So many festivals! / JICA X Venus - Music Saves The World by Daniel Whiston

So after returning to the UK for a few weeks where most of my time was spent struck down with flu I'm back in Japan and just in time for golden week (Japanese annual holiday at the end of April containing several national holidays) celebrated with a large flower festival being held in Hiroshima city. With this being my first real experience of living in Japan on a daily basis I finally have the chance to try and see and document the many different festivals that run throughout the year.

So far I've been lucky enough to catch a few different festivals over the weeks that we first arrived in Hiroshima such as a fully armoured and equipped Samurai parade through the traditional castle city of Matsue and a port festival involving 2500 dancers and musicians in Kure making their way between 100's of small colourful stalls of food, carnival games (including goldfish and terrapin fishing) and local charities promoting their causes. 

  Samurai Parade Musha Gyoretsu - Matsue

Samurai Parade Musha Gyoretsu - Matsue

In the coming months there are several more events that I hope to document along the way including more traditional and ceremonial temple/shrine festivals that I'm looking forward to. I've always seen images and videos online of these events and having the chance to see them in person is something I'd always hoped but never expected to be able to do so keep an eye on my facebook/instagram if this interests you too as they are kept far more up to date than this!

 Port festival - Kure

Port festival - Kure

The second thing I wanted to write about was a music video filming that I was able to help out with behind the scenes during the weekend before I went back to the UK. the video itself is a collaboration between JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency) and Venus (Hiroshima Idol group) as well as several local dance troupes and a specially assembled team of musicians involved in the songs creation.

JICA is an organization that aims to contribute to the promotion of international cooperation in development of the Japanese and global economy, support the recovery/economic stability of developing countries such as areas in Africa and offer help through overseas Japanese volunteers with a range of fields such as agriculture, education and health.
 

 Venus performing during the video shoot

Venus performing during the video shoot

After having that initial feeling of disconnection when I first arrived in Japan, going from what I was used to working with artists, musicians and organisations to being in a whole new environment with a language I couldn't speak. It was a lot of fun meeting so many new people and great to be involved in the project and given the freedom to run around and do my thing.

The behind the scenes pics can be found here - https://goo.gl/HvQ9wQ
And you can find more info on JICA and what they do here - http://www.jica.go.jp/english

The video should be released towards the end of May and there's a possible cameo from someone in there too haha. 

Current state and Moving Forwards by Daniel Whiston

So I originally wanted to write this blog at LEAST on a weekly basis in some form but as you can see it's been quite a while since the last one...but there is a reason!

Now, this will just be a small "What have I been up to" blog to break the stagnation and what I plan to do moving forward photography wise as there have been quite a few significant changes in my life over the past few months that have drastically changed my day to day life.
So the biggest thing is that I'm now married (Most adult thing I've done in my life indeed) and currently relocated in a small city near Hiroshima city where I plan to be for the next few years and I really couldn't be happier right now. Of course I miss my family/friends/pets but I'll be back ;)

Anyone that knows me will know that I have had an obsession with Asian culture ever since I was at school studying about industry in Osaka and even not that long ago visiting Japan was just a dream I'd always had but was just too scared to take the jump and plan a trip there as I'm not the biggest fan of travelling alone among other reasons and now suddenly I find myself LIVING in the very country I had always wished just to spend a week or so in!
There are the obvious issues that living in a foreign country brings that I'm currently trying to overcome like the language barrier which can (but not always) cause a few problems but I'm taking lessons to resolve that.

I have to say one of the biggest things you notice right off the plane is how helpful and conscious of each other the Japanese are (So much etiquitte!) and the same applies to helping out confused people such as myself even if communication isn't possible. I've always read about the myth of "Gaijin" and that the majority of people will either avoid you or give you a stare but it's honestly as far from the truth as you can get.
F
or example I was in a supermarket looking for an item which I couldn't for the life of me find and ended up with not only 4 of the shop staff trying to work out what my flailing arms were trying to describe but also 2 nearby shoppers that wanted to try and help out too!I didn't manage to get enough flailing across for anyone to understand what I actually wanted but that's beside the point! I've met more strangers here that have done so much to help me or make me feel welcome than you could imagine.

Another great example which seemed to come out of sheer luck was back in December on the second day of my first trip where we decided to have a night wandering in Shinjuku, Tokyo as they have an amazing maze area of small bars and restaurants spilling out out into the streets. We had been eating at an amazing bbq place when a couple that had been sitting beside us started talking to us and recommending various things from the menu. a few more beers and tasty bbq meats later and we had moved on to drunken bowling and arcade games. when we parted ways at the end of the night we were invited to visit the high end restaurant the guy was a chef at which ended in classic dive bar with more sake and whisky highballs than my memory could handle and all of it was out of complete chance that we would all be in the same place at the same time. Still one of my favorite memories of being here.

So anyway, now onto the future. For the photography side of things I intend to keep on doing what I've been doing for the past few years the same as ever although the gig side of things is probably going to take a bit of a break while I work out where any live music actually is in the area where I am! Hiroshima city itself has a few good spots I've researched but it's a good hour away by train and not really convenient for me at the moment so I plan on pushing more towards the festivals and holidays side of Japan with all different kinds of celebrations from the traditions of shrines and temples to the more modern events like the upcoming flower festival. I'll also be documenting everything that catches my eye as ever and since I'm in a completely new atmosphere even some where quiet like this area has so much to offer for me.

So the next few blog posts I plan to post will be about various places and events that I see and am involved in as well as whatever happens to come to mind while I fill this with ramblings (My creative writing still couldn't fill a sake cup)

Things should definitely be a bit more active from now on!

Too personal? by Daniel Whiston

There are some huge huge changes coming up for me in 2016 (relocation being the biggest) and since I am trying to keep this little blog experiment going (Creative writing ability of a potato) it has made me think back through the past few years of my life and look at how much things have changed for me since I first dug myself out of a hole and picked up a camera in 2009.
Below pretty much sums up how much I've improved with my photography over the years (2009 vs 2015) but that is just thanks to a lot of practice and better equipment. I wanted to talk about the personal changes.

 Pictures I took of London musician Laura Groves (Former Blue Roses) 2015 vs 2009 

Pictures I took of London musician Laura Groves (Former Blue Roses) 2015 vs 2009 

So thinking about the events that started all of this change back in 2009 I questioned if I should actually be writing about it on a "professional" photography website but it's something that the majority of people these days have either dealt with/are dealing with or know someone that is/has. After a bad breakup and various things happening to my family at the start of 2009 I was suffering from depression and was in a pretty deep hole for the majority of the year. It wasn't a good time and after spending some time in hospital, seeing various psychologists, taking antidepressants and causing all of my friends and family all kinds of worry, one morning I woke up with a feeling of clarity that I didn't want or need to be this way anymore. I took some advice from my mother about doing something to occupy my time and decided since I was always interested in photography that I'd get a camera to see what I could do with it.

So with the bad bit out of the way I started to photograph everything and anything that got in my way. I would travel to Derby each weekend to visit friends and once I started to get more confident decided to start looking for more organized things to capture like festivals and Christmas events. I had also smuggled my camera into a few gigs in Birmingham and Nottingham and got a bunch of badly composed shots with too much flash and fuzz everywhere to even mention but I was starting to look into how to actually get into places like the Birmingham O2.
It was when I was at an event for a city farm that I photographed a group of people performing Capoeira and was later contacted by one of them asking If i wanted to shoot a gig for a musician they had been managing as well as some promo shots.

 WEYA Festival jam session

WEYA Festival jam session

Since that time I have met and become friends with so many amazing and talented people and been given many opportunities to attend events and gigs where I've been able to photograph a lot of my favorite images over the years including the WEYA festival that was held in Nottingham where I managed to have many of my images from the event printed in newspapers and magazines covering the event in countries such as France, Italy Mauritius and Pakistan as well as meeting some more life long friends from all over the world.

 Deaf Bridges at Nottingham Hockley Hustle 2015

Deaf Bridges at Nottingham Hockley Hustle 2015

So, Since this has already gone on far too long the moral is that even if you are at your very lowest and feel there is nothing left for you there is always something better waiting around the corner for you if you just push yourself enough and don't let it keep you from the person you can and want to be.

If i can do it then surely who can't ;)

Ukiyoe Small Museum - Kyoto December 2015 by Daniel Whiston

Back in December 2015 I was finally able to fulfill one of my life long dreams to travel around Japan. Towards the end of our trip we spent several days in the beautiful and historic city of Kyoto where we visited many of the tourist heavy temples, shrines and traditional shopping areas that can take up your whole trip just to get around but as we walked back to our hotel I noticed a small sign written in English in the distance along a quiet looking residential street which we decided to investigate.

The sign (originally written in Japanese but translated into English by a tourist back in 2003) was for a Ukiyoe museum, Ukiyoe is a traditional Japanese painting style that uses carved wooden blocks to print with and recreate works. Luckily for us the owner hadn't yet had enough for the day and the museum was still open.

The owner of the museum is Ichimura Mamoru. He is one of around 50 artists of this kind left in Japan and started his training at the age of 14 learning from his grandfather as well as other artists in his grandfathers atelier where he started with simple designs such as food packaging. It was very interesting to spend time speaking with him and viewing his work as it was being created. The museum itself is more of a studio and extension of his actual home which we could see behind him.

We spent around 30 minutes speaking with him and looking at the various prints displayed around the room before purchasing one and asking for a chance to take a quick portrait which he obliged saying he was happy to share his Ukiyoe with the world. I was sad to hear however that he didn't have any apprentices or anyone to carry on his art and that he felt it was too late to begin teaching the next generation so I felt this experience was especially important to write about and show this great little hidden place.

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You can see more info and pictures here: https://www.facebook.com/UKIYOEMuseum/?fref=nf