All posts by Hans

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!

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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.

Regardless of 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Reciprocity for Android

A few weeks ago I wrote an Android App that I felt I needed myself when I was out and about in the field photographing. I’m glad that it has now almost 100 more than 220 installs. As you are well aware of, most films do need correcting for reciprocity failure to avoid underexposing your negatives for exposure times of over a second. This really gets important for Large Format or pinhole photography, and also for night photography of course.
Until now I had a folder with a few printed PDFs with tables of exposure correction information for the different films that I regularly use. I kept the folder in my camera bag where I had to replace the prints regularly due to wind, rain and other damage; an App on a phone you’re already carrying is of course easier to use.
As a bonus, in the Reciprocity App I could also include the findings of Howard Bond from his article in the Photo Technique magazine which had been formulated into an easy formula by Patrick Gainer.
It is a simple App, but packed with the reciprocity details of most black and white films currently being sold. Works fine on my Android phone as well as on my Android tablet. All information is contained in the App so no data connection is needed when you’re on a photo shoot abroad, on top of a mountain or in the deep countryside without any connectivity. It’s free, make sure to grab it!

As for an iOS version for Apple devices, I don’t have the possibility to develop an iOS App and you are probably better off with an Android device anyway. 😀

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Redscale film

Redscale film is easy to make if you have a dark room or a change bag: Simply take all of a C-41 film out of the canister, cut it off and tape it back, back to front, and spool it back into the canister so the film will be exposed on the wrong side. All layers of C-41 film are sensitive to blue light, so the blue layer is positioned on the top normally absorbing the blue light. The result of using redscale film is a clear colour shift to red due to the red-sensitive layer of the film being exposed first as it is now on top.
You would need to overexpose a few stops to avoid having just everything in red as overexposure allows light to reach the less sensitive green and blue layers of the film. And if you are using expired film for this, you would need to overexpose even more. It is a bit trial and error.

Shot on expired Kodak Gold 200 at EI 20 as Red Scale
Shot on expired Kodak Gold 200 at EI 20 as Redscale

Shot on expired Kodak Gold 200 at EI 20 as Red Scale
Shot on expired Kodak Gold 200 at EI 20 as Redscale

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Narita and Naritasan

With departures to Europe leaving Narita airport late morning or early afternoon, this means that a last night in Tokyo always results in getting up very early to catch the first Narita Express trains to be in time at the airport to make the flight. Of course it is not unthinkable in Tokyo that an earthquake or a typhoon knocks out the train traffic for a few hours, so that is why we typically stay the last night in Japan in Narita town rather than Tokyo and lately this has become the last two nights as Narita with Naritasan in its centre is actually a very nice place to visit!
Of course this is not a new idea and loads of tourists are doing this, profiting from the relatively cheap hotels and the convenience of a free shuttle bus to the airport that most, if not all, Narita hotels provide.

Narita town is as nice as any Japanese town but with some very good restaurants, especially the unagi restaurants are famous. At the heart of Narita town lies the big temple complex of Naritasan which makes a visit to Narita worthwhile from a touristic point of view too.

Naritsan pamflet
Naritsan pamphlet

Naritsan pamphlet

One thing the pamphlet only hints at is the unique chance Naritasan offers to join the devotees and visitors in the Goma ritual. Normally if you want to join in at a Buddhist temple in the morning ceremony, you need to get up pretty early. I would still recommend that you do this to give extra substance to your visit to Japan, but the great thing with the Goma ritual is that it is held every hour from early morning to late afternoon. I see so many tourists watch the ritual from beyond the glass wall, but it is just a matter of taking your shoes off, putting them in a plastic bag and sitting down inside to be part of it. When they hit that enormous taiko drum, you’ll jump like everybody else!
And when the ceremony is done, make sure to hand your wallet or camera or anything you would like to be blessed to the monks who will hold it in the smoke of the ritual for a second.

It is so easy to come back from a trip to Japan and have only stood at the window glimpsing in. Like a visit to an onsen, joining in at a temple ceremony should be high up on your lists of things to do for a successful trip to Japan. It is not difficult to join in and I can assure you that it gives a great feeling of satisfaction. Typically there are no thresholds other than our own hesitation and insecurity and I haven’t seen the tourist guide yet that explains any of this, they’re always just going on about who build this and when, but leave out so much practical information. We had a great experience at Zenkō-ji temple in Nagano and lots of other places but with so many foreign tourists and visitors at these places, I’m always the only foreigner joining in, and I’m telling you, you guys are missing out! 😀

nomaku sanmanda bazaradan senda makaroshada sowataya un tarata kanman Homage to the all-pervading Vajras! O Violent One of great wrath! Destroy! un tarata kan man
nomaku sanmanda bazaradan senda makaroshada sowataya un tarata kanman
Homage to the all-pervading Vajras! O Violent One of great wrath! Destroy! un tarata kan man

Make sure to pick up one of the business card sized note that contains the mantra to the Fudo Myo-o deity that is chanted during the Goma ritual, see above for the text in Roman characters and translation.

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