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 …
Yurakucho is an area and station name, close to Tokyo station, between the expensive Ginza shopping area, the Imperial Palace, and the Marunouchi office, financial and shopping district. The area contrasts starkly with previous areas I have written about – it’s not a specific set of streets but restaurants and bars are scattered over the area and many are in the arches under the main train line. The focus is rather more food than drink and the clients generally don’t go to get drunk – though a proportion do end up that way – and are mostly out for a relatively inexpensive meal and drinks with friends and colleagues.
Leica rather missed the boat when digital came along so of course I’m talking about the best film Leica. And no, its not another “the M3 is the best camera ever made” review. But to begin, a bit of background.
My first ‘camera’ was a 4×5 I made with my father’s help, and a loaned lens from my uncle who worked at Taylor Hobson in Leicester, UK. The wooden box camera used glass plate negatives – remember those? Focusing was hit and miss, manually sliding the fat projector lens in and out until infinity seemed as good as it could get – then stopping down with a cardboard cut-out sleeve over the lens. I was a teenager and was making the camera for a single purpose – to photograph a comet which was easily visible stretching across the sky.
On the east side of Shinjuku station is an area of half a dozen narrow streets, the “Golden Gai” in the Kabukicho district, formerly the post-war black market area and later prostitution district, now just small run-down drinking bars. On the west side is “Omoide Yokocho” (memory lane), essentially a single alley barely wide enough for two people to pass each other, known colloquially as “piss alley”.
Hokkaido is the northernmost and second largest island in Japan. Just off the Siberian peninsula winters are long, cold and harsh. The main industries are fishing, timber products and farming. With a short growing and cropping season, from May to September vegetable farmers can generally manage just one crop a year instead of three in some areas of the rest of Japan. So many farmers opt instead for livestock farms – primarily cattle (Hokkaido is often termed ‘milkland’) and to a lesser extent pigs. Traditionally farms were family businesses, small with simple equipment and wooden buildings to house and feed a relatively small number of cattle. Over time the successful farmers grew their businesses. And infrastructures, and the others continued until retirement but children took to other professions – often moving to the cities. As a consequence the countryside contains scatted remains of these old small cattle farms, disintegrating silos, milking sheds, grain and equipment stores, rapidly collapsing and becoming scarce now as the weather and large-scale farmers wipe the slate clean.