Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Fish, Two Fish...

Being the largest city in Japan means that Tokyo is a completely overwhelming place to visit. There is so much to see, do and eat. However exciting it is initially, it can feel too big and I'm ready to leave after 4 or 5 days. I've visited Tokyo 4 times now and without a doubt one of my favorite touristy spots to visit is Tsukiji fish market.

Tsukiji is the world's largest seafood market. If you want to check out the real action its best to get there early... like 5am. (That's when they auction off the tuna). In the last few years the market has been more restricted due to the fact that people are trying to work and having a bunch of gawking tourists probably gets old.

It was quite challenging to take photos that demonstrate how crowded and busy the market truly is. My family and I didn't even make it to Tsukiji until around 8:30am and it was still mobbed.

Obviously there are fish everywhere. More fish then you've ever seen! And in such a wide array of size and color. Surprisingly enough, if you visit in the morning things are fresh and it doesn't smell that fishy.

Everywhere are piles of boxes, people pushing carts carrying boxes and people unpacking boxes.

I love the chaos of the market; people running from stall to stall. Everyone had a job and knew what they needed to do while us tourists tried to take it all in and stay out of their way.

This is a shot looking at the storage areas behind the stalls.

Live crustaceans!

and squid probably not so alive...

One of the most awe-inspiring sights is that of the bluefin tuna. Men running by with the tuna on carts or taking an axe to them or putting a whole frozen tuna through a bandsaw.

In general though, I think one of the best ways to get a sense of a cultural or a country is to visit markets. It's always interesting to see what other people eat and buy at the store. While in Hokkaido we visited a much smaller but still fantastic fish market in Sapporo. The benefit of visiting a market like this is that it's much easier to get around. The market mostly consisted of small stores and a lot of them would give out samples.

Hokkaido is known for its delicious crabs and we saw a lot of them for sale here!

Would you like some octopus? or a package of fresh fish? In Japan there is always an impressive fish section in the market. Usually you can find fish that is sushi grade, fish that is marinated and ready to cook and fish that has already been cooked with a sauce. There's always fresh sushi/sashimi and all kinds of other sealife I wouldn't know what to do with. In addition to the wide variety it is also less expensive to buy fish in Japan.

This guy was on the side of a freezer. As far as I can tell this is an octopus chef on a baked potato.
Two different types of crab and some ikura (salmon eggs). They had a table to sample various types of ikura which made me very happy as it is one of my favorite things to eat over a bowl of rice.

Spiney crab. Making a bid for freedom?

In addition to delicious samples we had the chance to interact more directly with some of the fish market guys. This guy saw us photographing the crabs and went as far as to let us each hold one of the crabs and take photos.

I know it looks really badass but the crab didn't put up much of a fight. The crab guy told us this crab was 16 years old; I guess that's why theses King crabs are so heavy and expensive. Here's Victo, Olivier, Steven and I with the crab! Some of my favorite photos from the trip!

We grabbed some tasty lunch after our perusing. I had a giant bowl of ikura and fresh crab on rice. This also came with a variety of small tasty things; shumai, meatballs, something cooked in tofu skin, white miso soup. It was so good!

Our trip to the market inspired me sooooo much that I started sketching fish and then men from the fish market. I got a little carried away and managed to create enough pieces to put together in a small book/zine. I'll put up some of the images from that next!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monkey See

I'm back in the States! Still trying to get organized... But while I'm doing that I'll have more posts of photos. (I have soooo many) One of the many highlights of my trip was my Aunt B visiting me. We started in Kyoto and traveled Southwest managing to see quite a few cities in a week; my favorites being Miyajima, Matsuyama, and Naoshima. The first day she visited we decided to check out Arashiyama to explore the bamboo forests and the monkey park. Here's my Aunt at the entrance to the park:

The entrance to the park is at at the base of the mountains. Like many places in Japan the tickets are purchased out of a vending machine but then handed to an actual person. After making sure we didn't have any food sticking off of our backpacks we started our climb up the steep path to see the monkeys.

The monkeys were super cute! kawaii! (if you like furry animals with pink butts) but I've seen enough monkey attack videos to know that I didn't want to provoke them and so I made sure to give them plenty of space.

The monkeys seem pretty uninterested in the people walking around, they are mostly occupied with picking up things from the ground to eat and chasing each other.

As we made our way to the top of the mountain we saw the monkeys crowded around a small wooden building with fenced in windows. The monkeys liked to hang out here because from the safety of the building visitors are able to feed the monkeys!

For about 100 yen you can buy a bag of mikan slices, peanuts or apple pieces.

Feed me!

I do not have a photo of me actually feeding the monkey because they are tricky little guys and take the food quickly. But I did actually hold food out on my hand for them to eat.

The monkeys like to run around on the roofs and sides of the building. Sometimes the bigger monkeys would get upset and screech until the other monkeys got out of their way.

I really liked this monkey balancing on the post.

Looking at me!

Action shot!

We went outside to check out the view and I photographed this guy looking introspective by the pool.

Here's the building and my Aunt.

Monkeys on the roof also looking deep in thought.

The view from Arashiyama, which is the most Western part of Kyoto.

It was a beautiful day and here's some of the mountains in the North.

It's me with a one-eyed monkey! No really he only has one eye! He was also extremely camera shy, looking away when I tried to photograph him.

I am finally set up in my studio again with a scanner I can use in English.. this means I will soon be posting more of the work I did on my trip!