Since emigrating to Japan I have learned to love the humble Japanese convenience store. These little beacons of light and civilization are everywhere in Japan, from the loneliest Okinawan island to the busiest Tokyo high rise. You can book tickets, pay bills, do your banking, pick up and send packages, buy cell phones, get your beer, order food, buy ready made lunch boxes or lottery tickets or just browse the huge numbers of magazines. Sometimes you can even borrow their restrooms. Some convenience stores have a seating area with free hot water pots. They are open 24 hours a day, usually never close and the staff is amazingly service minded. During the trouble up north in March and Aril 2011 the convenience stores were a lifeline: they had the most advanced distribution network in the country, a perfectly streamlined inventory system and were able to get fresh food into the damaged areas before anyone else. Over a thousand convenience stores had to close due to the earthquake and Seven-Eleven alone saw 41 factories unable to operate. But they had 128 others spread out around the country that could pick up and keep supplies and food streaming into the damaged areas. For me the convenience stores of Japan are heroes, and I have quite a collection of these kind of “portraits” of lonely convenience stores at dusk or sunset.
I took the photos of a Lawson and Three-F store just next to Yuighama beach in Kamakura City, south of Tokyo.
A couple of weeks ago when I visited Kamakura I took these photos of the Yuigahama beach at sunset, after a short rainstorm. The clouds were clearing up and the moon was there, one of my favorite times in one of my favorite places. There were still a few surfers out in the ocean, they must be a hardy bunch!
Yuigahama beach faces south, so it is tricky to photograph during the day. I have so far made many visits to beaches facing south, east and west but I have never spent any longer amount of time on a beach facing north! That is one of the things on my to do list in life. The north coast of Japan is still a big blank for me.
In the autumn or early winter the worst of the summer storms have passed, few people visit the beach and it is cleaner than during spring or summer. I still found one unopened package of Onikoroshi, a supermarket brand of Japanese sake. I am almost addicted to beach combing and whenever I visit this beach I bring a small garbage bag to collect garbage, plastic, pieces of glass and anything that does not belong to the beach. I wish everyone was as manic as me, the beach would be spotless in no time! One short stroll along the beach usually results in a well filled garbage bag that I put in the trash cans near the stairs leading down to the beach. The only thing I never collect is forgotten children’s toys. I always have a secret wish that the child who forgot it will come back and find it again. I wonder if that ever happens in real life?
A couple of weeks ago I spent a few minutes looking out at the sea from Yuigahama Beach in Kamakura city just south of Tokyo. The beach faces south so you are always going to see the sun over the ocean from this point, I always wonder what Kamakura would like like from a boat in the ocean? Someday I need to find myself a spot on one of those boats I sometimes see on the horizon here. It’s an unseasonably cold early April afternoon but already some windsurfers and surfers are out there.
A mere hour on train from inner city Tokyo (population 12.5 million) is the wonderful Yuigahama beach. It always amazes me that there can be such a beach so close to such a huge city without it being absolutely packed every day, all day. Where I come from we have a lazy miniature river flowing through the city and it’s lined with people and dogs and kids just looking at the water. When it’s not covered in ice that is. I took these photos of a nearly deserted Yuigahama beach yesterday, a public holiday. I wonder what everyone was doing? There’s several ways to get here from Tokyo, but most of them involves the Yokosuka line or the Tokaido line and then a bus, taxi or good walking shoes. Or you can rent a bicycle near by Kamakura station. The beach is cleaned regularly during the season but there’s still a bit of garbage lying around so I usually bring a bag and just pick stuff off the beach as I go along. If everyone picked half a kilo of garbage off the beach it would be spotless within a couple of days!