Saturday, 31 March 2012

Spring 2012 : Amstelveen Hanami

Last Sunday I met up with the Kimono de Jack NL members for a Sakura festival in the 'Amsterdamse Bos' near Amstelveen, close to Amsterdam.
It was cold and grey while I was on the road , but closer to Amstelveen the sky cleared up
and the sun was shining. The gods must have been smiling on us :) .

I arrived fashionably late , about one hour, convinced that everyone else was already there.
They weren't :)  

Together with Anne , Amy , Jeffrey and Caroline we made our way to the garden.

Mei-ing coming to meet us. She had already arrived with her family. 

Because the main event wasn't going to happen before half past one , we settled ourselves on the sitting stones in the sun.
From left to right : Mei-Li (Aha! Great ! Another photographer ), her mother , Mei-ing, Carolien and Anne. 

My first musubi shot of the day :)

I went to look for any flowering trees. There were just two and this was the nicest one.

More people arriving ( even more fashionably late than me : not everyone had switched over to summertime yet , haha ) .
From right to left : Stephanie, Charissa, two new members : Patricia and Coco
 Nadine ( Charissa's 'twin' sister) and friend.

 Mei-ing posing in front of the sakura.

Nadine and Charissa.
With their faces in the shade you get no harsh shadows which is nice , but with the sun behind them , the brilliant colours of the kimonos are a bit muted.

 so I had them turn around for another shot.

 Musubi shot. So cute :  even their musubi are mirrored :)

This started out as a pose to get a better picture of her kanzashi. After I equalized and lightened the shadows on her face because I didn't like them , I toned down the colour of the trees behind ,and so on and so on...
Several hours and lots of industrial strength coffee later... Voila : le "soft-focus" !

I love those little butterflies !

Group shot. By this time Amy had gone completely MIA.
( click on the pictures to see a larger version , especially the wide ones are so much better )

 Musubi : 4 taiko and four ,mm, other types :)

I invited this young Japanese woman to pose with our group. Lucky ! She agreed.

Walking away with her husband. AH! I need a musubi-shot !

This will have to do :)

The showing off of the sleeves ( aka : "het schouwen van de mouwen" (Nl.) ) .
Mei-Li goes first :)

My turn.
The KDJ NL signature photo : tabi group shot.

Right after that , more and more photographers and people with film cameras started showing up.
Looks a bit like a war-zone.

And of course more and more people wanting to pose with the KDJ.

From left to right , Anne, Carolien, Linda and Dalischa , who'd just arrived.
Great colour arrangement.

Not quite happy with this shot, I wanted more of the sakura in the picture without zooming out , which would make the people too small.

Frog perspective! Lying down with the camera at ground level and my chin against the grass, everyone does look taller , but now I get the sakura I wanted and more blue sky than bushes. Great !

Hanami means lots of different things to different people : for some it's a great opportunity to get together  , eat and drink and listen to the traditional drums being pounded.

For the KDJ it's an occasion to get together and wear their beloved kimonos.

For Mei-Li and me , a chance to take great pictures.

But for the youngest among us, it's an occasion to run around in the grass with a branch of pretty flowers and  show them to our mom.

Till next time ^^

Some of these pictures are available in Highresolution Spring 2012 Hanami Amstelveen

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Hyper Japan Spring 2012

Hyper Japan is an event that started in October 2010 , promising a mix of old, new , multimedia , food and many other things coming from Japan. It was an instant success ( 13000 visitors in 2010 ! ).

This year it was held at the Brompton Hall at Earls Court. Free parking ! (for motorbikes, heh!).
I'd arranged for the usual ferry from Calais to Dover , and sailed on the new large Ferry , the Pride of France. The car deck is huge , but there's less space for motorbikes. If there's too many , they get parked on the truckers deck. No problem for me , I was the only biker there, as well as on the return trip. Not unusual in winter.

On the trip back I took some more pictures.
The inside is really luxurious ( mirrors on the ceiling, marble coffee bar, tiled floors ) . The tax free shop wouldn't look out of place on an airport. This is just the perfume department.

The accessory department ( I didn't photograph the booze department , I had my hands full of bottles of single malt :) .

The coffee bar at the ship's stern is a huge sitting area.

Plenty of space to sit , with the picture on the wall and the beautiful interior I felt like I was sitting in a luxury hotel.

At the Hyper Japan , the man from third window films ( I have got most of their DVDs ) interviewed film director Satoshi Miki ( of "Turtles are surprisingly fast swimmers") and actress Fuse Eri. It was interesting to hear from people that direct and play in the comic movies I enjoy so much.

Fuse Eri.

Director Satoshi Miki (so that's what Japanese film directors wear these days  :).

Judo world and Olympic champion Tsukada Maki was very interesting to see and hear on stage : I found it really inspiring to hear her talk so enthusiastically about her love for her sport. I'd almost start taking lessons myself.

"Please will you all give a warm welcome to my sparring partner from a local club, who is kind enough to 'assist' me in this demonstration." ( read : "whom I will be TOTALLY flooring in the next few minutes")

And boy, flooring him she did : as solid as her partner looks ,Tsukada-san throws him with deceptive ease , that can only come from lots of training. Look how her foot is( or both feet are) always planted firmly on the tatami (mat).

One more .
And again.
And another one.
When asked if it hurt , he replied : " A lot less when you get thrown by somebody with such good technique ".Sure, but the bangs as he hit the tatami were impressive.

At the end of the demonstration , a few people were invited on stage to wear a keikogi ( martial arts garb). When asked how she felt wearing it, the girl's response was "Ok, never mind that the sleeves are too long,.."
"but it's like I'm wearing pyjama's. I really feel like I'm ready to go to bed and not to go do sports in this."

This was cute : a children's learning guide for the hiragana and katakana alphabet.

No koto playing on this Hyper Japan ( damn and I love hearing the Koto ) but the Shamisen player
Ichikawa Ibiko ( currently the only professional shamisen player in the UK ) was there and this time he'd brought a few students along.

There was also a traditional folk singer there : Alika Mochida , no pictures I was too busy clapping and  singing along with the Hanagasa Ondo ( really ! "Yasho Makasho" :) ).
and too far from stage to get good pictures, but you can hear and see  her here with some traditional songs on YT.
Honestly , British crowds are even worse at singalongs than Belgian ones , haha ! But the folk singer was lovely and I recognized some of the songs from a CD  I have :)

Hiroko Tanaka's Nihon Buyo group was performing . Alas I spent so much time at the sake tasting I missed most of the performance.

I still got pictures of the tail end of the performance.

A really long dance this was. And these people learn all this in their spare time. Colour me impressed.

Hiroko-san danced the last one, a modern dance she created herself.
Lovely kimono. If you look at the last Hyper Japan and the Matsuri, she wore a grey one :)

Doki is one of my favourite shops and they have finally started up again in a new location.

I never pass their shop without buying at least something. This time it was a small sake set and  3 donabe bowls.

No Japanese festival or fair is complete for me without learning more about Japanese food preparation.
No better person to do that than Atsuko-san , who was preparing these Japanese-French inspired tapa style snacks ( Japas ) for us in the Taste Discovery Zone.

A slice of smoked salmon, thin slice of courgette , filled with a paste of grated radish, and a wasabi flavoured sauce , which tasted like Japanese mayo ( sweet ) with wasabi added. Sprinkle a bit of olive oil over it . They taste good too !
I really liked the Taste Discovery Zone ( new this year ) a lot. It's free and you can learn a lot there.
To prepare for the Sake awards I took one of the Sake tasting "courses" led by Natsuki , who has two great posts about it here : Part 1  and Part 2.
 These were the sakes I tasted : sure enough the daiginjo has a wonderful nose and after-taste compared to the others, but each has its own unique qualities , which is why I found it a bit sad that the most expensive sake won most of the Sake Taste awards.

Too bad I couldn't buy any of the sakes at the show. Many are only available through restaurants and the ones I tried to get at the shops in London  the brewers told me , didn't have them. Tsk !

Of course , next to the cosplayers, there's always lolita street garb with a very high kawaii factor.

The winner of ( I forgot what category ).
Definitely the winner of the under-age category.

The contestants. Kawaii,desu ne ?

I also met some members of the  Kimono de Jump  UK at the HJ,

 From left to right, Mike, Isla , Natalie , Hong and April. I would have been in this picture in a kimono too, if a certain member of KDJ UK hadn't forgotten to bring it along. ( a fact I shall be mercilessly reminding her of for the remainder of her natural life , haha.  )
After the traditional picture the KDJ were going to jump up in front of the modern photo.

First shot : no good. Only Isla in the air.

 Second one : lift-off !
 Third one : another lift-off !

I kept the best bit for last :)
Before the group jump  Hong did a try out jump , to see if my flash worked al right.
( in dark conditions, the autofocus fires off a number of low power flashes to set the focus , after which it flashes for real. By that time of course the jump is over, so I had to set it to manual focus ).

And there she goes ! Thank God there was a roof or we might have lost her :).