Monthly Archives: June 2011

Experiences Photography

Thaipusam Festival in SG

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I’ve finally uploaded pictures of the Thaipusam festival I visited last year while in Singapore.  Pictures are uploaded to the usual place, but this time I’m putting the link at the bottom of this post since viewers may find some of the pictures a little upsetting if you don’t know what to expect.

One of the guys in the SG office is a shutterbug as well, and when he learned that a group of his photography friends were planning a visit to the temple where preparations for the festival were taking place, he asked if I wanted to come along.  I’m always up for any kind of photo walk, so I happily agreed.

Preparations for the festivities start EARLY – so I had to wake up around 4AM to grab a taxi to the Little India area.  There I met up with my colleague and we headed to the temple.  Once there, you have to take off your shoes (luckily I was wearing sandals) before you’re allowed to go in.  I’m used to taking off shoes when going in Japanese shrines/temples, but always within buildings.  This temple was more or less “open-air” though, and it took me a while to get used to walking on dirt and grass barefoot (I’ve grown pretty spoiled since I’ve come to Japan). 😛

I also hadn’t expected so much leeway in taking pictures, but there were tons of photographers and tourists already at the temple snapping away, some really up close and personal – I was rather surprised at how easygoing the devotees were and how well they took things.

The preparations for the event were fascinating to observe, if a little…unorthodox (at least for me).  More information can be found at the Wikipedia link for Thaipusam here, but the gist of it is that it’s a festival celebrating commemorating the defeat of an evil demon by one of the Hindu deities.  Devotees prepare several days in advance with fasting and prayer, and on the actual day of the festival, take on various burdens which they will present to the Hindu deity Murugan.

The types of “burdens” vary greatly as you can see in the pictures.  Some only carry pots of milk on their heads, while others pierce their bodies while carrying a portable canopy called a “Kavadi” (example shown in the picture at the beginning of this post).  Even the degrees of piercing vary – from thin rods that barely pierce the skin, to skewers that jut through one cheek and out the other, rods that punch through the skin of the belly, and nasty looking hooks that snag the flesh on the back.

Some devotees handle the pain fairly stoically, even appearing nonchalant, while others (notably the younger ones) were in obvious pain.

There were other preparations as well, such as the manufacture of incense (the place positively reeked of incense which lingered on my clothes throughout the day), offerings of food and drink, prayers, and more.  While watching one of the men get fitted with his kavadi, one woman appeared to get possessed, and started throwing herself first against him, and later rolling around the dirt.  I actually got a video clip of this which I may later upload, but sufficed to say it was a little disconcerting.

My colleague and I stayed until about 8AM, after which we packed our cameras away, washed our feet under a convenient nearby faucet, and headed to work (we had brought a change of clothes).

It was an intriguing experience, and despite the early hours and the somewhat disturbing displays of self-mortification, I’m glad I went.  For a look at all the pictures I took, and if you’re not averse to piercings, head on over to the gallery section.



2011 Karuizawa half marathon

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I’ve finally gotten around to posting some pictures of a recent marathon that I took part in, which can be found at the usual place.  My participation in this marathon was completely unexpected; two weeks before the marathon, a colleague of mine at work (a dedicated runner) came by my desk and asked if I would be interested in taking his place in a marathon he had previously signed up for.  An unexpected business trip had come up and he would not be in Japan on the weekend the marathon was scheduled to take place.

With not a little trepidation, I said I would try – “try” being the operative word, since I hadn’t participated in a real run since last year’s Tokyo marathon!  I managed to get about a week and a half’s worth of practice, though only running about 4-5 km each practice run.  The reason for this was because I had decided to run in my new Vibram Five-Finger shoes, and it was taking me longer to adjust to “barefoot running” than I had expected.  Seriously, running in those REALLY work out your calf and… tibialis?  soleus? whatever the muscle directly below the knee facing front is called.

On the day of the race I was still worried because I still hadn’t gotten to run for more than 5km at a stretch, and I had also chosen to rest for the 2 days just before the race to give my legs a chance to recover from the practice.  However, I woke up at 04:30, showered, and headed out (also managed to get a few shots of a lovely early morning sunrise from my balcony just before I left).  I got on a shinkansen to Karuizawa, and within an hour and a half I had arrived.

Everything was in Japanese, but luckily I didn’t really need to know much – I just followed the hundreds of people wearing running gear all getting off the train.  (also, as far as I could tell, I was the only one wearing Five Finger shoes).  The race started at 09:00 and off we went.

I kept to a very slow pace during the entire run – in fact, I don’t think I ever got winded throughout the entire 21km.  My feet and legs also held up surprisingly well for the first 10-12km, but gradually after that I really started to feel the burn in my lower legs.  The last 2km were the worst… my feet, lower leg muscles, and whatever one calls the muscles located on the outer side of the knee were on fire… I’m pretty sure I completed the last leg of the race on adrenaline alone!

Finally, after 2hrs and 25min, I crossed the finish line.  Towards the end there were volunteers handing out paper cups of water to runners… I swear, nothing ever tasted so delicious in my life.  When really tired and exhausted, nothing beats good ‘ol water!

It had started to drizzle during the last stretch of the race, and shortly after finishing, the drizzle turned into a full blown storm.  I didn’t even bother changing out of my runner’s clothes since I didn’t have an umbrella and my dry clothes (thankfully my clean clothes were in plastic) would just have gotten wet.  Instead I hung around the finish line, grabbed a quick bowl of ramen from a nearby stall and after slurping it down I trudged over to a mega-outlet that was located near the train station.

There, I changed into dry clothes, and sat for a couple of hours reading and sipping a cup of decadently rich Godiva hot chocolate.  Mmmm…

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After a wonderful rest, I grabbed another shinkansen back home, showered, and fell asleep instantly.

I have to say, I have never recovered so quickly from a race – ever.  Every race I’ve run in has always required that I rest up for a week or two so my knees would recover.  This time, all pain was gone in 2 days.  The only thing I can attribute the quick recovery to is my Vibram shoes – I guess that the emphasis that these shoes place on a front and/or mid-foot strike may be doing me some good, and I definitely plan to continue running in these to see how things go.

Well, there you go, the story behind the pictures I’ve posted in my gallery section.  Sadly the picture selection is rather minimal since I only took pictures after the race.. but still, I had a great experience! 🙂



Old Ronald McDonald commercials

Ronald McDonald has always looked a little disturbing to me (maybe I’m just not that fond of clowns), but these early ads make him look positively freaky!
One thing the ad gets right though: the hamburgers Ronald produces out of thin air look just like the ACTUAL burger that’s sold – soggy and slightly deflated, unlike the pictures of juicy full-sized hamburgers that they use for advertising (and always end up disappointing).


My wittle brudder

Joshua (whom I’ve previously referred to as “J4”) has just started up his own blog.  We both share the same initials, so technically “njmatsuya” could apply to either of us, but by virtue(?) of being the oldest (and the one who’s working full-time so I can afford it), I claimed the domain first, muahahaha. 😛

However, I created a separate subdomain for him and he’s setup his own gallery and blog at:

So far he’s doing a better job than I am at updating/writing – let’s see if he keeps it up over the long term. 😉

-edited because as my wittelest brudder pointed out, we DON’T share the same initials!  That’s J3!  Don’t know how I mixed that up… and no, it’s NOT due to old age… I hope. (T_T;