Leica Camera Japan opens new store in Ginza

On April 22, 2006, Leica Camera Japan opened a new store in Ginza. It is the first store in the world to be operated by leica. Besides selling Leica products, it will have a repair center and photo gallery. Elliot Erwitt is showing until July 2006.

Address: Tokaido Ginza Bldg., 1st and 2nd floors
Ginza 6-4-1
Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Hours: 11 am – 7 pm, closed Mon.

April Fool’s at digitalcamera.jp

What I would call the Japanese version of dpreview (minus the forums) is digitalcamera.jp run by camera mag writer Kumio Yamada. People who cannot read Japanese and only look at the images and headlines might be fooled into thinking that those incredible camera announcements are really true.

Well, the long, elaborate entry for April 1, 2006 is a joke. He did it last year as well, and more than a few people outside Japan fell for it. This year’s joke included his announcement of the Nikon D80 with a 10-meg CCD sensor to succeed the D70, and Canon EOS-1Ds Mark X to be marketed in the fall. FujiFilm’s new D-SLR called FinePix S4 Pro is to be based on Nikon’s F100 film SLR. At the end of the entry in red Japanese text, he apologizes and says it’s an April Fool’s joke.

April 9, 2006: Japan Day in Helsinki, Finland

On April 9, 2006, the Annantalo Arts Center in central Helsinki will be holding its annual Japan Day event featuring various Japan-related events and exhibitions. In one exhibition room, I will be showing 25 pictures of Japanese women in Japanese costumes (kimono, etc.) and a short video of Japanese festival movie clips. This is only a day-long event/exhibition.

I won’t be there, but if you’ll be in Finland, please drop by. I hear that the Japanese ambassador to Finland will attend the event as well.


Update: The Japan Day was a jam-packed success. Photos here:

Buying a hard disk in Japan

So I just bought another external hard drive to store my digital photos. It took about a year to fill up my last hard drive, a Buffalo 250GB drive.

I hated that Buffalo 250GB (HD-HB250U2 to be exact, with a USB 2.0 connection http://buffalo.melcoinc.co.jp/products/catalog/item/h/hd-hbu2/index.html ). It was so slow. But it was cheap, less than 20,000 yen. Unfortunately, it took almost forever to copy or transfer images. Transferring a measly 2 GB from my internal hard disk to the Buffalo took over 45 min. Needless to say, it also took a long time to make backup DVDs from the Buffalo too. It was such a pain.

The main reason why I bought it is that in Japan, Buffalo seems to be the most popular HD brand. At Yodobashi, that’s all you see pretty much. The other HD brands are far less visible compared to the stacks and stacks of red Buffalo boxes in front of your face.

So for my new HD, I was determined to get a faster HD. I did some homework and here’s what I found out.

Most hard drives now spin at 7200 rpm which makes it faster than the 5400 rpm of older drives or portable HD models. The rpm is clearly stated on the packaging. But often times what you don’t see on the package (or specs) is the cache memory size. The larger the cache (or buffer) memory, the faster the HD will be when you transfer data to it. The big problem with Buffalo hard drives is that almost all of them don’t say how large the cache is. There’s only one model that says 8 MB cache (but only 250GB). That’s why Buffalo is cheap it seems. So if it doesn’t say how large the cache is, we have to assume that it’s small (and slow).

If you look around, you’ll find other brands which may say 8MB or 16MB cache. But those models are significantly more expensive (maybe 30,000 yen or so). Except for one: Maxtor

Maxtor has 300GB hard drives with 16MB cache costing less than 25,000 yen, hardly any difference in price with the el cheapo Buffalo. So I bought a Maxtor, and wow, it’s fast. I have it connected to FireWire (IEEE1394) and this probably makes a difference too. On paper, USB 2.0 supposed to be faster than FireWire, but during actual use, I’m told that FireWire is faster. So I bought the HD which includes both USB 2.0 and FireWire ports.

The one I bought was the Maxtor E30G300. They also have a USB-only model (cheaper) and a Macintosh-formatted model which is significantly more expensive. I use a Mac, but I bought the cheaper Windows version and just formatted it with my Mac. They should sell the Mac version at the same price as the Windows version. I think it was 5,000 yen more. Not worth it when you can easily reformat a Windows HD for your Mac.

The only problem with Maxtor in Japan is that it might be difficult to find. I went to Yodobashi, Tokyo’s largest camera/computer shop, and the Akihabara store did not have the one I wanted in stock. The Kinshicho branch also had none. Finally, they told me that the Ueno and Shinjuku branches had it in stock. So I went to Ueno (only two train stops away from Akihabara) and got it.

Yodobashi has a good online inventory system, so they can tell you which branch has what. If your nearest branch doesn’t have what you want, ask if another branch has it. Then go there and get it.

I think from now on, it will be Maxtor HDs for me. As long as their prices are low, the drives are fast, and it doesn’t crash.


2006 is looking to be another busy year for me with new major projects, both offline and online. Let me just talk about my online plans here.

I’m quietly observing my 10th year online. Yep, PhotoGuide Japan has been online since spring 1996. The Internet and my Web site have come a long way, and I had a blast. (More about this in a later note to celebrate my 10th year.)

I now feel that I have devoted enough time and effort promoting Japanese photography to the English-speaking world. It’s time to pursue new challenges for the next 10 years online. I will now focus on something bigger than Japanese photography: Japan itself.

This is actually a natural next step since all along I have been promoting Japan and its people and culture through photo books and works by Japanese photographers. I have already begun this new long-term project with the launch of a new Web site called PHOTOGUIDE.JP. It aims to introduce Japan in pictures and in English. It will be an image-rich, visual guide to Japan. I already have over 5,000 pictures of Japan online. This is not a random stock photo collection. It is a coherent collection of photos showing specific subjects in a logical sequence.

I plan to write detailed articles to go with the images. I’m learning a lot about Japan already. After living in Japan for so long, it takes a lot more to be enchanted by Japan (and life itself). I have a constant desire to seek out, discover, and experience new things and people. And that’s what I want to photograph and write about. The things you don’t see in the tourist guide books and Web sites.

There are people who write about Japan or photograph Japan and cannot read Japanese, people and passing tourists who write about Japan only on a superficial level, and people who photograph Japan without explaining about their pictures. There are just too many of these people. They are not all bad, but you just won’t learn much from them.

I hope to do better than these people. But I do it more for myself, to learn more about Japan on a deeper level. That is what I look forward to the most. There’s so much stuff I still don’t know about Japan or never really studied (especially historical things). If I can share the knowledge and experience I gain, then I will be happy.

Note that I will continue to maintain PhotoGuide Japan. But I won’t be spending as much time on it as before. One thing I wanted to do but could not, was updating the maps for camera shops, galleries, etc. If anybody wants to do it, let me know. You will be fully credited.

Hope you all have a great 2006.

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