A couple weeks ago I had the chance to visit Fukuoka for a weekend. Fukuoka isn’t a place that’s talked about a whole lot when people think about Japan, but it’s got its own charm that is worth checking out.
For this quick weekend trip I took just my Leica M2 and my new Summicron 35mm f/2. For film, I brought several rolls of bulk-rolled Tri-X 400, and a couple rolls of Portra 400. It wasn’t the most eventful trip but I did get to do a bit of shooting. I was mainly there to meet up with a couple dear old friends from back home in Canada who were travelling through the country.
After seeing places like Seoul, Tokyo and the tourist-hive of Kyoto, it was nice to get a glimpse at a smaller city like Fukuoka. There’s definitely less tourists around and it doesn’t have the crazy hustle-and-bustle feel that Tokyo does. A certain charm in its own right. The evenings are calm, at night the streets are quiet and people go about their business at a slower pace.
Fukuoka is known for being the birthplace of tonkotsu ramen, which I certainly indulged in. One of the places I went to, Hakata Ramen Zen, was absolutely fantastic. Their main attraction is their dirt cheap (only ¥320!!) basic tonkotsu ramen. To this day I still think it’s the best ramen I’ve ever had in Japan (and I’ve had a fair bit of ramen here). Fukuoka is also known for their yatai (outdoor food stalls). I had some ramen here too. Seeing these tiny outdoor food stands packed with patrons along the river was something else. The first time I’ve seen ramen served outdoors in Japan.
While overall it was a pretty uneventful trip, Fukuoka was a welcome change of pace. Walking around the town without anywhere to be anytime soon was enjoyable. Sitting in a park by the port with the sun greeting the horizon, watching fisherman pack up for the day and couples out for an evening stroll was a welcome shift in mood.
Over the weekend I visited Seoul for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving). It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been back to Korea, so it was almost like visiting for the first time. I honestly didn’t have a ton of time for sightseeing and photography as I spent most of my time with family, but I did manage to get a little shooting in.
First, a small note on gear. I actually did the opposite of my last trip to Tokyo and this time I brought 3 cameras and a variety of film stocks (both b/w and color). I brought my Yashica Mat-124G (with the intention of selling/trading it), my Konica Big Mini and my trust Leica M2. I also brought some bulk rolled Tri-X 400 and 2 rolls of Fuji Superia 400. Although I brought 3 cameras this time around, I actually only ended up shooting the Leica. I never even took the Konica Big Mini out of my bag and I traded the Yashica Mat-124G in for a Sony DSC-RX100, thus getting rid of my last medium format camera and making the full leap to 35mm only (a topic for another blog post).
Like I said before, I had barely any time to shoot during this short 2.5 day visit. I only got in one roll of Fuji Superia 400, one roll of Tri-X 400 (pushed to 1600) and one roll of Portra 400. During my first full day I visited Namdaemun market, with the intention of checking out the camera stores. I’ve heard great things about both Namdaemun and Chungmuro and their film camera stores. I wanted to visit both but only had time for Namdaemun (I’ve heard Chungmuro has a better selection of film-specific gear!). I highly recommend visiting both if you’re in Seoul! The smells and sounds and sights are quite something.
As I was trading in my Yashica Mat-124G and saying goodbye to medium format (for now), I managed to grab some Kodak Portra 400 as part of the exchange. I used to shoot Portra all the time, but haven’t shot it in about a year and a half. This is due to many reasons, but mainly price. I just couldn’t justify paying for expensive film when there were cheaper options out there. I also had a period of shooting only HP5+ for the better part of a year. But when I got my hands on some from the trade I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I shot it again.
The warm pastel tones of Portra give it that classic 35mm film look and the dynamic range is to die for. I overexposed it to hell and back and everything came out really nice. I seriously missed shooting this film. I’m definitely going to start shooting it more often now. Even if this trip wasn’t too productive photography-wise, it served as a re-revelation to the wonders of Portra.
Although I didn’t get to shoot too much during this visit, I definitely enjoyed the few shots I got. If it wasn’t for this trip I wouldn’t have shot any Portra and fallen in love with it all over again. I’ll definitely be back in Seoul sometime in 2018 or early 2019. Hopefully I’ll have more content after that trip.
All photos shot on a Leica M2 and Tri-X 400 (pushed to 1600) or Portra 400.