All posts filed under: Travel

Photo Essay: Luxury Trains in Japan

Being a photographer in Japan has so many perks – not the least of which is the amazing, ultra reliable bullet train system that means I can zip from city to city with so much less effort being subjected to all sorts of cavity searches in order to board a flight. Japan’s trains are so good, clean and fast that once you’re used to them, it’s almost impossible for any other country to live up to them. Of course, Japan being Japan, they can’t leave well enough alone, and had to find some way to make the train experience even more sublime. Japan’s luxury train lineup is a serious droolfest for train nerds and luxury travelers alike, with berths on the most exclusive Shikishima train starting at around $7000 for a twin share. Not quite so expensive yet marvelous nonetheless is the Royal Express train, which I had the great pleasure of photographing for the Wall Street Journal late last year. The Royal Express runs from Yokohama down to the tip of the Izu peninsula …

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (7)

Earning your dinner – how to ask for permission to take a photo.

I’m going to tell you guys a little photography parable today, because who doesn’t like a cute little story with a moral lesson at the end? Every now and then it’s nice to have a peek inside the mental process of a photographer in order to see how certain pictures are made. In this case it’s a pretty simple story with a simple lesson but sometimes those are the ones we need to pay the closest attention to. Anyway, one of my favorite portraits of the year so far was shot with absolutely no preparation or foreknowledge of the subject’s existence. I’m in Fukuoka, one of Japan’s major southern cities and one of my favorite spots in all Japan. I’m there for a magazine photoshoot, which, as an editorial photographer is a rare treat. Traveling for photoshoots is significantly rarer nowadays so anytime I get to go anywhere to shoot portraits I get super stoked. Anyway I digress. The magazine shoot was wrapped and in the bag, and I decided to stick around in Fukuoka because I had a …

Mukojima, the Tokyo geisha town

Somewhere in the middle of Tokyo’s older quarter, near Asakusa but slightly too far from a subway station to make it easy to access, is the quiet district of Mukojima. Hidden in the nondescript grey and brown buildings are the homes, restaurants, and training houses for Tokyo’s geisha. Here it is not uncommon to see a fully garbed geisha or maiko quietly having coffee in the homely kissaten (cafes), or crossing the street to go from one interminable location to another – a sight that is typically thought to exist only in Kyoto. It’s an undiscovered part of Tokyo that has quietly come along through the ages without invasion from the eyes of tourists. Here’s a few photos from a story I shot around the area, some of them are from the street, others are portraits of some of the subjects interviewed for the article. Hope you enjoy them!        

Zen and the art of taxi driving

Late late last year I had the wonderful opportunity to do a photoshoot for BBC’s Top Gear magazine, on a kind of documentary story about one life in the night of a Tokyo taxi driver.  In addition to shooting the story, I also had to do the fixing – eg; find a taxi company who would let us ride around with one of their drivers all night, so I had my work cut out for me.  Fixing is something I regularly do when shooting for magazines outside Japan, and is one of the advantages of being a bilingual photographer here, as I usually get a bonus. Anyway, you can see and read the great article in January’s Top Gear magazine (should be available worldwide), but here are some photos of Sudou-san, our driver for the night, whom I actually met on the way to a shoot. He was one of the coolest taxi drivers I’d ever met so I decided to ask him if he was interested in doing the story and he said yes. …


Well, wow, I got a pretty big response for the PMS project on Facebook and email – so I’m going to go ahead with that it seems. Looking for ladies willing to be subjects for this – drop me a line in the Contact section or in the comments! This shot below is of my girlfriend’s grandmother taken while we were visiting Hawaii in March.  She’s a sweet chatty, generous old lady that loves to tell stories. She has a great bar fridge full of Pepsi which is awesome for me and she likes to sit in her favorite chair and drink coffee and chat.  Her husband passed away last year, which was a very sad time for the lady and her family. Like a lot of older people she gets forgetful sometimes and loses track of things.  Not sure whether it’s Alzheimer’s but it’s a bit of a worry. I photographed her at her old family home which is near Haleiwa, which is one of the coolest places to shoot I’ve ever been in. I also …

Volunteering up in Ishinomaki-shi – Part 2

For part 1 of this blog post click here: While in Ishinomaki we had the unique (as far as I know) opportunity to visit the suburb of Ibarazu. It was unique in the fact that we were sent there not to clean up mud but to pick up fish. A lot of fish. Ibarazu is a small part of Ishinomaki situated near one of the largest fish markets in Miyagi. When the tsunami came through the area, hundreds of tons of fish for sale were swept away, and mostly ended up in Ibarazu. These fish had been sitting there, rain and shine, for 2 months, despite the best efforts of the township to clean their streets up.  That’s where we came in. The fact that there was plenty left over for us to pick up is a good indication of the sheer volume that was simply just lying around. Needless to say, the smell was incredible. Fish had clumped together in schools and putrefied in ways beyond belief. Some were dried out from sitting in …

Volunteering up in Ishinomaki-shi – Part 1

We came back from the tsunami and quake stricken region of Ishinomaki city, Miyagi prefecture last week.  It’s been roughly two months since the M9.0 earthquake, and if any of you were think that it’s too late to go up there to lend a hand, you were wrong.  Ishinomaki needs plenty of hands right now, and will continue to need them for years to come, as work continues to clean the wounds before healing can even begin.  The situation gets even more daunting knowing that this is not the only city affected by the disaster, and that up and down the coast cities and towns have been subjected to a similar amount of damage, which even for one city is on a truly unimaginable scale. About 160,000 live in Ishinomaki city. About 7% of these people are homeless. This doesn’t sound like much but that’s over 10,000 people in refugee centers with virtually no possessions and no way of acquiring them except through the efforts of the government, army and aid organizations.  How many people …


To those of you who’ve been wondering where I’ve been due to my lack of postings, I’ve been on holiday and have just gotten back into the swing of things.  I went to Aomori – quite possibly the dreariest city I’ve visited in Japan, and while there was a decided lack of excitement, there were plenty of photo opportunities to capture some great urban decay. Shot all this stuff straight to JPEG on my Nikon D700 and 24-70mm G with ISO6400 and little to no editing.  It gave me the look I wanted straight from the start, which was absolutely great.  I personally am very happy with this series and might even consider having an exhibition of it sometime in Tokyo somewhere.                                                          

Old Melbourne Town

A selection of shots from the couple of days I spent in Melbourne. Ended up walking around Queen Victoria Market where I killed time shooting sausages hanging from hooks while The Lady and dad shopped around. It’s a beautiful market full of amazing aromas, colours and the boisterous voices of costermongers as they dealt in their wares of cured meats, cheeses, oils, pesto and fresh fish.