As I approach my upcoming trip to Japan, I figured I should look back and see where I’ve been, especially now that I’ve been able to load my over 15,000 images taken since 1999 using digital cameras into Lightroom.  At some point, I’ll have to go back and organize my trips to Europe and the like, and I have plans to scan in my negatives from the film days too – but with less than a week before I take to the skys, I guess I should focus on my current destination.

One of the things I have a hard time with when it comes to photos is picking out the best ones.  I’m not one to throw a photo away, and even if it didn’t turn out it may have some sentimental value to it.  But sitting through a slideshow of over 1000 photos is mind numbing, no matter how great they might be.  Posting photos to a blog is a great way to mentally force yourself to pick the best shots you want to show everyone.

Hopefully I can accomplish just that – while it’s difficult to pick out which ones are the “best”, as they all evoke memories of where I’ve been and ultimately where I hope one day to return, I’m going to put post just a few photos from those prior trips, that I feel especially worth review.     If you’re lucky, I’ll actually remember when and where the photo was taken!

Anyways, with all that said – here are a few photos from my trip to Japan in August, 2008.  Also – I am trying something new for importing the photos – you should be able to click on them to open up a larger size, if you wish.  If you’re on a slow connection, maybe this isn’t a good idea; guess we’ll see.

When I arrived in August of 2008, I spent five nights in Tokyo soaking it all in.  These first four shots are from those first few days while wandering around Tokyo.  This first shot is what I use as my computer desktop background to this very day.

I was shooting with a Canon SD950 IS, a 12mp camera which while very good did not have the zoom I had hoped for.  However, for a point and shoot, it did turn out some good shots, so I can’t complain.

After reading all the travel books you could possibly get your hands on, and all the websites (in english, anyways) to do with Japan, I had made up my mind to head to Takayama and Matsumoto for a couple of nights each and stay in some traditional Ryokan with Onsen.  I will admit to being a bit reserved when it comes to public baths, but as it turned out I didn’t have to worry about it.  The Ryokan in Matsumoto wasn’t busy at all (I was the only person the first night, with a couple arriving to stay the second night), and the Ryokan in Takayama had an Onsen that could be “locked” when in use.  So, one issue averted – or rather, delayed until a future trip.  😉

My first stop was Matsumoto, where I took in what appears to be the town mascot (giant frog?) in a market area known as Kaeru – which means “to buy” and “frog” (don’t ask), and the famous Matsumoto Castle – the main draw.

I had planned to stay two nights here before heading through the mountains to Takayama, the first full day of which I would head to Tsumago by train and hike to Magome along a trail which was part of the former Nakasendo in Kiso Value.

These are post towns in the Edo Period, and connected Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto.

One of the sad parts of my trip in 2008 was the fact that I lost several photos – and still haven’t recovered them all.  I blame cheap SD cards, combined with a Digital Media Bank – something I bought to store photos from my SD cards on.  Ultimately, I believe the media drive cooked the SD card, as I experienced lots of lock ups and multiple hours worth of “copying”.  My advice?  Don’t bother.  If you take enough photos to need that many memory cards, take your computer, and an external hard drive.  It’s worth the weight to know your photos are “safe”.

Many of my lost photos were around this period in time – Matsumoto to Takayama, before I gave up media bank and the “bad” SD cards and “moved on”….

In Takayama, I found these two statues, which having shown to a few people are apparently quite well known.  They are situated across from each other, overlooking the canal running through town.

As fortune would have it, there was a festival of some kind going on in Takayama around this time and I got to witness it the second night I stayed there.  This photo almost got me published.  ;-(  They’re making grilled Takoyaki Balls, a very common street-eats, made of octopus, dashi, eggs, scallions, ginger, flour – and god knows what else.  Tasted great, though.

The main canal that runs through town is kept clean enough for people to safely frolic without fear of contamination as a result of the corporative effort of all towns people to keep it clean, and regularly weed it out.  Great what a community can do when they put their minds to it and actually care….

Lastly, a couple of shots from one of the temple walks in Takayama.  This is the type of stuff you expect to see all over Japan – and you actually do.

Well, that ends this post.  Hope you enjoyed my first week in Japan, August 2008.  We’ll see what I can find tomorrow to keep this going….