We’ve been in Japan now for about 5 days. Mostly in Tokyo, though the last couple days were spent in Osaka and Kyoto, utilizing our JR Rail Passes. I almost blitzed to Kobe for the afternoon but got caught up on the world’s largest ferris wheel in Osaka. I didn’t know I was afraid of heights until this trip, where I have managed to induce vertigo about 5 times. We’ll be in Tokyo for the rest of the week, staying in a pretty crazy part of Shinjuku.
The trip thus far has been amazing. The weather — especially compared to two years ago — has been really cooperative. We’ve gotten lost many times; usually the result of me half-remembering where something is from last time. I can speak enough Japanese to ask for directions, but not quite enough to fully understand the answer. This usually results in us basically bouncing between locals until we happen upon our destination. I refer to this process as Lost Alex’s Local Japanese Pinball. Travel companions generally do not find this amusing.
Right now I’m packing for my trip to Japan tomorrow. I will be in Tokyo for 10 days, exploring and adventuring around with a photographer friend. It will be my second time visiting Tokyo (I went by myself for two weeks in 2008). Since I’ve been before, my to-do list this time is quite different from the last; I plowed through about three guidebooks worth of tourist attractions last time. With this trip, I am going to try and stay off the beaten path and explore parts of Tokyo I either missed or hadn’t heard about yet.
I’ll also be focusing a lot more on my photography. I was shooting from the hip with my D40 two years ago (gallery) — this time I’ll take a little more care and consideration with my shots. I’ll be carting the MKII with me everywhere and will be posting periodic pictures and travel updates. My Twitter should also be fairly active with Tokyo related musings.
I’ll definitely be on the lookout for all sorts of design related artifcats and thingamabobs. If anyone has any Tokyo recommendations along these lines, I am all ears.
I’ve just finished packing for tomorrow’s trip to Amsterdam where I’ll be speaking at FITC (sorry, the event has sold out). I’ll be talking about my background and theory along with some in depth process stuff, should be fun. I am not sure if they’re taping, I’ll check when I get there.
I’ll be bringing along my D80 and trying to get some good shots during my week there. I was going through some photos from last year’s trip and it really inspired me to get back into photography. I’ve been super busy with music and design lately so the only work the D80 has been doing lately is product photography stuff so it will be nice to give it a workout in such a beautiful place. Seeing those old pictures also reminded me that I need to get them up; I stopped posting halfway through an around the world trip I took a couple years back and there’s a lot of shots left to process and post (like the wing over Stockholm above).
I’m back in San Francisco after a very long trip home (around 20 hours over three flights) from Tromsø, Norway. It was great doing the workshop and playing at Insomnia; I really appreciate everyone coming out. Unfortunately I was sick almost the whole time so I didn’t get to see and do as much as I’d have liked while in this amazing place. But thanks to my gracious hosts — Annette and Simen, who went out of their way to show me around — I was able to get out and experience some of what Tromsø has to offer. I honestly had no idea what to expect from this place; I’d been so busy that I never had the chance to do any research before I left. Saying I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement to say the least — Tromsø is absolutely one of the most interesting and beautiful places I’ve ever had the good fortune to visit. It’s the sort of alpine paradise that conjures up idealized notions of northern Europe in the 60’s. In fact, Röyksopp hail from Tromsø and it certainly shows in their Epel video (below). I felt like I was living it when I took the gondola up the mountain.
For starters, it’s a city rich in quality design and typography, thanks in part to Tank (pronounced “Tonk”), an Oslo-based design shop founded by Tromsø natives who have now returned and formed a satellite office in their home town. They’ve designed everything from packaging for the locally brewed Mack beer to the beautifully executed branding for local cafe Kaffebønna (which now sits squarely in my top 5 worldwide list for best coffee shops — worth a visit for the awesome pricing signage alone). Incidentally, Tank’s Tromsø office sits directly above another excellent cafe, Circa, which serves up some of the best sandwiches and tea I’ve had in a while. And by the way, all that amazing furniture we have to pay and arm and a leg for here in the states? It’s everywhere in Norway… Even the smallest cafe will have some incredible couch chilling in the corner that only rich art director types have over here.
But beyond all of the man-made fare, the real attraction is the natural beauty. Tromsø is situated right above the arctic circle and, as a result, the scenery is nothing short of stunning. Sharp, snow-covered mountain peaks jutting out from sea-level make for some of the most dramatic and breathtaking scenery I’ve ever laid eyes or lens on. Sadly, the days are very short at this time of the year. That, coupled with the fact that I spent most of my time sweating out a fever in bed, means I only got a couple hours of shooting in. But that’s all the more reason for a return trip, which I’ve already begun planning.
So thanks again to everyone from Tromsø for showing me a great time. And if you have the chance, I highly recommend a visit — I feel very lucky to have stumbled into this incredible place. Oh, and if you don’t have time to visit, you can live the experience vicariously through one of my all time favorite music videos:
P.S. Anyone know where I can buy these Fribol Herbal Drops in the US? I got them in Norway, they’re amazing and I can’t find a similar alternative here. Although I assume since they actually work and contain neither sugar nor drugs, they’re most certainly illegal in the states.
Thanks to everyone for coming out to the workshop last night, I had a great time talking with you and meeting everyone afterwards. Also thanks to Heydays who spoke at the event and designed the die-cut poster (above); very inspiring work which I’ll be posting more on soon.
I haven’t had a chance to take many pictures yet but I did get to tour the offices of Tank Design who had some very interesting artifacts all around.
It’s been a great time so far — in spite of my being sick the whole time. I’m resting up for the Tycho set at Insomnia tonight, hope to see you out there!
After a very long couple days, I’m finally here in Tromsø for Insomnia. Please excuse the bad photo, there were these incredible landscapes on the way in but all I had was my little Canon Elph and it was very dark. As you can see, the Elph doesn’t handle it very well… Suffices to say, the pic doesn’t do this place justice; I’ve never seen anything like the view from the plane tonight. I have the big Nikon out now and hopefully I can get some good shots of all the amazing design and typography here over the next few days and maybe some better landscapes on the way out. I walked around a little bit this evening and this place is incredible. It seems almost fake, I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t anything close to this. Wish I was staying longer.
Just a quick note about the video situation a lot of you were asking about in the workshop post: I will see what the organizers have planned tomorrow, but I’m not sure if they are set up to record. I will be doing similar workshops in Amsterdam and Toronto coming up though so I will try to get one of those taped properly.
Time to rest up for tomorrow, my sleep schedule is all wrong right now. Hope to see some of you tomorrow at the workshop.
So I’m back home after my nice little break, it feels good. Luckily the weather here in San Francisco today is sunny so it’s not such a huge change from Tulum (although it’s about 20°F cooler). I had a great time and got some good shots with the little Canon Elf but I did miss having my D80 along. It was nice to not have to lug around a big DSLR, but the handheld just didn’t cut it for a lot of the shots. I’ll try posting up some of the better ones this week. Now it’s time to start sifting through the email and get back into work mode…
So a couple of months ago I realized that I haven’t really been on a real vacation in my entire adult life. Sure, I went on that trip with my brother a couple years back, but there was a fair amount of business mixed in there and the rest of the time it was more about seeing and doing everything we could and less about relaxing. My neighbors got married in Tulum, Mexico a couple years ago and all of the stories and pictures they came back with made the place seem amazing. Fast forward to a couple months ago and throw pig flu into the mix and you have a cheap, awesome vacation in a tropical paradise. We’re flying into Cancun then driving down to Playa Del Carmen for the first few nights and then it’s on to Tulum. Staying at this awesome hotel called “Basico”. Looks very well designed.
In keeping with the vacation spirit I have decided not to bring my laptop or the big camera. I know I will regret this at some point, but sometimes you need a break from everything and with those two things anywhere near me I just start thinking about work. I will be bringing my little Canon Elf which can take HD video and does a surprising job at still photos for how small it is. Besides, it’s a pretty good feeling knowing I’m going to be leaving tomorrow morning for a week and everything I need will fit in a carry-on shoulder bag. I think that fact alone is enough to make up for leaving the D80 behind.
So I’ll be leaving the blog posting in Jakub and Alex’s capable hands for the next week. I will have my iPhone so I’ll probably post some stuff up to Twitter now and then. And hopefully the site itself doesn’t completely implode — if you didn’t notice today (what timing!) we had a lot of server issues which seem to have been resolved for the time being. Anyways, see you all in a week, time to disconnect from the matrix for a while…