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.
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.
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.
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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