Strangers at F1.8

In Tokyo last year I challenged myself to walk up to random strangers on the street and take their portrait. I had a roll of black and white Ilford, and a plastic 50mm lens. I am inherently shy, so asking people if I can take their portrait is pretty intimidating. With my lens choice, I had to be close, and I also wanted to capture engaged (rather than candid) portraits.

These are a few of my favourite ones. I spent quite a while talking to the man in the glasses, after taking about 15 minutes to work up the courage to approach him. He was dressed very eccentrically in bright colours, and was sort of pacing on the spot in Akihabara. He seemed like a real character, but from the way he was moving I wasn’t sure if he had been drinking for a while or not. But I knew I’d kick myself in the butt if I didn’t at least try to ask him. He ended up being really really lovely, and I talked to him for a good 20 minutes. He told me about how he made his own earrings out of metal and bottle tops. He had a very calm, gentle nature and complimented my terrible Japanese. I’m so glad that I got to speak with him and learn a little about his life.


This girl is one of the many school kids who approached me at Asakusa shrine to ask “what is your country” and “what is your favourite Japanese food?” If you have ever been to Asakusa shrine, you will know that being bombarded by school kids is to be expected if you are a foreigner. I think that the English teachers all take their classes there, as this happens literally every time I go. In any case, this girl was part of a group of 5 that were asking me the aforementioned deep and philosophical questions. Because the ice was already broken, I took the opportunity to ask her to take a picture.


I kind of cheated on the last one, it’s my friend’s son. Isn’t he just a nugget! Gorgeous light from the balcony door.


Finally, a non-portrait. This may look like somewhere in developing Asia, but it is actually a game arcade in Kawasaki that is designed and fitted out to look this way. The design is actually more interesting than the games themselves (in my opinion.) It is meant to look like the slums of Hong Kong, and the attention to detail is amazing! To get in you have to cross a misty aqua body of water, carefully stepping on rocks. The doors also make noises as you go through. It’s called Anata No Warehouse (あなたのウェアハウス). I loved the hanging chickens.



Stunning Dayana

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Can we just pause a moment and look at how beautiful this girl is?

I might have a new model crush haha. A while ago now, I did a test with Jimmy Ford, and his girlfriend Dayana came along too. She had only been signed to GTR a few days before, and this was to be her second shoot. As usual, I spent some time at H&M gathering garments for the shoot, but this time I decided to get a hair and makeup artist on board too, to add that extra polish to the images. Que my go-to MUA and super-bro Jyoti Chandra.

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I photographed Jimmy whilst Jyoti worked on Dayana’s makeup. Then we got shooting. Dayana was fantastic, especially for being inexperienced. She wasn’t stiff, and kept moving, experimenting with poses and expressions. We worked through the outfits really quickly, continuing to change garments and lighting.

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I will not be surprised if this face becomes world-famous one day. Dayana was really fun to work with, and I was overwhelmed with how many great frames I had to choose from. Good luck in your career Dayana!

Oh and don’t forget to check out some more of Jyoti’s work too. Clicky click.

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Dodging Puddles

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So much testing lately! But it keeps me on my toes so that’s a good thing. A few agencies have been keeping me busy with model portfolio updates, and I really enjoy working with different talent. I also love getting out on location to shoot- it gets me away from the studio and the computer for a while. Those who know me will also know that I hate looking at screens (yup, I’m in the wrong industry, I know!), but unfortunately there is so much back end and admin work when you freelance, that spending a long time in front of my computer is inevitable. So as I was saying, I embrace the opportunity to work with a model on location, especially if the natural light it working in my favour. Whilst I love my flash, sometimes I just want to streamline the process and not have to worry about positioning the light or deciding how I want to blend it with the ambient. It’s faster just to spin myself or my subject around, or find a great patch of golden sunlight to work with.

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For this reason, I have been getting back to using natural light when doing test shoots on location. Aside from being quicker, I also allows me to work solo and not have to worry about an assistant or bringing a huge pile of gear. It also keeps me reactive, as I have to find the best light around, no matter what the weather is doing.

Shooting with Chloe, recently signed with GTR, provided a lighting challenge for me. We had planned to shoot on a Sunday, as Chloe is still studying, but the weather wasn’t looking the driest.. Huge clouds hung in the sky, and it would occasionally pour with rain. Still, I met Chloe and her mum at the meeting spot and hoped that the rain would hold off.

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As you can probably see from the shots, the rain did subside, and the clouds acted as a huge softbox, which actually worked in our favour. I was really impressed with how Chloe moved, especially being so young. She didn’t need any warming up and just got straight into it. She seemed really aware of her body and the shapes she could make, and took direction well too.

I styled the shoot myself (something I have recently started doing, and that I am loving!) and I loved the colour palette of the garments I had chosen. I think they suited Chloe well too. The tough bit was not keeping everything, as some of the pieces were super cute (I’m looking at you blue and white shorts…)

When we were shooting our last shot, a friendly walker stopped to comment that “the model had arrived” (referring to himself.) I played along, asking him to get in the shot and pose, which he completely didn’t expect. I think he loved it though. Haha.

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Thanks Chloe for a fabulous shoot, looking forward to working with you again soon!

Chloe is represented by GTR.


New World Soul Fashion Shw

Photographing a fashion show is always an exciting time. Being backstage with the models and hair/makeup teams, feeling their excitement and nerves, you really get a buzz from being a part of it. In December, just as the weather started to warm up, I shot for Upper Volta’s latest fashion event, New World Soul. Having done their campaign photography, I was also given the honour of being the official photographer! That meant that I got to boss everyone around and elbow other photographers out of the way in the media pit (just joking!)


The event was held at Clifton Street Market in Prahran, which is an amazing warehouse space. It was the same location that we shot the campaign shots in. Look at my photo gracing the homepage of their website! ^_^


I arrived around 6pm, but the models and hair and makeup teams had already done a few hard hours. There were around 40 models, so to have everyone ready on time they had to start early. As soon as I entered the building I was stopped in my track, because my photos were printed HUGE on fabric, and were suspended from the mezzanine! One portrait was taller than me, and there were 8 of them! There was also a full lenght shot that would have easily been three metres high. I was thrilled, they looked brilliant! My shot was also on the little brochures for the afterparty- it looked great with the copy on it, and I was not-so-secretly chuffed.

I took a lot of backstage photos of everyone doing their thing- relaxing, getting their hair done, and eating the amazing food that was provided. A lot of the models recognised me from previous shoots, so it was nice to catch up and have a little chat. I even got to wear a KWAMEE t-shirt to feel like part of the crew.

Whilst there was still daylight, I tried to capture a raw portrait of each model. I didn’t quite get everyone because of all the commotion. I love the diversity of faces that Kwamee had chosen to walk the runway.

Finally it was nearing start time, and guests started to arrive. Champagne was served, lights were dimmed, and backstage we were hushed. It was really tricky to shoot the runway, because it was incredibly dark, there was no spotlight at the spot where the models were to stop, and it was totally backlit. Add a heavy smoke machine, and you’ve got a recipe for trouble. I prefer not to use flash in these types of events, because it can kill the mood and atmosphere of the shot. So I ended up using two cameras; one with a fast lens to capture the models as they were walking, and one with a slower lens, but with flash, to grab them as they posed on ‘the spot.’ I probably looked like a maniac switching between two cameras constantly, but luckily there was a table right next to me that I could rest one of them on when needed.

Needless to say, my arms were pretty buff afterwards.

At the end of the show, everyone cheered and I overheard lots of the audience complimenting the designs. Kwamee even made a little speech to thank everyone for coming. I know he’s a little shy so it was great to see the relief on his face when he felt that the event had gone well.

A few days later, my shots started appearing on the designer’s instagram page. There are many many shots, so please go and check some more out here.


RAW Awakening

Well, after many stresses, RAW Awakening is done and dusted. After thinking ‘it’s not for a long time, I have ages to prepare,’ the entire night surged forward and then disappeared into the distance just as quickly. It snuck up on me so fast, especially as I had been booked for 8 days of assisting work at a time when I was supposed to be preparing. In any case, I was excited to set up my little RAW wall, and have everyone come and point their eyeballs at my photographs.

The day started out happily, with my (un-prepared) interview going well. (You’ll have to wait a few weeks to see that one. #Rawkward) I then had to pick up a few last minute items before collecting the boyfriend and driving back to the exhibition building to begin setting up. This is where things turned haywire.

No method of attaching my work to the walls resulted in my work being attached to the walls. Failing at life.

After 4 hours of stressful, sweaty, emotional, painstakingly slow, horrible, miserable, failed attempts at hanging my prints and mounts to the temporary metal fences, I was on the verge of giving up. Thank god for boyfriends who use reverse psychology to spur me into an angry determination to succeed. If it wasn’t for my boy, giving up there and then would have been highly likely. But his idea of buying bulldog clips from officeworks was a lifesaver.

I had just enough time to race home and eat a home-made hamburger (with boyfriend’s secret sauce) before returning ‘fashionably late’ before anyone noticed I was missing.



In the end, the night was so much fun, and I felt so special having friends, family, work colleagues, and complete strangers compliment my work. My mum even pretended to be a random stranger so she could eavesdrop on people’s comments. Then she would report back to me with their top secret feedback. Bless.

I realised once I had taken the entire thing down, that I forgot to put up my little print with the names of everyone who supported me by purchasing a ticket for the night. So here it is in the eternal/permanent records of the internet.


Thank you to everyone who supported me buy either buying a ticket to the event, or just wishing me good luck. I had an amazing time showcasing my work, and can’t wait to create some new pieces to share with the world!


How To Meet People From ‘The Internet’

Last night it rained, and it was still cloudy when I got up this morning. It isn’t cold enough to snow anymore, and I don’t know if I’m glad or disappointed about it. I had a bit of a slow start this morning, having nothing planned until 5pm, when I would meet a new friend for coffee. So I answered emails and browsed the internet for interesting non-touristy things to do. Eventually I decided to visit a gallery near Akihabara, which I’d been meaning to go to for a while. It was having a uni graduate art exhibition about ‘bio art.’ Sounded interesting, and regular readers will know how I love a good graduate exhibition. So I set off for the hike to Akihabara, carrying my macbook this time; both for hiking practice, and because I’d need it later on.

It was really cold today, and I was glad I had layered up. I stopped at a Lawson en route to buy some lunch for later, then walked all the way to the far side of Ueno park, where the huge lake is. The trees in the park were starting to sprout tiny pink sakura flowers, and teams of park workers were busy hanging strings of lanterns between the trees. Near the lake, I found a bench to eat lunch at. I had a salad with chicken, edamame, hijiki and grated daikon, as well as an ebimayo onigiri. I’m really loving this flavour at the moment. However, this one was mostly rice, and contained only a tiny piece of prawn (maybe 2cm long and half a cm wide), and a dab of mayo. The verdict: 7/11 make better ebimayo onigiri. A lot of pigeons were bobbing around me whilst I ate, but I managed to keep my cool and not scream in front of everyone. The pigeons hovered just outside the barrier of acceptable presence. I thought I was very brave.

Next, I walked along a main road toward the gallery. The sun had come out, but I was still freezing, so I went into a convenience store and pretended to read the nutritional labels of the hot drinks, just so I could touch them and warm my hands up. A little further along, I bought a hot coffee in a can from a vending machine, because I really needed to warm up inside. It was a Tully’s branded cappuccino (kind of the Gloria Jeans equivalent), but it tasted terrible.

I found the place where the exhibition was, and it turned out to be a whole building full of art. There were four floors, all with different little galleries to explore. There was a large section about the Kobe Earthquake, as well as a corner gallery dedicated to a store that is similar to IKEA. There was also a whole room full of inflated things, and weird machines that spun or made noises, as well as giant inflatable hand that moved when air blew into it.




The second floor held some graffiti art, and some colourful abstract paintings, as well as a white room filled with black and white printmaking pieces. This room also contained a sculpture work called ‘Seed Dish,’ which I thought was pretty cool. I loved the tones and the incorporation of the plants. I think the plates were made of cloth or bread or something. I have no idea. I suppose pictures describe it better than words, so here you go…



This floor also had the ‘Bio-Art’ exhibition that I wanted to see. It held more inflated things, as well as art incorporating microscopes and petri dishes. But the one thing I really liked were a collection of tiny pointed glass balls, hanging from fishing wire at different lengths. They each had a tiny specimen inside – a bug or a twig, or dirt. I thought they were beautiful.

I also quite liked a 3-screen documentary about goldfish breeding. It was very genetics related, but I liked how the three screens showed different images that interacted with each other. I watched that for quite a while, and it was even educational!

The basement floor had a gallery of works which (I think) were created by disabled people (mental or physical disabilities, I’m not sure.) I’m only guessing this because the gallery was named ‘Able Art’ or something like that, and featured slogans that alluded to ‘equality for all through art’ or something similar. I actually thought this was one of the most interesting galleries of the lot. There were some crayon drawings on one wall, and a video of the artist creating them. Then in the centre there were these sculptures of food scraps, which looked like they’d been modeled from the insides of real rubbish bins. This was my favourite piece of the day. The way the food pieces were laid out seemed chaotic but organised  Perfectly placed, but random at the same time. It just worked.


I had a quick look in the gift shop and bought a postcard, then sat down at a little table to write on it. As I was leaving the gallery space, I passed this one tiny room that was filled with stuff. Ball-pit balls were all over the floor, and the walls were covered in paintings. There were things hanging down everywhere, and bursts of colour exploded from every corner of the room. It was like a kinder-kid had overdosed on sugar and raided the art cupboard.


After the gallery, I kept walking towards Akihabara, and stumbled upon a tiny store crammed full of new and used gameboy and Nintendo games, consoles, and controllers. I was really tempted to buy a gameboy and a couple of games for the 6 hour transit I will have to face in April, but decided against it.


Then I walked around Akiba a little more, and posted a few items at the post office.

That’s where I realized that I’ve lost my credit card.

I looked in all the pockets in my wallet, but it was nowhere. It must have slidden out somewhere. I was just grateful that it wasn’t my main bank card, or my pre-paid card, which can never be recovered. I was annoyed, but surprisingly I didn’t panic or get all upset like I would have in the past. Anyway, getting stressed wasn’t going to solve anything. I had to meet my new friend in Ikebukuro, so I took the train, vowing to search all my pockets and bags for the missing card when I got home.

In Ikebukuro, I planned to meet someone I met online. This might sound stupid and like I was asking for trouble, but before you file a complaint to my mother, hear me out. There is this popular thing called ‘Couchsurfing,’ which is an online community where people offer their couches (or spare beds, or bedrooms, etc) to travellers for free. You can host people, or stay with people, and there are Couch Surfers all over the world. When I was looking for somewhere to stay in Tokyo, I went on this website just to look. I would not normally ever stay with a complete stranger from the internet, but there was one lady whose profile yelled out to me. This person is a real and normal person and not a creepy internet freak! Said the profile. (Not literally, I mean, that would be weird and would most definitely make me avoid a person.) This lovely lady, who I’ll refer to as J, is a teacher at an international school in Tokyo. She likes photography, cooking, and hiking. Wow, I thought, we are the same person! So I got in touch with her asking if I could possibly stay a few days in her apartment. Unfortunately, she couldn’t host me, but by that time I had already found my own apartment in Tokyo. But we got talking online, and decided to meet up whilst I was in Tokyo.

Which brought me to Ikebukuro. I waited at our designated meeting point, and before long, J came up from behind me and asked if I was Steph. We clicked right away! We found a coffee shop and ordered drinks, and talked about anything and everything. There was never a lull in the conversation, and within half an hour I felt like I’d known J for years. What an incredible lady! She was so friendly and smart and funny, and so adventurous! We looked at some of the photos I’d taken on the trip so far (J requested I bring them, which is why I lugged my laptop around all day), and chatted away like we were old pals. She told me lots of funny stories about adventures she’s had in Japan, and gave me some tips on train and bus travel- some that will save me a lot of money (which can be used to buy more Japanese goodies!!) Also, randomly, we worked out that we had seen each other in Tokyo before. At the film screening I went to last week (The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom), I actually sat right in front of J. How did we work this out? I mentioned that I had been volunteering with HOT, and J said she did too! Then she asked if I went to the film, and I asked where she was sitting. She described the area near where I was. Then she said maybe she remembered seeing me. I was by myself  was fiddling with a camera, and talked to a Japanese man, and ate chilli from one of the stalls. Oh my god, that was me! We had been less than a meter from each other! I even remember that I had looked J directly in the eyes when I turned around one time. I couldn’t believe it. How funny.

Before long, it was dark outside, and then we realised it was already past 8pm- we’d been talking for 3 hours! It had only seemed like an hour or so, I was so surprised at how the time had passed. J had to pack for a holiday (for which she was leaving tomorrow), so we both headed for the train station. We both caught the same line, so we had a few precious minutes to keep talking, and say a brief goodbye. My station was further away, so I watched J get off the train and disappear into the sea of people on the platform. And then she was gone.

It was a really brief meeting, but I am so glad that I got to chat with such a wonderful, kind individual. The world needs more people like J. Such a genuine, amazing lady. I really really hope that I can meet her again in the (not too distant) future. I enjoyed her company immensely. I felt a bit sad when we parted ways, like I was saying goodbye to a friend I’d known since childhood. Perhaps I get attached to people too easily, or perhaps J is just so easy to like.

I returned home, braving the freezing cold night, and cooked a quick dinner of veggies on rice, with leftover miso eggplant and oden. Then I had the mochi-anko pan (bread bun filled with mochi and red bean paste) that I bought at the station earlier. It was weirdly good. I spent the next 2 hours trying to find out how to cancel my credit card, which is really difficult when your phone can’t make calls. I tried making reverse calls, free calls, calling with area codes, + codes, Australian codes, Japanese codes. It was really frustrating and pretty much impossible. Then my boyfriend had the brilliant idea of using Skype to call, but I don’t have Skype either. He let me use his account, which, again, wouldn’t work for ages, but I finally got through and was able to cancel the card. Sorry to the person who found it and planned a massive shopping spree.

I bet I find the missing card in a sock sometime next week.

Furusatoshoku Nipponshoku Zenkoku

There’s something about sleeping in a loft that makes you feel like some kind of nesting rodent, or floorboard troll. The floor of the apartment above me is about a metre above my head when I sleep, so I can clearly hear every little step or movement they make. This used to be ok, but I think new tenants have moved in, and they get up at 7am every day, and don’t usually arrive home until past midnight. They’ve also taken to having long conversions in the morning, which despite being a little muffled by the ceiling, I can still make out easily. This morning they were discussing grocery store merits.

So I feel sluggish again today, like I’ve been slightly drugged. I even went to bed at 11 last night, but then couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about last nights film. I drank some coffee that I had in the fridge, but I don’t think there was actually any caffeine in it, because I felt even sleepier afterwards. I ate breakfast and did laundry, then set out to Harajuku with three goals in mind; visit a gallery, go to a food festival, and go food shopping.

I found the gallery, called ‘Dictionary Club,’ without much trouble, and had a quick look at a group exhibition called ‘Ryuko shashin.’ It was all portraiture, which I enjoyed. My favourite was a head shot of a hipster-looking caucasian with a lazy eye. The photographer’s name is Katsuhide Morimoto.





Next, I walked over to the NHK broadcasting centre- kind of the channel 7 of Tokyo. This is where the food festival was held. The festival was called ‘Furusatoshoku Nipponshoku Zenkoku.’ A loose translation is the ‘Japanese food from all over Japan Festival.’ Can you guess what its focus was? It was hard to miss this place- the entire area was lined with colourful tents and staff handing out free samples of edible products. There were blow up arches marking the festival entrances, and giant jumping castles manufactured to look like Domo kun (a famous Japanese character that looks like a brown square with a big mouth and limbs.) I think I’d been on the premises for 40 seconds before I was offered some green tea, a cucumber pickle, and some drinking yogurt. One end of the festival was dedicated to fresh and packaged produce; the kind you take home with you to eat later. The stalls were colour coded and grouped according to region (Hokkaido, or Okinawa for example.) The other side boasted hawker food stalls selling everything from yakisoba to whole roasted fish on sticks, and something called a ‘ramen burger.’ I spent ages walking around and trying the occasional free sample. The strangest thing I tried was a garlic clove that was jet black. It was cooked in some special way to make it that colour. I also ran into a renkon Domo-kun (the character, dressed as a piece of lotus root. Hmm.) I had a photo taken with him/it and got his/its business card. How professional.


I headed over to NHK Studio Park, which was having an ‘admission free’ day. Normally I wouldn’t bother going to something like this, but because it was free, I went in and checked it out. Studio Park is marketed as a ‘Broadcasting Theme Park,’ which basically shows you the behind the scenes of the TV studio. There are interactive parts, where kids can use iMovie to make their own TV show (from a library of non-descript video clips), or answer quiz questions about NHK TV shows. Then there are explanation bits, which describe how animation is done, and other similar things. There is a whole section dedicated to 80’s Japanese drama, with autographs of the main actors, and a never-ending TV loop of ‘memorable moments’ from the shows. There are also lots of large windows where you are supposed to be able to watch shows being filmed, but there was nothing happening in any of them, and they all had the curtains drawn. There was an exciting kids land, which was just a sad wall and a ‘ball pit’ with literally 6 plastic balls in it, and following that was Nature Cameraman world, where you could pretend to be a nature documentary cameraman. There was one location where a morning/breakfast type talk show was being filmed, and you were allowed to watch from behind a plexiglass window. Whilst the three hosts looked alert and perky, interacting with someone dressed up in a cat suit, the people behind the cameras (obviously the studio crew and the producers) all looked sleep deprived and bored. The all looked like they needed a caffeine hit. I exited the building through the gift shop and restaurant (of course), glad that I hadn’t paid an entrance fee.



I walked around Shibuya and Harajuku for a little while, then bought a salad form Lawsons and headed back to the food festival. There, I bought a steamed bun made out of soba flour, and filled with a mixture of vegetables and sesame seeds. It was something different, and was pretty tasty. I liked the texture of the soba flour bun. Then I bought some special onigiri froma stall selling local specialties of Kyushu, to take on my hike tomorrow. It is special because it is made with chicken and vegetables, and is a meibutsu (specialty) of the area. The ‘famous food’ which that particular place is known for. Everywhere in Japan has at least one meibutsu. I’d had this particular kind of onigiri once when I was in Beppu a few years ago, and absolutely loved it. Then I went over to the Hokkaido dairy area and bought a softcream. I was really hot, so I sat in the shade and people-watched whilst I ate the tasty treat.




Next, I decided to walk back to Harajuku and do some present shopping, but I ended up at Meiji Shrine, walking up the gravel path with a thousand other people. I hadn’t been to Meiji Shrine for many years, but it was still exactly the same. I remember that the first time I went there, I was so excited to see a traditional Japanese wedding. I thought that I was so lucky and had timed my visit perfectly. But there was another wedding there today, so I think they are a pretty regular occurrence  I didn’t spend that long there, because there were a billion other tourists there, and I felt really ‘touristy’ and weird. So I walked back to Harajuku and went down Takeshita-dori to do some shopping.




It was so busy down that street, that I could only shuffle my way past the shops at snail pace. I’ve never seen it so crowded. Just walking down the street was a struggle, let alone going into the shops. I got a few supplies from Daiso (I can’t help it!), but then gave up going into other stores, because it was worse than peak hour in Melbourne. This was one of the products in Daiso that I think every pet owner should have. Yes, they’re nappies, and yes, they’re for dogs.


So then I decided to walk up the next street across to get back to the station (as it is bigger and wider), but that was all jammed up too because of a protest about using too much power, or something to that description. There were hundreds of people parading the street with megaphones, flags, and posters, and the police had stopped traffic- both vehicle and pedestrian. Nobody could cross the main intersection in any direction, so it was really jammed up. I took a sneaky shortcut through a kimono shop, and escaped up the street to the station, where it took 5 minutes to enter the station via the ticket gate, because of more human congestion and bottle-necking at the gate. Needless to say, the train ride home was squishy.

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I made a few stops on the way home to buy groceries that will last a few days, then finally got back, and found that all the clothes I’d hung up to dry were still wet. I was too exhausted to do anything for a while, so I just kind of sat there are went on the internet before sorting through the day’s snaps.

For dinner I cooked vegetables and konyaku, and had those with the last of the pumpkin and the expensive fish, as well as the chicken onigiri I bought at the festival, and a bean, mushroom and nut salad. Then I packed a bento for tomorrow and organised all the stuff I need to take hiking. I’ll have to wake up early in order to get to Takao-san in time for the fire walking festival. Should make for some great shots.


I’ll leave you with a collection of photos I took today of pampered dogs. Everyone treats their dogs like children, and they all wear clothes and ride around in prams all day.


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