Wild Places and Wild Music Reprise

In the previous post for my exhibition, I think most people only saw the poster.  They didn’t realise the post included 28 images for the prints on exhibition plus an extra ten.  If that’s you or you didn’t see that post:

Click here or go to previous post for Online Exhibition with 38 images.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A2:  Pencil Pines on Cradle Plateau,
Overland Track, Tasmania, August 2017
Fujifilm X-T2, 55-200mm f3.5-4.8
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

(One of the 38).

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Wild Places and Wild Music

Both an actual and a virtual exhibition…

As you can see, I am about to hold an exhibition.  For those who cannot attend, I am holding a concurrent virtual exhibition here in this thread.  You can if you wish, purchase an A3+ print of any of the images below.  A3+ is larger than A3, actually an American size also called Super B, 13″ x 19″ or 329mm x 483mm.

All Prints $A90.

Free postage in Australia and New Zealand.  $10 for US, Canada, UK and Northern Europe.  For other countries, please enquire.  If you are interested in purchasing a print, make a comment below or send an email to zenophon@iinet.net.au.  If you are in Canberra, there’s the exhibition at Smith’s Alternative.

All images were taken and processed by me and also custom printed by me to a professional standard.

Note that there will be some difference between the images on screen and the prints because you are looking at a projected image rather than an image on paper, and your screen may not be calibrated.

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Links below the images go to corresponding colour posts in this Blog. even in the case of monochrome images, because the colour posts have more information.

If you click on an image, instead of 640 x 640 px, as you see on the page, it opens much larger to 1900 x 1900 px.

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Wild Places

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The following images correspond to prints in the actual exhibition (rows A and B).  They are from Victoria, Tasmania, South Georgia, Falkland Islands, Hokkaido (Japan), Iceland, Easter Island, Patagonia, Madagascar and Ladakh (far north India).

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A1:  Path to the Sand Dunes
Point Hicks, Victoria, November 2016
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 macro
Epson P800, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A2:  Pencil Pines on Cradle Plateau,
Overland Track, Tasmania, August 2017
Fujifilm X-T2, 55-200mm f3.5-4.8
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A3:  Penguins in front of mountain range
Right Whale Bay, South Georgia, November 2015
Nikon D3s, 85mm f1,4
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A4:  Red-crowned cranes at dawn (-26ºC)
Otowa Bridge, near Kushiro Wetlands, Hokkaido, February 2012
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8 + TC20E III (stitched panorama)
Epson P800, Canson Arches Aquarelle Photo Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A5:  Hokkaido Trees (planet view – link goes to original image)
Hokkaido, Japan, February 2012
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8 + TC20E III
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk .

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
A6:  Hofsjökull icecap
Central Highlands, Iceland, September 2013
Nikon D800, 300mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
A7:  Wake of Ketch
Wineglass Bay Sail Walk, Tasmania, September 2017
Fujifilm X-T2, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A8:  Lone Moai at Ranu Raraku
Easter Island, April 2011
Nikon D3, 105mm f2
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A9:  Verraux’s Sifaka in tree
Berenty Nature Reserve, Madagascar, October 2015
Fujifilm X-E2 (Infrared), 55-200mm f3.5-4.8
Epson P800, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B1:  Stellar’s Sea Eagle over ice and snow
Nemoro Strait, north of Hokkaido, Japan, February 2012
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8 + TC14E II
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B2:  Whooper swans
Lake Kussharo, Hokkaido, Japan, February 2012
Nikon D3, 180mm f2.8
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B3:  Huemul Glacier and Mt Fitzroy behind
North of El Chalten, Argentina/ Patagonia, March 2011
Nikon D3s, 180mm f2.8
Epson P800, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B4:  Panther chameleon capturing insect
Peyrieras Nature reserve, Madagascar, October 2015
Nikon D3s, 85mm f1,4
Epson P800, Canson Museo Portfolio Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B5:  Rockhopper penguin with nesting material
Berkeley Sound, Falkland Islands, November 2015
Nikon D800, 300mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson PrintMaKing Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B6:  Ponies returning to Rumbak Village
Hemis National Park, Ladakh, far north India, January 2018
Fujifilm X-T2, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B7:  Ana Kakenga (lava tube)
Easter Island, April 2011
Nikon D3, 14-24mm @ 14mm, ISO200, 1/250 sec f4
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B8:  Stars at night near Rumbak Village
Hemis National Park, Ladakh, far north India, February 2018
Fujifilm X-T2, 14mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

 

B9:  Walking in to Rumbak Village
Hemis National Park, Ladakh, far north India, February 2018
Fujifilm X-T2, 56mm f1.2
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Extra Wild Places

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I have also included some additional images below from South West Canyonlands (US), St Kilda (Scotland), Antarctica, South Australia, Greenland and Hawaii.  They are also available for purchase.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP1:  Antelope Canyon
Arizona, October 2014
Fujifilm X-T1, 55-200mm f3.5-4.9
Epson P800, Canson PrintMaKing Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP2:  Main Street, Hirta Village
St Kilda, Scotland, July 2013
Nikon D800, 85mm f1.4, R72 Infrared filter
Epson 3880, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
XP3: Salt bush country near Oonatra Creek
Boolcoomatta Station, South Australia, March 2015
Fujifilm X-E2 14mm f2.8
Epson 3880, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP4:  Deception Island from Ship
Deception Island, Antarctica, March 2011
Nikon D3s 300mm f2.8 (stitched panorama)
Epson P800, Canson PrintMaKing Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP5:  Polar Bear on Ice Floe
Greenland Sea, August 2013
Nikon D3s, 300mm f2.8 + TC20E III, ISO1250, 1/2500 sec f11
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP6:  Red crowned cranes in mating dance
Akan international Crane Centre, Hokkaido, Japan, February 2012
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8 + TC14E II
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP7:  Na Pali Coast from helicopter
Kauai, Hawaii, March 2015
Nikon D800, Sigma 35mm f1.4
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Wild Music

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These are mainly images from the Blues Festivals I have been Official Photographer for, over the last ten or twelve years. (Once again, $A90 each, should you want to order prints).

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

C1:  Darren Jack
Thredbo Blues Festival 2012
Nikon D3s, 85mm f1.4
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

C2:  Dallas Frasca
Down by the River Festival, Wangaratta, March 2018
Fujifilm X-T2, 80mm f2/8 macro
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

C3: Guitarist, The Tommyhawks
Narooma Blues Festival 2015
Nikon D3s, 180mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

C4:  Tomcat Playground
Sydney Blues Festival 2016
Nikon D800, 14-24mm
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
C5:  Ian Moss
Sydney Blues Festival 2012
Nikon D800, 180mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

D1:  Rick Estrin, Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
Narooma Blues Festival 2014
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson PrintMaKing Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

D2:  Dutch Tilders
Rose Cottage Canberra, March 2008
Nikon D3, 180mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson Museo Portfolio Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

 

D3:  Leesa Gentz, Hussy Hicks
Sydney Blues and Roots Festival 2017
Nikon D3s, 105mm f2
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

D4: Rosscoe Clark
Sydney Blues and Roots Festival 2017
Nikon D800, 50mm f1.4
Epson P800, Canson Arches Aquarelle Photo Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
D5:  Brian Cadd, Cadd and Morris
Narooma Blues Festival 2009
Nikon D3, 300mm f4
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.
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Extra Wild Music

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A few more that aren’t in the actual exhibition, including one from Cuba.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XM1:  Kid Anderson, Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
Narooma Blues Festival 2014
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson PrintMaKing Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XM2:  Turner Brown Band
Blues on Broadbeach 2017
Fuji X-T2, 10-24mm
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XM4:  Street musician
Havana, Cuba, September 2016
Fuji X-Pro2, 56mm f1,2
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Monochrome and Infrared

Here are links to the posts on my blog that contain monochrome and infrared images.  The infrared images can either be monochrome or colour.

. Ring around the moon, Canberra, June 2014 Perversely, I am illustrating this post with a colour photograph that probably includes the night-time equivalent of a rainbow (though it looks almost monochromatic).

Searching for a More Benign Dystopia

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Myoshin-Ji temple complex, Kyoto

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Toranokowatashi Garden (“Young tigers crossing the water”), Nanzen-Ji, Kyoto

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There is a long history of activist photographers championing the preservation of the environment.  In Australia, Olegas Truchanas and Peter Dombrovskis produced images showing Tasmanian wilderness under threat in association with the Tasmanian Wilderness Society.  For that matter, in the US there was also Ansell Adams, in association with the Sierra Club.  The images of Japan here show both historical traditions and the wildlife and environment that we must protect from the depredations of the world today.

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Pathway to Honen-In gate, Kyoto

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Much of the developed world is currently in a self-inflicted economic crisis caused by irresponsible economic policies. While this is not the same thing as unsustainable development, the causes are at least in part related.

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Diabutsuden, the Great Bhudda Hall, part of the Todai-ji Temple complex, Nara

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So where does Japan fit into this, how is it doing generally at the moment and what might the future hold?

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Otaru Lantern Festival

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Otaru Lantern Festival

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Japan is well placed in some respects and not so well in others.  One of the areas of concern is the level of debt.  Japan’s debt is over 200% of their GDP, the highest of any country in the world according to the IMF and much higher than Greece for example.  Unlike Greece, though, Japan has the third largest economy in the world in terms of GDP.

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Kenrokuen Gardens, Kanazawa

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Jigokudani snowscape

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After recovering from the war, Japan grew at impressive rates from the 60s to the 80s until there was a crash in stock market and real estate prices in 1989.  The 1990s were stagnant and growth has been moderate since.  Japan remains a major industrial nation though some of its major corporations appear vulnerable.  We have recently seen Olympus lose hundreds of millions of dollars to corruption and kickbacks.  Sony, one of Japan’s largest corporations, has been losing money for the last four or five years and lost more than six billion dollars in the last financial year.  Panasonic is also under pressure and has a projected loss for this financial year of ten billion dollars.

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Baby macaque at Jigokudani, Nagano

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White-tailed eagle near Kushiro, Hokkaido

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Organised society in Japan started in the few large fertile plains and valleys.  Today much of that fertile farmland is covered by urban sprawl.  Of course Japan is not alone in this though as a mountainous country, Japan has a relatively small proportion of arable land.    Japanese governments have tried to protect their agriculture and encourage agricultural self-sufficiency but with only partial success.  Japan is also not favoured with raw material deposits so its prosperity depends significantly on trade.

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Dawn at Otowa Bridge, near Kushiro, Hokkaido

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Japan is the World’s tenth most populated country (at 120 million) though that level is falling and the population aging.  Japan does not encourage immigration which is probably advantageous for them in this era of increasing ecological pressures.

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Whooper swan at Lake Kussharo, Hokkaido

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Steller’s eagle, Nemuro-kaikyo Strait, near Rausu, Hokkaido

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Where Japan does have an advantage is in a reverence for the environment coupled with a willingness of both Government and the population to undertake longer-term actions for the greater good of all.  Many Western countries are dominated by the illusion of the individual – that nothing should get in the way of the greed of an individual or the rapacity of a corporation.  Japan has its share of corruption and organised criminal activity but even so – the Japanese are more inclined than other developed countries to ameliorate the self gratification of the individual for the benefit of society as a whole.  This may assist them to take more effective action on ecological change.

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Silver birch in farmland near Shari, Hokkaido

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The tradition of reverence for Nature may also assist the Japanese to find more effective paths towards sustainable development.  They have an advantage here over a significant minority of the population of the US and Australia who deny the scientific findings on global warming and have no awareness of sustainability.   The danger here is that mindless exploitation of resources may lead to a illusory pinnacle of prosperity.  A concurrent exhaustion of resources may mean that no changes in individual, corporate or government behaviour can maintain anything like that level of prosperity.

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Tamozawa Imperial Villa, Nikko

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The Government of Japan adopted measures to conserve forests as early as the ninth century.  In the seventeenth century, after one of the fires that devastated Edo (now Tokyo), a Tokugawa shogun was struck by the devastation of forests required for the reconstruction effort.   This led to a system of conservation both enforced from the top and guaranteed from the bottom, as individual families were given long-term responsibility for patches of forest.  However, this responsible attitude doesn’t necessarily extend to the resources of other countries.  Australia, for example, has been harvesting old growth forests to turn into woodchips for paper-making in Japan – partly because the Japanese would not be so foolish at to use their own scarce forest resources in the same way.

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Cornice details, Taiyu-In, Nikko

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Sleeping cat, Tosho-Gu, Nikko

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I read an interesting account recently that suggested that as the Roman Empire expanded it compromised its original agricultural resources and replaced them with newer lands further from the centre of the Empire.  Dacia is one example, for wheat.  Losing some of these remote areas was then a significant factor in the decline of the Empire.

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Ryuzu Falls, near Lake Chuzenji, near Nikko

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Something similar appears to be happening today but the empire is the developed countries’ Empire of Trade.  Many developed countries, including Japan, have compromised their agricultural capacity through industrial development and population growth.  This agricultural capacity is likely to become further compromised over time for reasons including rising population (both in those countries and worldwide), unsuitable agricultural practices, effects of global warming and water shortages.  This may be why countries such as China are currently buying up agricultural land world-wide.  As well as that, demand is greatly increasing due to rising prosperity in China, South-East Asia, India and Latin America.  If agricultural supplies become slowly compromised then trade could become a two-edged sword.  Japan is well placed to deal with this due to its superior social organisation but poorly placed due to its own shortage of agricultural land.

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Lake Chuzenji after sunset

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Kanmangafuchi Abyss, Nikko

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In Conclusion:

Globally, we’re in need of a better dystopia. We’re eating the planet and our future as well. World population is out of control, causing many countries to strip their environment. Developed nations are consuming unsustainable amounts of resources while emerging countries from Asia and Latin America vie to reach the consumption levels of developed countries. Agricultural land and many resources are relatively finite and we’re all so interconnected that no social group or country will be able to hide away for long and pretend they’re not affected.

For a more careful account of these issues see Easter Island – A Parable for Our Times?, especially if you think anything I said above was overstated or inaccurate.  My bibliography for that account is at Easter Island – Wrapup and Contents.

 

Travelling in Japan

Shunko In, Kyoto

Japan can be a wonderful place to travel in. The people are friendly and tolerant of photography and it is one of the safest countries in the world. Many Japanese speak English very well and most speak at least some English. Still, it’s a good idea to know at least some Japanese words.

Room in Sakuraya Guesthouse, Nara

Japan has an ancient and distinctive culture that is intact, offering many ancient places and remarkable experiences.  At the same time, the countryside is very varied with memorable landscapes and wonderful wildlife.

Room in Hotel Mine No Yu, Rausu, Hokkaido

Some people go to Japan and expect to stay in Western-style hotel rooms and eat Western-style food.  Those people are really missing out.  Sometimes it’s necessary to stay in hotels and they can be very good but it’s the traditional Japanese ryokans that offer the best experiences.  It can be a cross between staying in an historic dwelling and a family home.

Room with a view in Shiritoko Daiichi Hotel, Utoro, Hokkaido

Japanese food is very varied.  I didn’t find all of the cheaper options sensational but Japanese meals can be exquisite.  If you don’t try a variety of options you’ll never know what you missed out on.

Thermal baths in Turtle Inn, Nikko

Many ryokans and hotels include onsen or thermal baths and in some places there are private onsen available from the street.  In many cases these use natural thermal water.  They can be either private or communal and in the latter case will be segregated by gender.  Some places I went to had thermal baths that were open to the outside elements and in a couple of occasions I was able to relax in one of these and watch the snow slowly descend in the -10°C night (14°F).  I worked out that the key here was to warm up first in an indoor pool.

Bullet Train, Kyoto

The trains in Japan are incredibly efficient and the bullet trains are a delight.  If you’re going to be traveling widely in Japan it can be a good idea to get a Japan Rail Pass, which you have to purchase before you leave.  There is also a complete set of rail timetables available on the web, which can be very useful.

You don’t want to be struggling with too many large and heavy bags on the train, though.  There’s not much storage space and it’s not necessary.  The Japanese have a wonderful system called Takuhaibin services whereby for a modest charge you can send your heavy luggage on from one ryokan or hotel to the next.

Rental car with special feature of space-saver spare

Trains and walking are generally the best ways to get around.  Buses are often available and taxis can be fairly cheap, though not necessarily to and from the airport which can be a long way.  Rental cars can be an option in country areas, but not, for example, in Tokyo.  It probably helps if you’re used to driving on the left hand side of the road and navigation can be a problem so an English-language GPS is probably essential.

I took along a GPS with a Japan map.  In a town such as Kyoto I’d first make sure I had saved the location of my ryokan or hotel.  Then after walking around for many hours I could turn to the GPS and ask it “How do I get back to where I’m staying?”.

Weather can be quite varied according to what end of the country you are in and the season.  I found a site which lists historical weather in Japan for many towns by month from 1946.  This meant I could know before I left what the likelihood of rain or snow was in a particular place and time of year, as well as what the worst and the best the weather could be.  This helps in knowing what clothes to bring.

29th February: Nikko – Traffic Chaos

Walking on past the Hachiman Temple, I saw a curious chain of events unfolding in front of me.  The truck you see above, an LNG tanker, had been slowly progressing up the hill when its wheels started spinning in the snow and ice and it had to stop at the side of the road.  You can see a couple of cars passing it.

Another truck has come up behind it and there are some cars behind that.  The car on the left is parked at a strange angle and my guess is that it is abandoned after traction problems.

As an aside, it can sometimes be easy to lose track of your camera settings when it is encased in a weather cover.  I suspect I had it on manual and had forgotten to adjust for changing light.  The image out of the camera looked blown, almost completely white.  Image quality would have been better had the exposure been correct but it’s amazing what you can pull out in Lightroom.  Provided, of course, that you are shooting RAW.

Here there is some more traffic coming down the hill past the truck.

Now that they have gone, the second truck pulls out to overtake.  I keep on walking.

The second truck got in trouble too.  Half-way through the passing manoeuvre, wheels started spinning and it slid sideways towards the right hand side of the road.  The road is now completely blocked.  This is the main road through Nikko and there are no side roads to divert through here.  If the road stayed blocked, getting through would require going back about 10 kilometres to the motorway.

Fortunately, when the truck went to try and overtake, the car behind it stayed where it was and did not move up into the vacant space.  The first truck to get stuck, the LNG tanker, was able to carefully slide back and create a space for cars to drive through.

And now the cars are able to continue, directed through by the truck driver from the LNG tanker.  Not enough room for the Kinetsu truck waiting behind though.  I didn’t stay to watch what transpired further.  I had a plane to catch.

It just goes to show that your travel plans need to be appropriate for the conditions.  The previous day was fine as the weather report had predicted.  I would have had no chance of getting up and down the hill to Lake Chuzenji and beyond in these conditions.

Even so, I was concerned that I still had to take the rental car back downtown.  There were some narrow side streets to go through to get there and I really didn’t want to encounter any oncoming traffic on them.  Fortunately I didn’t and I drove very slowly back to the rental car company without any misadventures.

From there, I caught the train back to Tokyo and later that night, a plane back to Australia….

29th February: Nikko – Hachiman Shrine

Here we are at the end of the Kanman Path, at an impressive pedestrian suspension bridge over the Kanmangafuchi Abyss.

On the other side of the bridge there were a few more statues in a park, probably statues of Jizu or else another boatsu.

The snow had become particularly heavy.

I had wanted to explore the Nikko Botanical Gardens but unfortunately they were closed (probably due to the conditions) so I walked on.  The entrance to the Hachiman Shrine is just over the road on the left.  I was glad I was not driving, more of that in the next post.

The entrance to the Hachiman Shrine.

In the grounds of the Hachiman Shrine, this is a minimalist sculpture to the Japanese God of Gardening, dating to the Heisei era.

This boatsu, covered in snow and also at the right of the previous picture, is sitting on a lotus leaf.  Being brass, it has weathered much better than the stone statues.

Meiji Restoration and modern period (1868-1990)

Commodore Perry steamed into Yokahama Harbour in 1854 and forced the opening up of Japan to trade.  Attempted armed resistance merely demonstrated how far behind the West Japan had fallen in its military capacity.  This led to a gradual breakdown of Tokugawa authority and sporadic mini-rebellions until the final eclipse of the Tokugawa government with the Meiji Restoration in 1868. This then produced a remarkable series of changes.

By 1871, all daimyo had surrendered their lands to the Emperor, creating the first centralised political system in Japanese history.  A national army was created from 1873 along Western lines, open to all social classes.  In 1868 there were nearly two million samurai in Japan.  Their rights were slowly restricted until they were forbidden to wear their distinctive hairstyles and carry swords and their identity as a military class was abolished.  Rebellions proved ineffective.

Some Buddhist sects were seen as closely associated with the Tokugawa regime so some sects and temples were suppressed and Shinto was separated out from Buddhism.  The Fuke sect was banned altogether.  These were monks who wandered around Japan wearing a basket over their head and playing a flute.  It sounds like an urban myth but it’s not.  They were a Zen sect who believed in direct spiritual experience by playing a flute while separated from the distractions of the outside world.  The problem was that there had been many samurai and Tokugawa spies passing themselves off as such monks.

During the Meiji period, Japan systematically adopted Western practices in education and in social, industrial and military organisation.  They won a war with China in 1895 and one with Russia in 1906 and were allies with Britain during the First World War.  The period of liberal democracy in the 1920s morphed into military dictatorship and war.  After the Second World War there was a time of hardship and some significant social unrest until Japan became perhaps the World’s most successful economic powerhouse, at least until the end of the 1980s.