The People: Japan

Posted by Scott

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After all the shots of objects from Japan I thought I would do a post on the people themselves.  Although the aesthetic elements of Japan were overwhelmingly pleasing, the people and the culture are what had the most profound impact on my stay there.  Let me preface this by saying that any of these observations are obviously subjective as they are based on my limited exposure to one city during a 6 day period.  I tried to see as many parts of Tokyo as I could and we usually traveled with local friends to insure we didn’t just see the tourist perspective. 

I was amazed by how polite and hard working the people there seemed to be.  The city itself borders on some sort of quasi-utopian vision of how good things could be in some alternate universe. It had it’s dark side as any city does, but by in large it’s just an incredibly clean and efficient place.   Everyone we came into contact with was friendly and would go out of their way to help with anything you need.  The service industry was something otherworldly, I have never experienced such courteous and attentive service anywhere else.  The craziest part was they WILL NOT accept tips. We spent the first 2 days trying to tip cab drivers and waiters to no avail.  Each time we left a tip on the table after a meal we were literally chased down outside the restaurant and informed that we had left money.  No amount of explaining would convince them to keep the money.   There is a significant language barrier but the courteous nature of the people we encountered usually overcame that obstacle through sheer diligence.   There were workers everywhere doing all manner of tasks at any given time.  Three people would be employed just to wave cars out of a parking garage and there were police and security guards posted everywhere in the city.  They must be approaching 100% employment from the looks of things.  I counted about 5 homeless people the entire time I was there. 

Again these observations are all extremely subjective, my stay was limited to a short time frame and a small geographic area.  But the same could be said for any of my stays in various American cities and none of them managed to appear so close to perfection as Tokyo.  I can wholeheartedly recommend visiting Tokyo, you’ll find a great dose of culture and excitement.  Make sure to save up though, that place is expensive.  $12 beers anyone?   I guess you get what you pay for though.

I am still rounding up and processing all the shots from the Tsuiki Fish Market, I’ll be posting those soon along with a lot of good ones from Bangkok,  a visually stunning experience to be certain.

19 Comments Leave A Comment


Alex Cornell says:

January 10, 2008 at 12:41 am

Wow Scott these shots are beautiful! You have absolutely inspired me to plan my own trip to Tokyo. I was wondering, which camera have you been using to take these shots? You mentioned the Lomo, but isn’t film? I thought you might be using a digital just given how quickly you post the pics. thanks


Marc says:

January 10, 2008 at 8:37 am

Welcome to Asia! Service, service, service. It’s so different from the US. I’ve been to quite a few countries in Asia and tips are just out of the question, and I think the way people view their employment is so different from here—I’ve never seen “MacDonald’s” employees so well dressed as I did in China and Taiwan…but it’s like that all over the Far East.

I’ve enjoyed all the photos so far. Keep them coming!


jon says:

January 10, 2008 at 9:31 am

Another wonderful set. I’d actually love to see a tutorial on how you got these colours/tones in photoshop!

Keep em coming!


greg says:

January 10, 2008 at 10:57 am

Thanks for the insight. Tokyo is definitely high on my list of places to visit, and it may have just gotten bumped up a few spots.


Scott says:

January 10, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Thanks everyone, glad you enjoyed the shots… I have been using a Nikon D80 the entire time working at 640-1000 ISO speeds depending on the lighting situation. The D80 handles the high ISO’s pretty well with minimal noise. The grain you are seeing is a result of photoshop post work, I try to make the digital stuff look like Lomo / film X-process style…. want to have my cake and eat it too ;) Nikon has a great dynamic range filter on the newer DSLRs that really make the low end pop. Most of the color correction is shadow work in the color balance dialogue. I brought a Lomo but to tell the truth, I have been having so much fun with the Nikon that I haven’t used it yet.


Jug says:

January 10, 2008 at 3:32 pm

The photo of the man and the little boy…what are they sitting on? For some reason, it doesn’t look like they’re sitting directly on the ground (but slightly higher up). Unless I’m mistaken..


Vincent says:

January 11, 2008 at 11:21 am

I don’t think your choice of colors represent well Japan though. You make it look as if everything was very warm. I totally felt the opposite in my trip to Japan… everything was cold! Except for the weather of course. I just though I’d let some readers know that what you see isn’t always what you get. Don’t get me wrong, all the pictures look fantastic. Keep up the great work :)


elly says:

January 11, 2008 at 10:13 pm

I’m from Japan.I’m Japanese and live in Tokyo.
Photos are just it!! Just the TOKYO.
But I was born in Osaka.
I hope visit Osaka next time. Osaka is full of the Latin cultural.

I sometimes visit this website.
I like your sense very mush!!!


Scott says:

January 12, 2008 at 4:02 am

I have to disagree with you…..Everywhere I went in Tokyo I found warmth and kindness. The people were very friendly and willing to help. Yes, I do agree that the city can look cold and modern from a distance, but this set of photos was meant to convey the vibe I got from the people, so I chose to represent them in a warmer light. I have many more photos on the way and when it made sense I chose a colder spectrum. I guess the main thing I got out of Japan was the visual richness, and to me that means vibrant colors and warm tones.
Thailand is off the charts with warmth and color, so I’ve actually found myself having to reign in the reds and yellows in a lot of the shots or it just feels overdone.


Vincent says:

January 12, 2008 at 2:44 pm

I actually saw more pictures after my latest post and you indeed managed to capture some various tones of the corporate Japan. I’ll make sure to view your upcoming posts. Thanks for the various Tokyo branding pics, good memories! Have a great time.


Reagan says:

January 14, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Yo Scott, those are some amazing images. I’m having major flash backs of my trip out there. Out of the places I’ve been, Tokyo no doubt left the biggest impression on me. It touches on every sense. Can’t wait to see the fish market shots.


Kelvin says:

January 14, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Hi there Scott, care to share what kinda processes you use for the post production in photoshop? The mood and feel of the results are great.


Anonymous says:

January 16, 2008 at 1:22 am

If you spend enough time in Japan, especially big city Japan, you start to realize what you miss from home — how the attentiveness is really a mask for passive aggressive. I’m glad you enjoyed it, but don’t think that everything is all milk and honey from a 6 day trip.

It has its qualities, but a 6 day trip won’t give you much more than a cursory flirtation with Japan.


Joey says:

January 29, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Nice photos. I’m off to Japan day after tomorrow.

$12 beers? Were you drinking in a bar with those naked girls swimming in the fish tank?
I’ve been to Japan hundreds of times and found beer was quite cheap and great quality. Beer is relatively cheap here in Australia (about $3-4) but the food and beer in Tokyo were even cheaper than in Sydney.
Scott, next time you should go to Japan with me.