There's been a lot of talk about the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in the press recently, and how many of the upmarket brands which once ruled supreme in Japan are now struggling. However, there are still businesses which are doing well. Actually UNIQLO
(pronounced "yu-ni-ku-ro") is one of the big success stories in the Japanese fashion industry. More recently they have been moving into markets abroad with stores in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, UK, France, US, Singapore and Russia.(1)
UNIQLO operate their own stores selling their own brand of clothing. The parent company's name is "Fast Retailing", think of it like taking the fast food concept to casual fashion. They offer low cost, yet well made clothes in fast changing fashions.(2,3)
The thing I love about UNIQLO are the sheer number of colours available for the basic items, such as T-Shirts, Sweaters, Shirts, Jeans, socks, gloves, etc.(4) You almost always can find something to match something else! Unfortunately the range of sizes is where they cut back, so if your any bigger than Japanese XL for shirts (M in Australian sizes) you're out of luck at UNIQLO. Plus they only have one size for socks and gloves, which are too small for me. Fortunately I fit Japanese XL shirts, the only problem is at the low prices and good quality it's always tempting to buy a few colours! I have to keep in mind that in Japan I don't have much space in my house!
Note 19/07/2010: Had another particularly busy two weeks, haven't had time to post on pbase, but still had a chance to take a few photos. I will try to look at others' shots over the next few days and post some comments - James
There's a special place in North Western Shiga-ken that's very close to our hearts. It's somewhere that it's possible to experience peace and tranquility of rural Japan. I'm talking about Omi-Imazu. Those who've been visiting my site over the last few years, may know it's also a place where our good friends the Sakamotos have a holiday house and we've visited a couple of times.
Well, the last time for me go there, was in September 2007... And to cut a long story sort our friends decided in September 2009 to move out of their place in Kobe and live permanently in the Omi-Imazu house... So, this year rather than going to Kobe to celebrate New Year with them, we took the train out to Omi-Imazu. Winter in Omi-Imazu is something special, unfortunately most of the low level snow had been washed away by rains the day before, but the mountains were still beautifully covered. We ate nabe on the second floor of the house enjoying the view of the mountains.
We made our way back to Kyoto on the super fast (well 135kmh, not quite bullet speed) Raicho limited express and got back in half the time that it took us to get there on the regular train.
Note 03/07/2010: If you'd like to see more of Omi-Imazu, I've started a gallery of some of my best shots from Omi-Imazu from the previous visits to there in 2006 and 2007. Check it out here:- http://www.pbase.com/jameslclarke/omiimazu
New Year's Cards
It is the custom in Japan to send New Year's Greeting Cards which are like post cards. As long as you post them by the 28th of December, the Post Office will deliver them on New Year's Day. There are about three mail deliveries on New Year's Day in Japan, these are normally done by students who get a part time job with the Post Office during their winter school/college/university holidays.
We received a lot of post cards this year from friends, normally with their photo on it (often dressed up in a kimono). The three cards in this picture are ones we received from companies that we buy stuff from, another form of advertising I guess.
Note 28/06/2010: I've been adding more sub galleries to my Kansai sites gallery
, as I plan to make it a comprehensive guide to the sites in the Kansai region of Japan (where I now reside). Hopefully this can be useful to people who are planning to come to Japan.
After the busyness of the build up to Christmas and all of the things that went on, we finally got the chance to have a day off and go out into Shiga for a bit of an adventure. Since I have an interest in Japanese castles, we decided to go to Hikone to see Hikone-jo (Hikone Castle) which is rated as the third best original wooden castle after Himeji
. The Castle itself is rather small, but the architecture is very beautiful and unique. The views across Lake Biwa from the top floor windows are fantastic. Next door to the castle is Genkyu-en a traditional Japanese Garden which is worth seeing if you visit the castle.
The biggest surprise was what we found in the outer moats of the castle, a pair of Black Swans. Since Black Swans are native to Australia (although now common in New Zealand as well), normally Japanese swans are white. Black Swans are also the symbol of my home city Perth in Western Australia. From what I've found on the net, the swans were a friendship gift from the city of Mitto in Ibaraki prefecture, I'm not sure if they originally came from somewhere in Australia or they were born in Japan. They were however coping better with the cold 3C temperatures on that morning than us!
After Castle and the Garden we spent some time looking around the city, which is the second biggest in Shiga Prefecture. We ate a delicious lunch of Omi-Gyu (Shiga Beef), then headed back to the train station stopping at a large cafe near the station for coffee and cakes, before making the one hour trip back to Nagaokakyo.
A Surprise Christmas Gift
When Mum and Dad came to Japan, I enquired with Dad if he still had the old Flash from the Practika, since it would be a suitable Flash for the Mamiya 67
. Well, exactly on Christmas day (as it is not a public holiday here and thus the mail is delivered, plus even on Japanese holidays the mail still gets delivered by part timers!) a parcel arrived from my parents. When I open the parcel it contained a tea towel, a card and the Bell & Howell Model 20 Flash. What's interesting it's an American Brand of Flash that was made in Japan. Now-a-days my Nikon (Japanese Brand) Flashes are made in China! BTW the only time I tried it out with film in the Mamiya 67 for some reason the film didn't turn out at all (probably due to incorrect loading of the film, than a flash problem) and I've been banned from using the Mamiya 67 for a while because of that! So it may be a while before I have some pics to show from the Mamiya 67 + Flash, but I do have another camera capable of using the Bell & Howell Model Flash now, so maybe I'm going to get some good use from it sooner rather than later...
Note 21/06/2010:- A milestone of 4000 comments on my site was reached today, the person who gave me the 4000th comment was Mr Rodney H of HumanTouch Photography
. Thank you to everyone who has supported me in kind words of encouragement over the last 4 years.