June 13, 2012

An (Almost) Impossible Quest.

On the second day of our trip, Aya and I knew exactly where we wanted to go: Impossible Tokyo. The Impossible Project is very dear to Aya and I, as we met on the internet through polaroids in 2005 (meeting people on the internet via polaroids seems to be a reoccurring trend in my life, huh?) Impossible Tokyo didn't open its doors until noon, so we first planned to visit a coffee shop Aya had discovered through a New York Times article. Being coffee connoisseurs, we were looking forward to our first proper cup of Japanese brew, as we had been stuck drinking watered down canned coffee the first 36 hours of our trip. If I had only known how the day's adventure would unfold, I probably would have tossed back several cans of that watered down canned coffee. Oh, the adventure we were about to have...

With my back still aching from the day before, I smartly packed two less cameras, loaded up on film,  and as Aya plugged the address into her iPod, I threw on my bag and we headed out the door.  We jumped on a train in Narita bound for Tokyo (we stayed with family friends in Narita the first three nights of our trip) and after a transfer, we arrived at Nippori Station in the Arakawa ward of Tokyo. Fun fact: the Arakawa ward's sister city of Corvallis, Oregon, is home to my alma mater, Oregon State University. Go Beavs!

Upon arrival, we set out in search of the coffee shop. To make a long story short, instead of heading right, we went left, walking for nearly an hour before coming to the realization that we had gone in the wrong direction. Hot, hungry and becoming a bit cranky, we elected to nix the coffee shop in favor of heading back to our starting point and regrouping over lunch. Just then, it started to rain. Born and raised in Oregon - the land of perpetual drizzle, I rarely carry an umbrella. While the thought of bringing one had possibly crossed my mind while packing, it was quickly dropped off the list in favor of extra film space. By the time we reached the train station, our feet were wet, our bellies were hungry and my hair was a frizzy mess. We stepped into the nearest restaurant, a bento joint filled with chain smoking businessman.

Our bellies full and our feet semi-dry, we excitedly hit the street. And then the thunder and lightning started. It began to pour. We quickly darted into the nearest place we could find that sold umbrellas. It was the best 400 yen I've ever spent.

 Do you see all that rain bouncing off the pavement? We walked several blocks huddled together under our clear bubble umbrella, glancing up at every building to check the address. Where was the Impossible Project? We popped into a convenience store where Aya asked the clerk if we were on Oak Street. Yes, he assured us, we were. Aya showed him the address and the gentleman instructed us to go back a few lights. We were almost there! We walked back as instructed and searched and searched and searched. Where was the building? We'd seen enough photos of the store's sign to know what to look for, but for the life of us, we couldn't find it. We found a building that had glue remnants of where a sign used to be. Could the sign have fallen off? Standing in the building's entry way, we finally noticed the tiny addresses listed on the wall. There it was - 2F, we had made it! We high fived each other and then quickly realized we couldn't get into the locked building. Luckily, I had the Impossible phone number with me. Aya called the shop and after several long minutes, questions back and forth and lots of quizzical looks she broke the bad news to me - we were in the wrong place. Turns out, there are two places with the same exact address in Tokyo. Google Maps fail!

 A is where we were, B was where we were supposed to be. With a new destination and an ice cream bar in hand, we began phase two. I have no shame in admitting I ate one of these ice creams almost every day of our trip.

One hour, a transfer and nineteen stops out on a line (yes, I counted) we arrived at our new destination. Aya got out her phone to call the shop again. After a few minutes, Aya gave me a look that could only mean one thing...

As our luck would have it, there were two stations with similar names, the only difference being the one we were at had a hyphenated ending. We were supposed to be at Aobadai Station. Instead, we were, well, I don't know where the hell we were. But it sure wasn't near Impossible Tokyo. At that point, it was well after 3 p.m., but we refused to give up. Another ice cream bar for me and an egg salad sandwich for Aya and we were ready for attempt #3. Third time's a charm right? RIGHT.
As they say in Japan, YATTA!
 You may be thinking, "Whitney, where are the Impossible photos?" Well, I committed a bit of a blunder when packing my camera bag that morning. I brought two identical SLR 680's to Japan - one loaded with Impossible film and the other with original Polaroid 600. I mistakenly put the wrong camera into my bag. Womp wooomp.

Yes, Azuree, I took this photo just for you. A bunny rabbit sx-70!
I like to imagine that one of these figures is of my friend Anne Bowerman

June 5, 2012


Last week I returned home from an incredible two week trip to Japan. Sometime last fall, my lovely friend Aya asked me if I wanted to tag along with her on a trip to visit her family in Tokyo and the northern portion of Honshu (the main island of Japan). I answered with a resounding "HAI!" I saved my pennies, ate lots of sushi in anticipation, filled a backpack full of cameras and film and before I knew it, we were boarding the world's largest plane bound for Narita International Airport.

Aya has been to Japan over a dozen times, but this last visit was the first time she brought a friend along (lucky me!) and did anything tourist related. The first place on our agenda: The Imperial Palace, home to the Emperor of Japan. While the palace itself is off limits 363 days of the year, the outer grounds are a public park and offer a nice retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. We spent a very humid afternoon wandering the grounds, sweating up a storm and chugging lots water. I wasn't prepared for how humid Japan was. Hello, frizzy hair!

If you pack five cameras in your backpack, you will ultimately end up with five photographs that look the same, as is evident by the first few photos of this post. (You never know which one will look the best!) Photos of the Nijubashi Bridge taken with (from top to bottom): Polaroid SLR 680 with Polaroid  600 film, Polaroid SLR 680 with PX 680 Color Shade Cool film by The Impossible Project, Pentax K1000 with Kodak 800 film, Canon 50D and Olympus XA2 with Kodak 400 film. Yes, I'm crazy. Yes, my back still hurts. And yes, it was totally worth it.

Stay tuned for more photos in the days to come!