Drinking Districts in Japan V: Asahikawa, with a Sony A7Riii, Zeiss Sonnar 55mm, and Leica iiig, 50mm f3.5 Elmar and Delta 400

By Geoff Chaplin

Hokkaido – the ‘new’ or ‘northern territories’ – was largely uninhabited by Japanese until the late 17th century and was annexed by Japan becoming an official ‘region’ about 150 years ago. It is the second largest island in Japan, about two thirds the size of England, with a population of 5 million, and is just off the Siberian peninsula – winters are long and hard with temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius. Internal migration has seen a move from the countryside to the cities and of younger people to the capital Sapporo. Asahikawa is the second largest city but the population has been declining, with the city centre being hit additionally by a shift of shopping to superstores in the suburbs.

From the station running north is ‘Kaimono Koen’, literally ‘shopping park’, a wide pedestrian only street – supposedly the first major vehicle-free zone in Japan – formerly a bustling area with major and minor shops, restaurants and bars on both sides and in nearby streets. Now it’s possible to walk from the station end to the far end almost entirely going through car parks on the sites of demolished buildings. Coronavirus was the killer blow for many shops.

Asahikawa Hokkaido
Kaimono Koen looking towards the station from the far end

Bars, izakaya, ‘snack’(Japanese final drinking places with chatty but generally old waitresses) and a few but exceptionally good western restaurants (especially Kimihiro, Italian, and Honnete, French) are now scattered. A few narrow streets with tiny charismatic bars remain but the winters have driven many into large tower blocks.

Asahikawa Hokkaido
Bars, restaurants and clubs, hiding inside from the cold outside

I often use colour film in the iiig but I had a couple of rolls of expired Delta 400 I wanted to use – not my favourite film because it is less forgiving of sunny 16 errors and I prefer the texture of traditional grain films. It was developed in a divided developer, D2D and, to my relief, there were no material exposure errors. I used the Sony for the night-time colour images, setting the aperture to f4, exposure to around 1/30, ASA to 400 and the colour for in-camera jpgs to neutral, to compare to earlier use of the iiig in articles I-IV. Necessarily depth of field is limited and this seems more obvious on the Sony images compared to earlier iiig colour film images. On balance I am pleased with the results from the Sony but not so much so that the Leica will become a shelf queen.

This time I used the iiig for dusk and daytime shots and the Sony for the night shots. For some scenes I took a daytime and a night-time shot – a few colourful lights and darkness hiding the less attractive aspects make a huge difference. Typically, although mid-April, temperatures had fallen to near zero and there was slight snow falling as I set out in the evening.

Asahikawa Hokkaido
Saromako and Baroumura (place names) Izakaya – specializes in scallops, oysters and prawn from the Saroma Lake area
Asahikawa Hokkaido
Pub Piste, by day
Asahikawa Hokkaido
Pub Piste, by night
Asahikawa Hokkaido
Steamed dumplings – imagine how attractive this looks when there’s snow and ice on the ground and temperatures are well below zero
Asahikawa Hokkaido
Den, by day
Asahikawa Hokkaido
Den, by night
Asahikawa Hokkaido
Super Dry (Asahi beer), and probably Japanese Sake too.
Asahikawa Hokkaido
Vicolo, open … til late, very late
Asahikawa Hokkaido
Waya (my shop). Waya zangi (a type of fried chicken, Hokkaido style) on the menu … might be good
Asahikawa Hokkaido
Walt’s place – home? bar? something else?? It’s padlocked but the light’s on, and it’s surrounded by bars. Let me know please.

Footnote: the Leica caught a bad cold on this trip and will have to go to the doctors for surgery, so she’ll be away for a while.

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About The Author

By Geoff Chaplin
Primarily a user of Leica film cameras and 8x10 for the past 30 years, recently a mix of film and digital. Interests are concept and series based art work. Professionally trained in astronomical photography, a scientist and mathematician.
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Geoff Chaplin on Drinking Districts in Japan V: Asahikawa, with a Sony A7Riii, Zeiss Sonnar 55mm, and Leica iiig, 50mm f3.5 Elmar and Delta 400

Comment posted: 14/06/2023

It's simple, just say "すみません" to get the water/waitresses attention then "一本の高級赤ワインお願いします!"
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LarryD on Drinking Districts in Japan V: Asahikawa, with a Sony A7Riii, Zeiss Sonnar 55mm, and Leica iiig, 50mm f3.5 Elmar and Delta 400

Comment posted: 12/06/2023

Where did you get the half case for your leica? I have a Leica iiif that it would look great on.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 12/06/2023

Mr Zhou, ebay. No complaints at all though the M cases are rather tight.

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Dean on Drinking Districts in Japan V: Asahikawa, with a Sony A7Riii, Zeiss Sonnar 55mm, and Leica iiig, 50mm f3.5 Elmar and Delta 400

Comment posted: 12/06/2023

I have thoroughly enjoyed your images and words from your Japanese drinking areas. A fabulous picture is being built in my mind of the whole story. A brilliant journey, and with your wonderful images we get to go along also. Thank you for sharing.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 12/06/2023

Thanks Dean, but you'll have to buy me a drink if you come along!

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Don Goodman-Wilson on Drinking Districts in Japan V: Asahikawa, with a Sony A7Riii, Zeiss Sonnar 55mm, and Leica iiig, 50mm f3.5 Elmar and Delta 400

Comment posted: 12/06/2023

Another fantastic entry in your series. I really hope you'd consider collecting these into a photobook, this is first-rate material.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 12/06/2023

Don, thanks, your comments are much appreciated.

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Ibraar Hussain on Drinking Districts in Japan V: Asahikawa, with a Sony A7Riii, Zeiss Sonnar 55mm, and Leica iiig, 50mm f3.5 Elmar and Delta 400

Comment posted: 12/06/2023

MKes me want to go drinking there! Another enjoyable one and with your trademark glow
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 12/06/2023

Thanks Ibraar. I didn't realise I had a trademark glow .... dirty lens maybe!

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Ibraar Hussain replied:

Comment posted: 12/06/2023

the glow from the signs and globes at night - you capture them perfectly and gives your images an instant recognisability

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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 12/06/2023

Thanks again Ibraar.

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Christopher on Drinking Districts in Japan V: Asahikawa, with a Sony A7Riii, Zeiss Sonnar 55mm, and Leica iiig, 50mm f3.5 Elmar and Delta 400

Comment posted: 11/06/2023

"zahnarzt" = dentist I suspect there may not be a German dentist behind the locked door!
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 11/06/2023

Thanks Christopher. Yes the sign is clearly just a piece of memorabilia or junk used for decoration. Checks suggest there is no person of that name residing in Asahikawa - and a dentist would surely advertise. So the question remains - I'll try a neighbouring door one day, I suspect they are connected.

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Christoph on Drinking Districts in Japan V: Asahikawa, with a Sony A7Riii, Zeiss Sonnar 55mm, and Leica iiig, 50mm f3.5 Elmar and Delta 400

Comment posted: 11/06/2023

“Zahnarzt” means dentist in German - would be interesting to know what a German-sounding dentist is doing in Asahikawa…
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 11/06/2023

Thanks Christoph. See my answer to Christopher.

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Martin Siegel on Drinking Districts in Japan V: Asahikawa, with a Sony A7Riii, Zeiss Sonnar 55mm, and Leica iiig, 50mm f3.5 Elmar and Delta 400

Comment posted: 11/06/2023

Walter Jordan Dentist That's what the sign says, at least.
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Geoff Chaplin replied:

Comment posted: 11/06/2023

Thanks Martin, see my answer to Christopher.

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