Tokyo On The Go: The Retro Charm of Ōme

Outside the Ōme Train Station

For my first day in Tokyo I wanted to take in some vintage Japan, circa 1950s-60s. I wanted to visit a throwback, somewhere far from the throngs of tourists, which in bustling Tokyo can sometimes be quite difficult. But pre-trip research revealed a city within Tokyo called Ōme that looked like it could fit that retro bill. Blogs and websites showed a quiet neighborhood where vintage movie posters lined the streets.

I’m interested in the post-1945 Showa period in Japan that ran from 1945 to 1989, an incredibly fertile time for creativity and originality in marketing and advertising design. Typically, Japan put their own creative flair into the “Mad Men” era, and from what I saw online, Ōme looked like it could really scratch that retro itch.

So I was happy to find that when it comes to embracing a mid 50s-60s vibe and a genuine old-time Tokyo feel, Ōme truly delivers. From the moment you pass through the exit tunnel at the JR Ōme Station, you’re immersed in it.

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Ōme Station Exit tunnel

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Posted in Essays, Japan, Tokyo, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Let’s Go Tokyo, 2015

Ome StationKonnichiwa, blog friends! I’m in Tokyo again, and the theme of this trip is Underground Tokyo, and the goal is to visit some of the quieter, less traveled parts of this notoriously hectic city (and I say hectic in the best way possible). That means checking out smaller towns outside of the city proper, as well as hidden gems in the more urban areas. I hope to be live blogging as I go … wifi is easy to find here. I’ll  also be checking in periodically at the end of the day as I cool my jets in the hotel room. I plan on visiting a lot of cool sites and eating lots of awesome food, and I’d like to share that with you all.

Oh yes, and did I mention photography? As is my custom, I’ll be shooting like it’s going out of style, but this trip might be a little different. It’s a little rainy here in Tokyo, and holding an SLR while holding an umbrella gets a little unwieldy, so I’m enlisting the help of my iPhone, despite my somewhat snobbish views on iPhoneography, which I’ve remarkably gotten over after my first full day here yesterday

So, an amazing city, authentic Japanese food, great photography … what’s not to love? So with no further adieu, let’s go Tokyo!!!

Posted in Essays, Japan, Stephen Kelly Creative, Stephen Kelly Photography, Tokyo, Tokyo On The Go | 3 Comments

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Off-Centre

kyoto_temple

This off-centre temple in Kyoto, Japan seems like it’s rising up from the surrounding countryside, a splash of orange amongst all that green.

For more off-center, off-tilter pics, y’all be sure to visit Ailsa’s Travel Theme, y’hear?

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San Francisco Street Art #3: The Mission District

At 19th and Mission

It’s been a while since I posted anything about street art in San Francisco, or street art in general, for that matter … in fact, it was was back on June 19, 2013 when I posted San Francisco Street Art, Volume 1 and not again until January 31, 2014 when I put up a Volume 2. At the time I promised that there would be more to come quickly, and, well, there ya go … time slips on by.

Que Haria Zapata? on Clarion AlleyBut I’m a man of my word, and in this third edition of San Francisco Street Art the focus is on the the epicenter of the San Francisco street art scene, the Mission District, where street by street you will find the city’s most prolific examples of the genre. Whole alleys are lined with clever, colorful and often controversial works of art and it’s impossible not to wander the lively streets of the Mission and not see some form of  impressive street art. Some are obvious, encompassing the entire length of building sides, while others are small, cleverly placed in a bus enclave or on a door.

The beauty of Mission District street art, like the neighborhood itself, is that it’s always changing. While some murals are mainstays, others change from time to time as artists with something new to say paint over them. In fact, the mural in the gallery’s soccer-themed second shot (“On 19th St. at Mission”) is now the Para La Mission mural seen at the top of the page. So the watchful photographer is consistently rewarded by making repeated visits, as murals often morph into something completely different, seemingly overnight.

The Mission is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods with a deep, rich Latino population of  Central American and Mexican families that have been settling the neighborhood in big numbers since the 1950s. As such, the Mission boasts some of the best and most authentic taquerias, pupuserias, produce markets, and Salvadoran bakeries in the country. This deep proliferation of Latino cultures is also reflected in the area’s street art, and you’ll see Latino influences ranging from modern artists like Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo to the ancient Aztecs.

Tiger on Mission StreetSadly, the area faces the same gentrification that has swept across the entire city in the past few years, and old establishments are being forced out as the new tech boom has caused rents to skyrocket while a new population of cash-flushed techies drain the cultural color from yet another San Francisco neighborhood. Indeed, high-priced “artisan” coffee shops and Asian fusion restaurants are threatening to out-number the family-owned taquerias who have yet to be evicted by a greedy landlord. Because of that, high-tech gentrification has become a growing theme of the neighborhood’s street art, and I’ve included a few examples of that.

Still, like the cultural enclaves of most cities, the Mission takes great pride in its rich cultural heritage and diversified nature, and the fabric of what makes the Mission unique and special will always remain intact. If you’re planning on visiting San Francisco, put exploring the Mission near the top of your to-do list … it’s also a lot less touristy than other parts of the city. But if you’re into seeing the city’s best street art, put the Mission at the top of your list.

Check out more of the street art of the Mission District after the jump.

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Posted in Art, Photography, San Francisco, Stephen Kelly Photography, Street Art | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Outdoor Menagerie: The “Fancy Animal Carnival” of Hung Yi

For my first art post in ten months, I’m taking it to the streets of San Francisco … to the Civic Center to be exact, for an outdoor exhibition of the fun and colorful sculptures of Taiwanese artist Hung Yi. One of Taiwan’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, Hung Yi is renowned for his quirky and whimsical sculptures of people and animals. His latest collection, entitled Fancy Animal Carnival, was on display for two weeks at the Joseph L. Alioto Performing Arts Piazza on the eastern front of San Francisco City Hall, and I was lucky to catch it on its final day.

Renowned Taiwanese Artist Hung Yi

Renowned Taiwanese artist Hung Yi

Described as a modern, Taiwanese twist on Aesop’s Fables, Fancy Animal Carnival consists of a menagerie of 19 large-scale animals constructed from baked enamel on steel plate. Each piece vividly captures his signature style of bold, bright colors, intricately detailed patterns and humorous and whimsical designs. His animated and personified interpretations of animals are based on symbols that, in Taiwan, are traditionally believed to be lucky.

He also decorates the modern sculptures with traditional Taiwanese patterns and texts that are believed to bring about good fortune. Beyond these cultural references and influences, I also detected a strong psychedelic hint of seventies pop artist Peter Max and the fantastical animation of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film from 1968.

_ASC3078Interesting fun fact about Hung Yi: Born in 1970, Taichung, Taiwan, he was once an owner of nine restaurants. At the age of 30, he decided to live his life fully as an artist following attention for his work in 2002.

While up close and personal is the best way to experience the amazing intricacy of his work, in this case, photos will have to do. I’ve included different angles of the pieces, because the patterns and expressions often changes from side to side. Look closely, because in this case of Taiwanese artist Hung Yi, the devil is in the details.

Check out the gallery after the jump.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: Forces of Nature

A Storm's A-Brewin'Things were looking pretty ominous when a fast-moving storm blew through my Twin Peaks ‘hood back in February. It may look the apocalyptic end of San Francisco, but it didn’t amount to much, and the brick-red color you see here only lasted a few seconds as the clouds shifted and the light dispersed, so I was lucky to get this cool pano taken with my iPhone. Still, a pretty impressive force of nature right in my own backyard!

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Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Youngsters

Darling Harbour Merry-Go-Round,  Sydney I’m pretty much a single, on-the-go urban kind of guy, so as of yet I do not have children, and I don’t often have cause to be in the company of children. That said, as I comb through my archives, I’m amazed at how kids have made for some great photographic subjects, all while being so darn cute. So, here’s a small collection of youngsters I’ve encountered in my travels. As you can see, whether in San Francisco, Sydney, Tokyo, or wherever … the kids are alright!

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