Driving through the insanely beautiful landscape of the Kumamoto highlands, one is bound to come across herds of a peculiar reddish cow – the famous Akaushi (あか牛), or Akagewashu, in English sometimes called Japanese Brown Cattle, a breed that has been recognized in Japan since the 1930s. They look a bit similar to the more internationally famous Jersey cattle breed.
I had to stop and say hello to most of the herds we passed, and I can not imagine any cows, anywhere in the world, living in a more ideal spot than these. Huge lands to roam, fantastic quality grass and clean mountain water. What more can a cow ask for? They certainly looked happy! The more curious ones would run up to me as soon as I got closer to say hello and check me out.
A couple of evenings ago I went to the Chinsanzo Hotel gardens to see the fireflies released there at the start of every summer. I usually go every year but this year there were so many of them I just had to return early tonight with my camera. Capturing fireflies (hotaru in Japanese) is very tricky even with the best of preparations, and I just had my camera, no stand as usual. Although the water is very clean at these gardens there is far too much light pollution for the insects to breed there, although I have see native fireflies in the western parts of Tokyo many times, in the suburbs near the mountains in Hachioji for example, where there are no street lights and very little traffic after dark.
To make the fireflies feel welcome the usually well lit gardens are darkened down considerably, and this photo of mine is almost nothing like what you will see in real life. With the naked eye all you will see is a myriad of small, faintly pulsing lights in near absolute darkness. Obviously this is wonderfully poetic and fantastic experience, but still quite different from photographs. It was far too crowded for me to be able to relax and concentrate on holding my camera steady, so I only had time to get one decent photo. Maybe I will try again next year!
The last of my posts of photos from the annual Yabusame event in Tokyo’s Taito Ward’s Asakusa. After the more minor archery event on foot a bit further up the riverside the main event of Yabusame starts. The modern form of the sport was established in the 16th century after it was feared that the tradition and skill of the mounted archer would disappear after the introduction of western firearms and subsequently rifles and artillery. One of the samurai clans, the Ogasawara, were tasked with keeping the tradition alive and under their care it formalized into the ritual/sport we have today.
The tradition of mounted archery is of course rooted in the hunting of prey for food but it was also an effective form of early warfare when scores of mounted archers could harass and even break up units of enemy foot soldiers. We can only guess at the level of skill among the samurai who did this for a living, day in an day out, it must have been astounding! Modern archers are quite impressive still, and it is quite thrilling to watch it live up close! For these photos the widest lens I used was a 17-35mm wide zoom, which gives you an idea of how close you can get in these shows.
More action packed photos of the grand Yabusame (mounted horse archery) event at Asaskusa’s Sumida Koen from a couple of weeks ago. I was too busy covering other parts of the event to be able to stand in line for tickets to the proper seats but I was just in time to get a good standing spot (free of charge and no lining up necessary) just at the beginning of the yabusame run. Close enough to smell the horses and get having to dusting of my camera and clothes after each run even. My first impression of Yabusame was similar to my first impression of sumo wrestling, in that there is a great deal of ceremony, parading and ritual, and in between fast and furious violent action that is often over in the blink of an eye. Yabusame is very much like that. In the photos it might seem almost leisurely but in real time the horses are gone past before you know it. On previous years I have had photos where the arrow is still in the air on its way to the target while the horse and archers has completely passed out of the frame even! Thank you Nikon, for making these high tech fast shooting cameras for us!