Manmade in Tokyo Harmony

Sunday in the Park with my Neighbors, and the Cherry Blossoms

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

After a cold and rainy Saturday, the weather warmed and I decided to stroll over to my local park to see the cherry blossoms and see if my fellow neighbors would too.  I was astonished to see how my people were crowded into the park.  Families had spread plastic sheets all over the park.  Couple strolled hand in hand snapping pictures as they went.

There are some possible reasons why so many ventured out this year to our neighborhood park.  Metropolitan Tokyo but a damper on the hanami (flower viewing) parties in their parks, but our park is run by Edogawa ward.  There were no lanterns hung this year, but there were many more people.  Maybe they came out to the local park rather than hopping on the train to a bigger Tokyo park.  I also truly feel that with all the tragedy and stress people have been under today was a chance to escape it, and to welcome the beautiful little things that the Japanese take so much pleasure in.

It again gave me a lot of hope to see so many people out and enjoying the weather.  There is still a long way to go, but we are going there together, and Japan will overcome.

Packed Park Flower Garden

Picnic on the Hill with Cherry Blossom Row

Tulip Row

More to Come, Cherry Blossom Buds

By the Docks, Shinagawa

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

I needed to head to Shinagawa to renew my visa today.  If you think the bureaucracy in the states is bad, it is nothing compared to the Japanese. Well at least they are usually polite, usually.  After I was done I took a stroll, or I should say a bit of an urban hike from the waterside of Shinagawa all the way to the luxury brand infused stores of Ginza.

To many pictures to choose for a day, so I will just post a few from the waterside, heartland of industry, freight and the out of the way immigration office.

74 8104 with Two Mailboxes and a Clear Umbrella

Industry Dockside Cuts

Planting Weeds

Sitting Pretty in the Rain

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

This lone clear vinyl umbrella was sitting pretty in the cold rain this morning.  As the commuters all shuffled off to work muttering how cold it was under their breath this one umbrella just paused for a rest under a tree.  Never to be forgotten, and not smoking it sat and watched all the people hustle into the station.

No Smoking Umbrella

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