Culture clash

Sleepless in three countries

A recent work assignment took me to Japan, Korea and the Philippines in seven days. I was documenting a jobs and trade mission by a provincial delegation, which meant shooting stills and video for multiple events, meetings, luncheons, cultural visits and receptions per day. The work day started at 5 a.m. local time and ended between 11 p.m. and midnight. I shot stills with a Nikon D700 and video with a D7000. And as fascinating as this might seem, this post is not about the work part of the trip. This is about the very few moments I found at the beginning and end of the trip to make some personal photos.

Sendai morning commute
Sendai morning commute
Manila intersection
Manila intersection

Upon arrival in Japan, we traveled north to the city of Sendai, where I had about a half hour the first morning to wander the streets with my Fujifilm X-Pro1 and the 18mm f2 lens. At the other end of the trip, I had a day to myself in Manila after the delegation departed for B.C, to do more dedicated street photography. The differences between Sendai, and Tokyo, and Manila were striking. Although I didn’t have the time to do a better job of documenting street life in Sendai, the few photos I did manage to take emphasize that difference when compared with the Manila street shots.

Sendai: on the way to school
Sendai: on the way to school
Manila: sun protection
Manila: sun protection

Another point of contrast between Japan and the Philippines is that Japan still feels very monocultural with a largely homogenous population. Manila was a chaotic mix of multiple cultures and religions with a mix of Asian, Spanish by way of Mexico and Muslim elements rubbing up against each other.

I was very happy to have the opportunity to shoot on the street in a completely new place with stimuli coming at me from multiple directions. It was great to have at least one afternoon to devote to capturing street scenes. I wish that I had been able to do the same in Seoul and Tokyo. Then I could have filled a post with contrasting images from three very different places.

Tokyo: hip motorcyclist
Tokyo: hip motorcyclist
Manila: hustling a customer

At the end of the day, it’s always great to be somewhere new, with a camera in hand. Also nice to stop for a little refreshment.

Manila: refreshment courtesy of the Catholic Archdiocese
Manila: refreshment courtesy of the Catholic Archdiocese
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