My Hobby: Photography

Photography has become an hobby of mine since I arrived in Japan two and a half years ago. I’m still an amateur who has only a basic understanding of aperture and ISO, and I’ve never really touched Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. The constant improvement in smartphone technology has resulted in a society that now has the ability to take good quality photos and video of anything, anywhere. While I still take my trusty iPhone 5c all over, I’ve also decided to carry my mirrorless camera with me at all times.

Before I came to Japan I purchased a Nikon 1 J2, my first real camera. Previously I’d been using my parents’ compact Panasonic to take pictures during our family holidays and day excursions. If I’m being brutally honest, my mother was the main “photographer” of the household while everyone else were the “models”. Yet after purchasing my own, I now understand the attraction and fascination with photography. There’s an overwhelming sense of enjoyment to taking photos of landscapes, events and people. While it’s an obvious medium to record memories throughout our lives, it also a challenge or puzzle to capture both the subject/s, and the emotion or atmosphere felt during the situation. And sometimes, it’s the details you didn’t realise you had recorded that are genuinely fulfilling.

There’s also a satisfaction to showing others your pictures, not simply friends and family but other enthusiasts. I had originally started a Tumblr blog that largely consisted of photographs I’d taken during my two years in Miyoshi, Japan (before I move to my current location). I still regularly update it, but I’ve recently started uploading my photos to 500px, which offers much more of a community feel amongst photographers. It’s been gratifying to read comments and advice from actual professionals about my “work”, which has resulted in my greater interest in the hobby.

In regards to editing photos, I’ll leave that to said professionals. I use iPhoto (seriously) to organise, and occasionally crop, adjust brightness, saturation and add a “classy” filter. But you could call me a “purist” (or lazy), as the notion of altering an image to the point where it’s unrecognisable is something that I take issue with. It’s an untruth. Sure your photograph will look fantastic, but having imperfects removed, relocating the position of the Sun, and adding extra details isn’t part of the purity of looking through the viewfinder and hearing the shutter click. Let the photo speak for itself, not your ability with Photoshop, unless you’re that bad.

I’ve just upgraded my three-year-old Nikon to a Panasonic GX80 (or GX7 Mark II) after spending a month researching and contemplating. I think I’ve made the right decision, and with my new purchase I hope to continue taking photographs and enjoying this creative hobby. 

You can have a look at a selection of my photographs on this blog’s Photograph page

Or you can visit my 500px page here

Pokemon Go

My early childhood was one of music, sharks, Star Wars, and of course Pokemon. Being a child of the nineties, my brother and I would wake up every Saturday morning to catch the latest episode of the TV series. My memories of primary school consist of friends trading Pokemon cards and struggling to understand the actual game behind them. I seem to recall a close friend jumping over the school fence and running home in tears after a sour deal, to which the school enforced a ban on the cards. From the video games, of which I had Yellow, Blue and Red, to the numerous film adaptations, Pokemon was and still is an unstoppable money-making, friendship-ruining and money-making franchise thats popularity has never really subsided, clearly evident from the arrival of Pokemon Go.

I’ll admit that Pikachu still holds a place in my heart. However now being at the grand old age of 25, I’ve understandably moved on from the show and the franchise. Yet with technology ever evolving, transforming and it’s prices soaring, we have something that comes more akin to every child’s dream of becoming a Pokemon Master. Well I say “child’s dreams”, but it’s become increasingly evident that the large proportion of players range anywhere from their 20s to their 60s.

Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm, invading everywhere from Holocaust museums, to Bosnian minefields. And coincidently, it’s provided “quality news outlets” with countless horror stories and hilarious incidents to distract us from the shitstorm known as current affairs. The game only arrived here in Japan a couple of weeks ago, and to no surprise everyone and their mums has been swiping their fingers to catch Pidgeys and Zubats. I recently found myself strolling through Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, only to be greeted by a swarm of teenagers, cyclists, and salary-men taking advantage of the local Pokemon hotspot, and the free Wi-Fi. The local police have made their thoughts on the game clear, carrying out patrols in the area throughout the day and night, loudly and politely asking loiters/ players to vacate the park to no avail. Subsequently, Hiroshima has applied for the Peace Memorial Park to be withdrawn from the game days before its annual memorial ceremony on August 6th. Pokemon Go players in HiroshimaPokemon Go has been intended to get players to “explore the world around them” while enjoying the thrill of catching Pokemon. And while it’s certainly got people out of their homes, it’s also created news story after news story of people getting robbed and others unwittingly wondering into private property. The game has thus become an inhibitor of common sense and a unequivocal threat to humanity’s sanity, safety and existence. Maybe I exaggerate a tad, but the constant stream of stupidity written on the front pages of newspapers and reported on TV has resulted in a palm-shaped depression quite visible on my forehead. 

I have no issue against the game itself . While I understand it to be a buggy, unfinished, feature-lacking and overly-simplistic representation of Pokemon, I haven’t experienced the game first hand. This is not simply because of my reluctance to follow the trend, but my fear about what its effects will be on my iPhone’s Data Usage, and the obvious dread of my soul being slowly sucked out through a 4.7 inch screen with 16:9 resolution and “Retina HD Display”. Thus I’m not qualified to assess Pokemon Go as a video game. But being the cynic I am, I feel that I can complain about it’s accession to cultural phenomenon, and the resulting abandonment of common sense by many people.

To avoid sounding like a complete idiot (unlike this writer), I’ll simply say this; Play the game, “explore” your surroundings but for god sake, use your head. If a police officer is continuously telling you to “Leave the premises!”, then leave the premise. If you see a shady individual wielding a baseball bat while staring at their mobile, don’t assume they’re a fellow Pokemon Master. And when crossing a road, please don’t rely on the consideration of drivers travelling at 40mph. It’s come to the point where Japanese train stations are now regularly announcing that passengers should mind their surroundings while playing games on their smartphones, something that surprisingly wasn’t present before Pokemon Go’s arrival.

People and Pokemon Go can co-exist, but whether that’s in one piece is not the fault of the game itself or the developer, but you as a player. While the injures and problems associated with the game hopefully only represent a small percentage of players, it still showcases our devotion and bondage to technology, while also further highlighting the incurable undercurrent of idiocy each of us has. However like so many people, I don’t think Pokemon Go has the legs to continue on past the next two months. Developer Niantic can churn out their promises of peripheral devices and additional features, but modern society has become one of short attention spans and exhausting the fun out of everything astonishingly quickly. So before it goes the way of Flappy Bird, stay safe and relive your childhood you glorious bastards. 

This Blog

I’m a Yorkshireman who recently turned twenty-five. I love to swear and I love to criticise everything. One of my Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs), astonished me by using the term “cynical” when jokingly referring to my constant use of the word “but”. I laughed and said “You’ve hit the nail on the head!”, she laughed too but didn’t get the idiom.

Yes, I live in Japan. I’ve been here for two and a half years as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT). It might not be as exotic as Cambodia or Venezuela, but I enjoy it. While I never expected to see myself standing in front of 35 students drilling pointless English grammar or explaining the “politics” of Brexit, it’s been a challenging yet entertaining experience.

Anyway, I’ve started this blog to collect my thoughts, critiques and photographs of both my life in Japan and life in general.  It’s also something to do during my lengthy “夏休み” (summer vacation). To any normal office-worker, salary-man or service employee, the thought of having a month long holiday is a dream come true. Yet over my years of working and living in Japan, it’s become an increasingly frustrating time in which boredom quickly sinks in. So why not?