Tag Archives: Yokohama

Extraordinary Ordinary

Yokohama, Japan. September 2014.

My partner Monna is offering an e-course over at MonnaMcDiarmid.com, called The Geography of Now. It’s a six week course with an exercise every day in noticing, photography and what Monna calls “skinny prose,” a form of narrative verse. Today’s exercise is one I used to use with my photography students. The idea is to take 10 or more photographs of the same object in order to find an extraordinary way of seeing an ordinary thing. It’s a good exercise, worth doing if you’ve never tried it.

For tonight’s exercise, I thought about my favourite wall in Yokohama. It’s not an entirely ordinary object I guess. It looks like there was ivy growing on it at one point, and now the remnants of it are plastered to the wall like footprints or snake tracks. I’ve photographed this wall before, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to really explore what continues to draw me to it.

{I used the same Instagram filter on all of these photographs so that the primary difference between them is perspective.}

Mount Fuji on a Monday

There are two views from our Yokohama apartment that I loveā€“the big cloudscaped skies and the symmetrical silhouette of the distant Mount Fuji. And sometimes, on certain evenings in certain light, the two come together and the result is spectacular.

Walking with Friends

Yokohama, Japan. May 10, 2014.

Some days are for walking.

It happens that two of my closest friends were born on the same day, a year apart. Seems like a grand coincidence to me, though I’m sure the astrologers would say that it makes perfect sense.

Every year, when their birthday comes around, I try to spend at least part of the day walking, taking pictures of what their birthday would look like if they could spend it with me, since I am so very rarely able to spend it with either of them. This year, their birthdays fell on a Saturday, a day without obligations, a day I could spend as it chose to unfold, the kind of day that is best spent with friends.

Is it odd that thinking of far away friends can make you more present where you are?

Some of the very best things are odd.

After the Typhoon, Part II

Yokohama, Japan. September 2013.

As is turns out, we slept through typhoon 26 in the safety of our well-engineered apartment tower. We woke in the morning to clear blue skies. On the right, a brilliant rainbow sprouted from the cloud-capped shoulder of Mt. Fuji. On the left, a daunting wall of grey rain and clouds hovered over the bay. I wasn’t sure if we had missed the typhoon or if it was just about to arrive.

Before long, we learned that the worst of the storm passed through a couple of hours earlier, between 5 and 6 am, leaving only the uncommonly clear skies of an atmosphere scrubbed zealously clean.

But elsewhere in Japan, Typhoon 26 caused landslides that killed at least 17 people. It is a strange and heavy thing, to sleep restfully through something others will never awake from.

These are the last photos from after Typhoon 18, the ones that I took with my regular camera. The wake of the storm, the day laid to rest.

After the Typhoon, Part I

Yokohama, Japan. September 2013.

We are expecting a typhoon tomorrow. Typhoon Wipha, number 26. A big one. A once-in-ten-years kind of blow-down throw-down. Apparently the last time a storm of this magnitude came through, they had to pick up the front gate of our school down the street from the parking lot of the gymnasium. School has been cancelled, we bought some groceries and are battened down for the night.

There was another typhoon, number 18, in September. In its wake, the particulates of industry were washed out of the air, nature’s version of high-definition clarity. The windows were covered in dried-in-place drops of salt sea-brine, and as the sun set, the colors lit up a cloud-painted sky.

Over Under

Yokohama, Japan. April 2012.

This is how we go. To move in Yokohama is to go over or under; it is a city of overpasses and underpasses, of foot bridges and elevated highways and subway trains. Much of the city is built of land reclaimed from the sea, seamed together with waterways and canals under a network of pathways held up in the air by riveted pillars and boxy beams, a strangely graceful curvature of concrete and metal woven into a future as it was imagined in the industrial age.

Over and under we go.

Skylines

Yokohama, Japan. Fall 2012.

When we started apartment hunting in Yokohama, we had some criteria about space and number of rooms and location – proximity to work, to the metro, to grocery stores. When we rented a place facing away from the bay, we thought we were giving up the view. We were told that we would have a view of Mt.Fuji in the winter, but we couldn’t see it in August. What we didn’t count on is the beauty of Yokohama’s atmospherics. The clouds over Yokohama are exceptional, and the magic-hour twilights imbue even the dreariest of urban landscapes with something near sublime.

These are photographs taken from our balcony. It’s the clouds that get me. They look like they spun up out of a Lawren Harris painting, or else it’s the colors of the sunset, the impossibly dramatic combinations of steely blues and greys with burnt pinks, the glowing embers of a sky on fire somewhere just over the horizon. We can see Mt.Fuji, by the way, but that’s another story.