24 hour sushi in Akihabara at Isomaru・アキバの磯丸水産の寿司居酒屋

Tokyo is a beautifully colourful place.

I really appreciate good design in life. When people, businesses and local authorities make an effort. A lot of elements come together to make a place enjoyable. The shape of the buildings, the colours, the cleanliness, the ease of getting around.

Life can be busy, it can get tiring commuting around, rushing to work, rushing to meet people. Everything is a better when the places we go feature interesting and beautiful design.

One of my genuine beliefs is it shouldn’t just be about minimising costs and maximising profits, it should be about making the world a better place.

Japan nails this in some aspects of life.

A few years ago on one of my first trips to Japan I took a photo of a man looking into a sushi restaurant in Akihabara while scratching his head.

At that time I hadn’t eaten in Isomaru Fisheries (磯丸水産).

It’s a 24 hour seafood restaurant and bar. The one in the picture is in Akihabara – a famous district for electronics and manga / anime goods.

I went back to Isomaru in January this year to eat a few times. On this trip I decided to take a second picture of the Akihabara branch to show the full view of the store front, it’s a very colourful multi-story building with a cool billboard picture of a fishing boat at the top.

Isn’t it awesome?

They have really well priced Sushi. Not exactly premium quality, but pretty good.

On top of the sushi there are lot’s of cooked dishes including some food you can cook on a grill at your table. One of the recommended dishes is crab meat in a special sauce you can cook on the grill yourself. You can also cook various kinds of fish yourself. I had a pot of muscles.

I’m in Travel + Leisure Mag (June 17)

Good news!…

I’m in Travel + Leisure June 2017.

A couple of months ago one of their researchers contacted me about Shenzhen photos. Last year I spent a day in Shenzhen’s contemporary art centre; OCT Loft. I really love the ‘former industrial building’ becomes ‘contemporary art centre’ thing.

I think re-purposed industrial buildings hold a certain artistic commentary on life and hence provide an interesting contextual background to contemporary art.

I often enjoy art that makes surprising / interesting / thoughtful statements on life, a big part of which is work.

If you are into this kind of thing I also recommend Moganshan 50 in Shanghai. There is also Tate Modern in London, even if the art on display isn’t great, the former power station is a delight.

If you can find a copy of Travel + Leisure I recommend picking it up, the article on Shenzhen is fascinating, – I wish I had the author’s knowledge before I went.

This inspires me to research my destinations better in future, think like a journalist!

It’s tough to be commercially successful with travel photography – I am so delighted to get into a major magazine!

It’s especially awesome to contribute photographs to an article that focuses on the development of creative and artistic culture in modern China.

Portable Loft, Yangjae Citizens Forest, Seoul and; Fish in The Pool

I found the cutest local cafe in Seoul with the friendliest owners.

It’s called Portable Loft. They also have a craft / design store – Portable Lollipop.

I found their blog; you can see some pictures of Portable Loft and the owners plus their friends / family here http://blog.naver.com/jungurion/220896163629. The Lollipop website http://www.portablelollipop.com/

The cafe and store are located in Yangjae Citizen’s Forest; totally off the tourist route, but not far from Gangnam. About ten different buses from Gangnam pass by the area.

It was a lucky find, I happened to stay in an Airbnb apartment above the cafe for the week.

The owners don’t speak English, but despite that they made me feel super at home. Through pointing and gestures I managed to order their delicious hand drip coffee in the morning. They also have two draught craft beers on tap and a selection of other drinks.

The owners gave me one of their postcards which is based on a hand drawn sketch of the cafe. You will recognise the lady in the postcard and blog pictures by the distinctive hairstyle 🙂

Portable Loft really inspired me. If I were to have my own cafe / shop business this is pretty much the blueprint I’d love to create it based upon. Some of the charming features I loved were:

  • Hand chosen craft beers and hand drip coffee that show care and love for quality
  • Beautiful natural interior decoration – a little bit ‘Scandinavian wood feel’
  • They do have a food menu, but it’s literally one cooker behind the bar, so cute
  • A lot of customers appear to be friends and I saw groups come and enjoy relaxing and talking to the owners
  • The cafe and shop show an interest in art and design and they have built a really interesting collection of products.
  • They are off the beaten path so I think most of their customers are local or may come based on word of mouth etc. no unappreciative tourists!
  • They have a music system in one corner and they have a pile of vinyl and CDs next to it and their selection of music is beautiful. A lot of acoustic and calming sounds.

Talking of music I came across the fish in the pool by Hekuto Pascal album while sitting in Portable Loft. I didn’t know what it was, but realising it was Japanese I snapped a pic of an empty CD cover with Japanese text on it. I later found the album on Spotify:

This is some seriously beautiful music.

I’m slightly embarrassed to say this music actually brought me to tears a few times.

The album is mostly instrumental, but the final track has lyrics and there is something soft, sweet and magical about the melody and vocals. Perhaps there is an undertone of sadness. It’s a songs that makes me feel an appreciation for people and places, but also a sadness for lost opportunities and lost times.

Portable Loft is one of the reasons I love to travel. Forget the tourist checklist, I really appreciate the chance to see a corner of local culture and to meet people that care about art and design and customers.

I recently came across a book called Do / Design: Why Beauty Is The Key To Everything by Alan Moore.

It’s a great little book that takes about good design and why that matters in life. This resonates strongly with me and I think design along with community are two of the most important things that can bring enjoyment to everyday life.

Portable Loft hit’s both of these perfectly.

Hong Kong and 2 Photos, 2 Years Apart.

I came back to Hong Kong. The last time I was here was early 2014.

When I was here last time I took this picture from Kowloon of a Junk passing by. That’s Hong Kong Island in the background.

Now that I’m back I found that Hong Kong hasn’t changed too much.

In more or less the same location, but from a different angle and earlier in the day look what I saw:

I find myself stunned by the beauty of some of the views of the Hong Kong landscape. It’s a city of contrast though, the pure beauty of the landscapes belies some of the cramped, dirty, smelly streets crammed with people. Be ready for it if you visit.

 

Through the Window (On The Bus In Bangkok)

Young or old,
Is there anywhere you want to go?

Look out for them,
Charging around, in a bright flash of red or blue.

You have to share,
But a sense of community can be found their.

Relax in your seat,
A moment of freedom is found.

Books, music, snooze or chat,
What will you do?

I will simply sit back and enjoy the view.


During my trip to Thailand this year, I became slightly obsessed with the buses.

Two things caught my eye, the beautiful bright colours and all the little details. The flaps on the front, the expressive lights and grills, the thai flag stickers, the coloured wheel nuts. It’s a visual feast!

As I was walking around the Wat Pho area I saw one bus waiting. I noticed how the passengers were together, but still alone. As I looked on from outside I realised that people lose their self awareness when sitting on the bus. You could openly see people lost in their own world: talking to a friend, listening to music, daydreaming etc.

‘On the bus’ is it’s own little world. People from all kinds of backgrounds, at all ages, come together and spend these moments together, but yet still alone.

I thought, how lonely it is to drive around in a car on your own, when you could be on these wonderful buses.

Life’s Changing Perspective

Yesterday afternoon I was browsing wordpress and I saw the discover challenge  to post about perspective. Coincidently earlier that morning I took a photo of two work men from an unusual top down perspective as they sat on a truck cab.

However the visual perspective wasn’t what made me connect this with the wordpress challenge. But rather the image reminded me of my childhood. For a time my dad drove his own scrap metal truck similar to that in the picture.

I remember in those days I looked up in wonder at the big world; where even the simplest things seemed larger than life:

  • One of my dad’s friends could eat a packet of crisps in one handful!
  • An old farm we passed might reveal a collection of cool old cars
  • The world was huge by my dad seemed so strong and my mum so kind, nothing bad could ever happen.

Twenty seven years later; after study, work, travel and the countless interactions with people from all walks of life, my perspective has changed so much that the younger version of myself could never have imagined where I would be, what I would be thinking about or perhaps more interestingly how I would think.

All the things that happen as we grow up give us so much knowledge, and so much understanding. Our perspective can’t help but drastically change.

Is a potential price of this a loss of wonder?

New knowledge and experiences can help retain a sense of wonder in life. One thing that I try to do is occasionaly think outside the box. I might read a new type of magazine/book, visit a new place, learn a new sport/art/other skill.

As we grow and learnand our perspective changes we also run the risk of narrowing our viewpoint.

That may come down to the way we operate. If we have a bad experience with a certain type of food, people, place we form a negative viewpoint. Sometimes we need to be conscious of this and force ourselves to revisit our perceptions  to check if they are accurate.

The discover challenge on perspective reminds me to look for wonder. It also reminds me to check my negative opinions.

Now, time to go and have some fun with the big world!

Moganshan 50 Shanghai (M50)

I had a dream-like three weeks in shanghai earlier this year. I want to introduce you to m50; the contemperary art district.

Shanghai itself is a bit of an enigma, it’s China of course; but also very much it’s own place. The history is fascinating and provides background perspective on the modern day relationship between east and west. Shanghai also has it’s own dialect and other Chinese people may consider the Shanghainese as overly proud.

It’s a city of old and new, a city of hope, and also a city of hope lost. There is division of rich and poor that reminded me of my time in Russia years before. In big Chinese cities there is a context of rich people becoming super rich on massive growth vs. poor people arriving in the cities with nothing but hope. But there is a sense that anything can happen, although perhaps only to the lucky or entreprenuerial few.

When I was there I stayed in a traditional lilong / longdang apartment for two weeks and a more modern apartment in the french concession for one week. I like to avoid hotels or restaurants with other foreigners and stay local and eat local.

When I was in Shanghai I read the excellent five star billionaire by tash aw; which further lost me in the feeling of the city. I can’t recommend enough reading novels set in a place you are visiting.

There is so much to say about Shanghai, but I want to talk about Moganshan 50 in this post. It’s abbrievated as m50 and is the site of a former mill that is now a contemperary art district. It was perhaps my favourite place to visit.

The mill has been converted into a lot of individual galleries (over a hundred?). The art varies from traditional oil paintings to fairly ‘out there’ stuff. In addition to the galleries there are working art studios; you can see some artists at work. Unfortunately I couldn’t photograph any of the art itself.

When I was there I really wanted to buy some artwork; I had my eye on a few peices, but I just couldn’t afford it.

One of the best things about m50 is the aged industrial architecture, which I always thinks goes so well with art; particularly contemporary. This is why I like Tate Modern in London, the turbine hall is breathtaking; even if a lot of the art misses the mark to my taste.

There is also an excellent cafe at m50 – with wonton in soup to die for, not the main cafe at the entrance, just nearby at the side. It’s also an art bookstore.

If you visit Shanghai please be sure to go and have a look around m50.