Looking Back at 2016 Photos

germany, hong kong, japan, london, scotland, south korea, taiwan, thailand, Thoughts on Life

I thought it might be fun to spend one of the last hours of 2016 taking a quick look back through this years photos and picking out a few of my favourites by month.

2016photos

I took 6390 photos this year, that’s almost double what I took in 2015 and 2014. And I was a bit surprised to see that 2420 of them were taken in Thailand. It really is one of my favourite places to be.

There is a direct correlation between how I feel and how many photos I take. I was feeling pretty awesome in Thailand at the start of the year, but as the year moved forward I struggled to eat healthy and get into better shape; two big ongoing goals. And that coupled with difficult work meant my mood wasn’t great for the second half of the year.

I travelled quite widely, but didn’t really take full advantage of it. I’m glad I am thinking this through now as it’s now my main goal to improve eating, fitness and mood in 2017.

Without further ado, let’s take a look month by month through my pics of the year.

January

Only 55 photos taken in January and all in London. However there are a couple of nice ones including the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and the New Crossrail Station at Canary Wharf. I was back to using my old D3100 and 50mm lens.

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February

February and more London shots. I went around Soho / Chinatown / Shoreditch with a new ‘used’ camera. A D610 with the kit lens. I used this and my 50mm for the rest of the year.

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I also went to Thailand for a bit of rest and relaxation. Highlights were a great flight on Eva air with the nicest air stewardesses, the sunset at Bang Sare and the cocktail VW buses popular in Thailand.

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I also started a collection of photographs to capture ‘motorbike’ life in Thailand, they are such an integral part of Thai culture.

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March

1152 photos in March. A lot of motorbike and beach shots. I also discovered the awesome Baa Hop Fang festival / market in Pattaya. At the end of the month I went to Bangkok and started working my way through a book of Bangkok walks.

Pattaya

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Bangkok

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April

April was another Bangkok month. I had a great time walking around the city. I think my best pictures of the year are from April; especially one shot of the Maha Nakhorn building. I also enjoyed Songkran; the Thai new year festival. That’s an unmissable experience!

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May

May was back to London for work. I got some nice spring shots in Shoreditch. I also went to Scotland to see family but got a chance to take some pictures in Edinburgh, Crail and my mum’s garden.

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June

No photos! – My work project was managing the half year report for Standard Chartered so I can only guess I had no time at all to even think about the camera!

July

I think I was quite busy in July too, only a handful of shots from city walks in London and another Scotland trip.

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August

With work coming to an end I went of to Tokyo with an unexpected layover in Frankfurt due to a Typhoon.

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September

More Tokyo where I enjoyed some of the best Karaoke nights out and a few visits to my local Maid Cafe. I then went onto Taipei.

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Taipei

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OCToBER

This was another good photo month. Some more shots in Taipei and then off to Hong Kong and Shenzhen before heading to Seoul.

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Hong Kong

(I need to revisit the processing on these HK shots it’s not great)

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Shenzhen

The highlight was OCT Loft

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Seoul

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November

Last few photos in Seoul. Korea really has the most beautiful a palaces.

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December

Back to the UK, and I had a lovely chance to finish the year with some pictures in Scotland and London.

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That’s it, 2016 in photos. I do need to take some time to go through all the photos, there are some picks in their that haven’t been processed yet, but it takes a load of time to review photos.

I’m really grateful for the chance to see the places and people I have this year. On the other hand I know that I didn’t push myself with a positive attitude to get the most out of it. That’s my big goal for 2017.

So, watch this space, hopefully there will be a lot more interesting sights to come in the year ahead.

Rainy Days in Tokyo and Meditation

japan

I’m enjoying a few rainy days in Tokyo; it’s Typhoon season after all. The rainy days are quite refreshing and a little cooler than the normal late summer heat.

Until the last few days I had been mostly in t-shirts and trainers/sneakers (converse or vans) due to the heat. I prefer to walk around with shoes (brown brogues) and a shirt, so I am kind of happy with it being a little cooler. I can wear a shirt w/out immediatly soaking it in sweat!

Here is a grey sky over Shinjuku from yesterday.

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Girl in Tokyo reading Manga on the train

Tokyo Ranchero and Manga Girl

japan

I snapped a few nice shots around Tokyo in the last few days. I spotted another sweet classic parked up in Harajuku. This is a Ford Ranchero, it’s the first time I saw one in real life, I think it’s the slightly less popular competitor to the El Camino. This one looks awesome in gloss black.

A Ford Ranchero in Harajuku, Tokyo

A Ford Ranchero in Harajuku, Tokyo

A Short Trip To Asakusa

japan

Today was a chill day. I didn’t have any exercise scheduled. My main plan was to study some japanese and graphic design and to head over to Asakusa and maybe take a few photos.

To be honest, the day was a bit of a fail, I couldn’t concentrate at all and it was way too hot to walk around taking photos for a long time.

However, I did take a few shots in Asakusa. The area is famous for Sensoji 浅草寺 – it’s a temple complex that many people visit. There are a lot of shops selling traditional japanese products. There are also a lot of traditional restaurants.

You have probably seen the entrance gate to Sensoji before, it’s the one with the huge lantern. It’s often photographed super close up and you can see there are always lot’s and lot’s of people around it.

Here are three shots from around Sensoji.

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Sendagaya Jeep

japan

The highlight of the day was a classic jeep spotted in Sendagaya (千駄ヶ谷), Tokyo (東京)

I saw this on the way from the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym to Omotesando. The metropolitan gym has a training room, pool and finess studio available for public use for 600 yen per session. It’s great for visitors who don’t want the hassle of a membership.

Here’s the Jeep

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hakka no togame

japan

 

My blog name may sound strange in English. The reason is it comes from Japanese. It has a special significance to me which involves an ex girlfriend, travel across the world and around one hundred and thirty hours of TV.

The Japanese Kanji for hakka no togame is 白霞罸.

The first two characters together represent the name Hakka (romaji) / はっか (hiragana). When two consonents  are written together in romaji to pronounce it pause slightly before the consonent and pronounce it sharply and clearly. Kind of like Ha-Ka rather than Haka.

Names in Japanese have underlying meaning, in the case of Hakka 白霞  – the meaning is 白 – white and 霞 -haze.

The third character 罸 means punishment, penalty, censure.

Therefore hakka no togame / 白霞罸 can be translated to something like ‘white haze punishment’.

Why on earth would I call my blog white haze punishment? We have to go back around ten years to answer that.

I moved to London when I was around 28. After moving to London I had what I would call my first real grown up relationship (girlfriend).

My girlfriend was called Corrine and was from Singapore.

We used to love going to cafe japan in north london to eat delicious Japanese food.

When we were relaxing at her apartment one night she put on an anime movie. The movie was one of the ‘Bleach’ films.

Bleach is a super popular long running anime which is now finished.

Tokyo Rail

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Clean, shiny steel and birdsong soft and sweet. A place full of people, some fast asleep, where could I be?

yamanote line, harajuku

The Tokyo metro, or one of the Japan Rail (JR) lines in the city. Rail is something of a cultural passion in Japan. It’s a huge part of day to day life in Tokyo; the most convenient way to travel around the huge city.

A microcosm of Japanese values it’s impeccably well managed. Almost always on time and masterfully maintained.

long train

Perhaps the most famous image of Tokyo’s hectic rush hour is the attendants shoving and squeezing people onto already packed trains. Faces can be seen seen squashed against windows and doors. It does happen, but I never take part; I tend to wait out the rush hour in a cafe.

waiting on train

It’s quite a different story in the UK; when our aging underground stations become overcrowded the station attendants will temporary close entry.

A reflection of a prioritisation of efficiency over comfort in Japanese culture. As a Japanese friend commented, “it is very important get to work on time in Japan”.

Other thoughts of Tokyo rail; complex rail maps, female only carriages, cleanliness and modern technology. And less well known; beautiful visual design and ever helpful staff.

japan rail map shibuya

An example; the Japan Rail map of Tokyo and the surrounding area at the station in Shibuya – complex and beautiful.

Note the look and feel of the ticket machines. It’s modern, but yet retro. A metallic feel with plenty of prominent buttons and slots. They say to me, “I am proud to be ticket machines”, they don’t attempt streamline themselves into the human world.

It’s not only the ticket machines that feel metallic, trains are finished in polished metal; always very clean. It’s especially noticable at one of Tokyo’s many railway crossings. When you wait on trains to pass you can see the trains are clean from the ground up.

Why so clean? – Japanese people take a lot of pride in their work. I think this is in part the healthy desire to do a good job. And in part it’s the story of a society with strongly enforced cultural values.

harajuku station

Take for example the Japanese word, “Ganbatte” (がんばって) which means roughly “do your best”. You hear this a lot in Japan. For example if someone is preparing for an exam, has an interview, is entering a competition you might say “Ganbatte”. It’s telling in English that we don’t have a word like this and you rarely hear people say “do your best”. When I think about it, we would use, “good luck”. Do we subconsciouly place emphasis on luck vs. hard work? I heard it said that your true nation is your language.

Let’s be frank, trains in UK are disgustingly dirty, if you are on the london underground just touch the outside with a finger – it’ll come away black.

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girl waiting

They play birdsong in some of the stations in Tokyo. On one trip I regularly used the Toei Oedo line. I would always enjoy listening to the birdsong in the background. I don’t think I consciously noticed it at first, but at some point I realised it contributed to a joyful and relaxed feeling.

A friend tells me it’s used as a warning sound for blind people. Regardless of the true purpose it has a calming effect.

It reminds me that concrete cities and high technology are not our natural environment. Perhaps we suffer from a build up of background stress from our surroundings. These small touches can bring some peace and make life a little more comfortable.

train above

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When trains arrive or depart in Japan you get jingles, tunes and tones. It makes you aware but doesn’t cause any panic or stress. In the UK we get alarms and buzzers. It makes me feel tired.

Have you ever hear of ‘cotton wool Britian’ – we have a love affair with health and safety. Visual and audio warnings are everywhere. Do they reduce accidents – I don’t know, but they certainly contribute to a feeling of constant threat.

Even though Tokyo is a huge modern city packed with people and technology, I feel like it caters to the human need for comfort and relaxation better than many others.

yamanote musician

Perhaps the most popular rail line; the Yamanote line. It’s the circular route that you can see in the centre of the rail map. It stops at many famous places. The green colours of the Yamanote trains and the little touches of green on the clocks, ticket machines etc. make a beautiful theme.

Tokyo is a city full of amazing vibrant colours, which really pop in photography.

The Yamanote line is a case in diversity. The stations it stops at include everything from traditional temples to electronic and business districts. A wide variety of people can be found on the platforms and trains; tourists, salary men/lady, school pupils, fashionistas and even Elvis style rockers.

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harajuku tourist

What a strange city. In some ways it could be considered monocultural as Japan still remains relatively closed to foreigners. But within it’s Japanese culture there is a large diversity. Perhaps driven from the need to be different.

I expected Japanese commuters to play Nintendo or Sony or be glued to their mobile phone, but it’s not completely the case. A big surprise was the popularity of books. Tokyo has big bookstores in all the main areas. And even has some cool concept stores such as the Tsutaya at the fashionable Daikanyama.

tsutaya daikanyama

tsutaya girl

tsutaya cafe

I started to realise how important literature and poetry is in Japan. I recently discovered one of the most famous concise forms of poetry ‘haiku’ comes from Japan. And only yesterday while finishing the very good book, “strange weather over tokyo” I discovered the following poem:


In loneliness I have drifted this long way, alone.
My torn and shabby robe could not keep out the cold.
And tonight the sky was so clear
it made my heart ache all the more.
– Seihaku Irako

A little of topic, but worth sharing. So a lot’s of people read on the trains. Japan has a slightly smaller format for novels. They look really cute and easily go in your pocket.

Japan is obsessed with cuteness – a topic close to my heart.

Coming into or exiting a station in Tokyo is generally a pleasure. The stations are super clear, they always seem to be staffed by helpful attendants and every station I have been to has a clean toilet! Just the thing when late night asahi and sake are common features.

station attendant

You can’t escape from the rail in Tokyo, everywhere you look it’s their to see.

Life in Japan can be difficult with long working hours. It’s important the trains are clean and on time. One thing that will amaze any visitor is how quickly and easily japanese people can fall asleep on the train. If you fall asleep on a train here in the UK it’s likely someone is going to steal all your stuff.

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Tokyo is very safe. Theft is virtually non existent. You can leave your bicycle unlocked at the park entrances, you can leave you Macbook, phone and wallet unattended in a coffee shop.

The only complaint I have to say is when I’m stranded after 1am, then it’s time to find a late night club, a 24hr restaurant or a manga cafe and wait it out with all the other partiers for the 1st train the next day.

But that’s a small complaint.

tokyo dining

japan, Poetry

blue sushi restaurant

Prepared like art, with heart,
Eaten with care, flavours rare,
Japanese food is really that good,
Cooking and dining are national pastimes,
Ramen is a passion and,
Sushi a fashion,
That powers Tokyo life.

snack bar

snack bar 2

Colourful restaurants; from counter bars to tatami mats,
Natural flavours, fresh, chosen with care,
Attention to detail, clear to see, delicately prepared,
Haru, Natsu, Aki, Fuyu; Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter,
Often seasonal; food and tableware.

yakitori cooking

salary men dinner

Traditional meals, that are
Humble small dishes, with
Rice to fill you,
Fermented soya to increase your life,
Vegetables and seaweed to nourish you,
Fish or meat, just a treat,
All arrayed in front of you,
Tea afterwards as a sweet?
Candy, chocolate and cake? – simply no need.

green lights

red lights

Hidden behind green and red lights,
Small alleyways, with restaurants side by side,
That’s beautiful Japan,
Beer and skewered meat; just what I need.

italian food

sakura bar

Just one word of warning,
Be prepared,
If the food is good,
To wait in line.

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sake barrel

Tokyo dining; a social affair,
Friends, food and sake, the perfect afterparty,
Salary man and lady; who work so hard, can finally relax,
Even alone, you can be part of the counter dining family.

yellow ramen bar

red noodle bar
curtain bar


This is kind of a poem I wrote today after completing the first 5 days of the wordpress bloggingU writting201 (poetry) course. The photographs are from both 2014 adn 2015 of restaurants and food stands in Tokyo, Japan. I’ve been wanting to write something about these photos for quite some time. But I had been putting it off, as I was going to write something quite long winded. Today I had an idea, why not just try to write a simple poem about some of the things I love about Japanes food / dining.

Alexander

kyoto umbrella

japan, Poetry

kyoto umbrella

bright orange and blue
just a small shelter it’s true
but I still love you

I took this picture in Kyoto, Japan, back in 2014. At the time I was working on my photography in a structured way. On the day I took this I was working on contrasting colours. Specifically looking for blue and orange, red and green etc.

Contrasting colours can be quite powerful, especially if you have a visual weight contrast e.g. 80% of one and 20% of the other. That’s why sometimes if you see a girl in a purple dress holding a single yellow flower, it looks beautiful. In fact some photographers will take a contrasting colour flower to a photo shoot just for that purpose.

Yesterday when I started writing201 poetry course we learned the form haiku, today I was thinking about this picture and had this short haiku in mind.