Coltrane “LIVE” at the Village Vanguard

The story of finding my first album on the Impulse! label which had such a big impact on my life. I now own loads of other albums on the Impulse! label 🙂

At high school age in the late 70s, friends of mine got into Jazz Rock and listened to the CTI albums by Deodato and Hubert Laws, etc.. I liked the saxophone and got more into the albums of Grover Washington Jr.; Live at The Bijou was my favourite for a long time. However, after a while I felt I could handle music with a bit more substance and started reading a few books on Jazz and the New Thing. Of course, the records of John Coltrane were recommended by everybody. None of my friends had anything by Coltrane and my normal records store had nothing either, so I had no chance to listen and understand what it was all about.
One day I happened to step into the records store we normally ignored as it virtually had nothing of interest, certainly no Jazz, except, it had a small crate with some Jazz records and among those records I found Impulse! A10 Coltrane “LIVE” at the Village Vanguard. You could see that the records in that crate had survived multiple sales and discounts.
I bought the record and, at home in my room, I put it on my turntable.


The record only contains 3 songs:

  • Spiritual
  • Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise
  • Chasin’ the Trane

The opening notes of Spiritual immediately sold me, it felt like coming home. The bass clarinet of Eric Dolphy intertwined with the soprano saxophone of Coltrane; and that drumming by Elvin Jones! It was out of this world to me.
The most influential and intensive song without a doubt is Chasin’ the Trane and I can understand that this must have been maybe too intensive at the time.

Yuyado Daiichi Onsen

We didn’t stay at Yuyado Daiichi Onsen but drove by and stopped for a soak, most onsen allow day spa access for a few hours a day for a modest price. It is a great way to enjoy the famous onsen although some of these places have great rooms and cuisine that you don’t get to enjoy. At Yuyado Daiichi Onsen we paid ¥600 which was a very fair price considering the many baths.


There were so many rotenburo to enjoy; we were lucky to have arrived early as it did take time to explore all the baths. As I was the only one in the baths for some time, I shot the following video:

The great AirBnb we had in Tokyo

We found this great AirBnb in Tokyo (Higashimurayama-shi) with good access to Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Kawagoe by train! The place was a whole traditional Japanese house with tatami areas, a cosy kotatsu table, large kitchen, bath, a garden and two bedrooms upstairs. And only at a 5 minutes walk from Seibu-en train station. We had used AirBnb around Tokyo before but never found such a nice, spacious place.

Located at less than 5 minutes from the house, Lake Tama has a great sunset view of Mount Fuji. In the other direction is a forest for a great hike with a nice link to the My Neighbor Totoro film by Hayao Miyazaki.
And did I mention that it is next to Seibu-en amusement park? 🙂

Sunset over Mt Fuji

Look at these beautiful doors of the futon storage in the bedroom, amazing!

Pretty doors

Wakoto Onsen

Close to Kotan Onsen and also on Lake Kussharo is Wakoto Onsen which is located on that tiny peninsula that is so recognizable for Lake Kussaro. This rotenburo is a bit more secluded and even though it was just as cold when we visited Kotan Onsen, the windchill was a lot less and we didn’t feel like we were freezing.

The view was excellent but the water was a bit dirty with clumps of algae that floated around and occasionally stuck to our bodies. All in all, it was a great experience and both Wakoto and Kotan rotenburo are recommended!

Kotan Onsen

Along Lake Kussharo in the tiny town of Kotan, the locals have created a rotenburo (outdoor hotspring) bordering the lake. We visted this December with a temperature of -5 C in a gale that must have had a windchill factor of -20, or so.

Disregarding the outside temperature, I got into the bath and enjoyed a nice soak as the water had a great temperature. However, getting back into my clothes was freezing cold but I wouln’t liked to have missed this experience for the world!

Access to the rotenburo is free of charge.

Koshikawa Onsen

The other day we visited Koshikawa Onsen, a tiny, old building along the 244 leading to the south-east out of Shari, Hokkaido. It is an unmanned onsen and you pay the 200 yen fee by putting the coins in a box. It seems the be mainly frequented by locals and travellers who have heard of the place. The building looks a bit run-down but the bath is nice and the water is hot.

Koshikawa Onsen

I do treasure these tiny onsen as anybody can go to the big baths of Yufuin or Hakone, but in my romantic view this is much closer to the way onsen were used in the past before it was all about the souvenirs or the drinks. There are still the leftovers of a much older Japan out there for those who bother to look.

A 100-temple Kannon pilgrimage

The 33 temples of the Bandō Sanjūsankasho (“The Bando 33 Kannon Pilgrimage”) form together with the 33 temples of the Saigoku pilgrimage and the 34 temples of the Chichibu Kannon temple pilgrimage, a 100-temple Kannon pilgrimage.
Now free Android apps for all three of these pilgrimages are available from the Android store.


Of the three pilgrimages, at a mere length of 100 km, the Chichibu 34 Kannon pilgrimage is best suited for the tourist who can only dedicate a limited amount of time and would like to walk the pilgrimage. And as Chichibu is, undeservedly, still largely undiscovered by the majority of the tourists, you have a chance to enjoy a lovely area of Japan that is less than an hour from Tokyo by train.
See also here.

Fomapan film and grain

Over the last few years I have had long discussions about the use of Fomapan film on several occasions with different people as I do use a fair few rolls of Fomapan film. These discussion typically start of with specific questions about developer dilutions and times and sometimes agitation. Often the problem is that people have excessive grain and want to make sure to avoid that in the future.

Foma Fomapan 100 @ EI 100; developed in HC-110 dilution H for 10 minutes, agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds
Foma Fomapan 100 @ EI 100; developed in HC-110 dilution H for 10 minutes, agitation: 2 inversions every 30 seconds

I don’t claim to be a specialist but I know from experience that when exposed correctly and developed via the standard methods, Fomapan 100, 200 and 400 does not have excessive grain at all. I think the problem is in the first part of that statement; indeed when you expose Fomapan film incorrectly, the latitude of the film is not very great and this will result in heaps of grain no matter how you develop it. I’m surprised how little attention many people pay to correct exposure, blindly following rules of thumb or their TTL light meters. If you are using the ‘sunny 16 rule’ or similar as one of the people asking me was using, you are better off using Fuji Neopan Acros 100 in my opinion as its latitude is impressive and this rule of thumb is not very accurate. But even if you are using the TTL meter of your camera you must be aware at all times how the light meter works and when it can get fooled in either over- or underexposing the photo. And it does get it wrong! I recommend to use your camera’s spot meter function and exposure locking feature or use an external spot meter and the manual mode of your camera for best possible results on Fomapan.

The Chichibu Pilgrimage App for Android

The pages describing my experience of walking the Chichibu 34 Kannon temple pilgrimage on this blog remain popular and this makes me happy as that means that a lot of people are looking to get more out of their trips to Japan, decided to get out of the big cities and get a taste of the real Japan. I’m therefore happy to announce that I’ve written a free Android App that works as the perfect travel assistant specific for the Chichibu 34 Kannon Temples pilgrimage.

The Henro App is based on my own experience walking the pilgrimage and it is what I would have liked to have with me when I was doing the pilgrimage. Some of the temples are difficult to find. Even though there are some signs and stone markers guiding the pilgrim, especially in the Yokoze area, I found myself walking with both the books in my hand constantly looking at hand-drawn maps that were put together a long time ago and not always accurate or reading descriptions that were a bit confusing at times. I really felt like I wanted to have all the details of a temple and up-to-date maps easily accessible on my phone or tablet and even have the possibility to use GPS to indicate your current location or use for navigation to a temple.
Well, here it is is, a perfect pilgrim’s assistant and I have packed it with loads of details about other tourist attractions in Chichibu as well; so even if you don’t use it to do the pilgrimage, you’ll get plenty out of it when you visit Chichibu and it comes at a price you cannot beat. Available now in both English and Japanese (日本語版). 🙂
Check out the video on YouTube to see what to expect.



Film photography, travel, techniques and background information