Sunday, February 7, 2021

Winter walks

I've spent some time walking and cycling around the Naha area lately, camera in hand. I haven't really done that in a few years; no idea why I stopped. Anyway, it's fun to explore your neighbourhood and nearby areas - there's still so many places to discover even right around the corner.

Naha has a reputation for being a bit rundown, ugly and full of tourists. I don't think it deserves that; there are many spots around the town that are beautiful, even serene. This is Miituji park and canal just a block from the waterfront.

Naminoue beach in Naha. It's right in the city and right next to the commercial harbour so it's hardly an unspoiled wilderness. This road bridge leads to the airport further down the coast. But it's still a nice beach, and I love that we can live in the middle of a city and still have a place to cool off in the summer just a few minutes away.

Critics are right about one thing: Naha (and Okinawa) has a lot of concrete construction, and a lot of it looks worn down and broken. But that's really a result of the climate here.

With frequent typhoons you really want sturdy buildings. The hot, humid climate and salty sea winds makes everything rust, makes concrete crumble, and mould will quickly discolour anything exposed to the outside.

Yang Kyou Fang (The Golden Swallow). Probably the best Chinese restaurant we know here. It's also conveniently almost next door. They've been hurting over the pandemic, like all restaurants, but seems to still do OK. Their take-out service seems very popular — we order now and again, and there's always other customers there picking up their orders — and they have enough space to safely have some level of eat-in service.

Speaking of Chinese restaurants, this fried pork is from another restaurant called  Kujakurou (Peakock) in Ginowan. It's older and perhaps more traditional than Yang Kyou Fang. Both are good.

"Gabe Useful — Junk"

Matsuo Park in Naha.

I'm back to using my old Pentax K5-IIs. It's almost ten years old now, and starting to show its age, but honestly still the one camera I find most natural and effortless to use. And I really enjoy the results I get, even in near-darkness. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

An Osaka New Year

 Osaka for New Year as usual. Except, of course, not like usual. Nothing this year has been.

New Year sales poster.

 On a normal year we'd go out to eat a lot. We'd probably spend New years eve at a certain bar with people we know. We would perhaps stay overnight at a ryokan somewhere, and we'd certainly go out mingling in the crowds. 

None of that happened. We did venture outside — it's low-risk away from crowds — but we ate at home every night, and we didn't meet anybody. 

We did take a Hanshin train to Kobe one day; had lunch at Raja, our favourite Indian restaurant; then took a long walk through the Kitano area on the mountain side. We picked a date and time we knew the train and the restaurant would both be quite empty. And Kitano is always quiet in the off season even in a normal year.

Hanshin station, Osaka.

Kobe. It's a worn-down port city but we like it.

A shop in the Kitano district, Kobe. We often get vegetables and other random food here when we come to Kobe.

One thing happened: I brought my Pentax DSLR with me to Osaka, for the first time in years. I'd been using a small mirrorless Olympus for the past several years; small, light and portable, but I was never really happy with it for some reason. Taking the Pentax in my hands felt like coming back home, and taking pictures suddenly felt like fun again.

Midosuji line. On my way back from Nagai park.

A cafe on Midosuji, Osaka.

San Marco curry. Good curry. Not a lot of people.

The four amigos. They all know I'm there; they were laughing and smiling when they saw me grab my camera and realized what they must look like from outside.

I'd forgotten how much fun it is to walk around at random, camera in hand. The mirroless was always a hassle to use; with the Pentax I don't need to look at it or even to think to get the right settings and take the picture. I took more pictures over this holiday than I took all the rest of the year.


We found Small Friendly Duck waiting at a street crossing, and he followed us home. He was a bit worse for wear but after a clean-up he is happy to stay with us in Osaka. Here he is posing with a matching vase of tulips.

We spent new year at home, talking and playing with our phones while Kohaku Gassen, the traditional music show, was playing in the background. It was good. Let's hope 2021 improves over its predecessor. It shouldn't be difficult.


Nagahori at dusk.