Tokyobling's Blog

Yokohama Sea Taxi

Posted in Places by tokyobling on February 1, 2014

One of the things that makes Yokohama one of the most interesting cities in Japan right now is their great use of the city’s prime oceanfront location. There is a great network of sightseeing boats, cruise ships and sea taxies crisscrossing the harbor and if you feel like you need to save your legs while sight seeing or want to try something else than a train or subway ride back to Yokohama station, then the Sea Taxi might be worth checking out. It is not that much more expensive than other public transportation and certainly cheaper than a normal taxi (although not cheaper than a rental bike or bicycle taxi).

I went on the little Sea Bass, the speediest sea taxi in Yokohama bay to save me from walking all the way back to a station and then get on a train back to Yokohama station. At 580 yen (children half price) the ticket price was not too much, especially considering that the night time view of Yokohama from the ocean is pretty sweet.

The Sea Bass commutes from Yamashita Park – Pier Akarenga – Minatomirai Pukari Sanbashi – Yokohama Station East Exit. On the way you will see all these destinations and more. In the last two decades there has been massive development in this area of Yokohama and I see new buildings every time I pass through, for example several new upscale apartment houses and a brad new commercial center at the east end of Yokohama Station. Well, brand new for me at least! You also get a good view of the Japan Coast Guard ships anchored at harbor and the opportunity to spot a lot of other ships and boats coming into or out of the harbor. In winter this ride was pretty chilly but it is fantastic in summer!

Here is a visitor guide to all the tour boats in Yokohama harbor, and here is the official site of the Sea Bass.

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Ikebukuro Traffic – Photo Fun

Posted in Places by tokyobling on January 21, 2014

One of the first thing you’ll notice when visiting Tokyo is that in the evenings, more than half of the traffic on the roads are usually taxis. Tokyo taxis are parts of the visual make up of the city and I know many photographers and tourists who have a soft spot for the mostly yellow, green and red taxi cars! They’re a given for any collection of “the” Tokyo tourist photo collection!

A fun thing you can do with almost any camera to get some interesting travel photography is “tracking traffic”. I took these photos outside Tokyo’s Ikebukuro JR station a while ago of the traffic zooming past the station. Tracking shots like this are really easy to do but sometimes tricky to get just right. What you do is move the camera to follow the car or object, blurring the background but (hopefully) keeping the moving object razor sharp.

I set the camera to 1/10s, f10, and ISO 500 for this fairly bright city street. Then I waited for a car to come into my viewfinder. I follow the car with my camera and while moving, press the shutter, keep following (or tracking) the car and don’t stop until the picture is done. Repeat, try different settings, and enjoy!

No photoshop was used to alter these images.

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Kawasaki Daishi – Drive in Temple

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on April 19, 2013

Probably the biggest and most famous temple in Kawasaki city right on the south western border with Tokyo is the Kawasaki Daishi. It is a huge temple complex divided into several different parts, one of which is dedicated to traffic safety and cars! The temple building itself is a modernistic almost south east asian looking building in the middle of a huge parking lot where cars are staged in group depending on their order of taking part in the ceremony. Once an hour monks hold a ceremony praying for the safety and good fortune of the cars and their passengers and most people who have their cars blessed do so once a year. The ceremony itself costs 5000 yen but it is customary to give an additional donation to the temple when you return. Cars thus blessed gets a small bumper sticker that looks quite neat. You can see it on the temple’s home page. I was very lucky with the weather this day!

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Yakatabune at Harbor

Posted in Places by tokyobling on March 9, 2013

Have you ever wondered where those narrow party boats you see cruising on Sumida river and in front of Odaiba at night come from? Well, here’s two of the companies at home in Tokyo’s Asakusabashi district, the Tanakaya and the Suzukiya let their classic Tokyo style party boats, the yakatabune (屋形船), to groups and companies that have something special to celebrate. At night dozens of them gather at scenic spots in Tokyo harbor where they are served by a small armada of ships delivering food, necessities and of course, booze. I have always wondered where they go during the day, and now I know. After all my years in Tokyo I have still never been invited on one of these, but some day I hope I will be! At over 10 000 yen per head (usually this includes all you can eat and all you can drink) per evening it is a little out of my budget at present, and you usually need to be a group of over 20 for them to even bother! I’m sure there are also cheaper boats and arrangements for smaller groups but I have never had reason to investigate. Maybe some well traveled reader can tell us of their yakatabune experiences in the comments section?
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