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Slow Travel in Osaka Doing Street and Portraits

What kind of traveler are you?

Some people love planning a complete itinerary with all the greatest hits a city has to offer. When you’re on a tight schedule this is of course highly efficient and gives the traveler the most opportunity to check off as many sites and experiences as possible. When I first came to Japan I could probably say I leaned more towards that style. Feeling like time was limited and not knowing when or even if I would be back I did the more typical first trip to Japan including the greatest hits of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka over the course of 21 days. But Japan had me hooked and I would be back over and over again over the course of the next 5 years. Each trip I came out would last longer and my travels became less about feeling like I was in a rush against time as a tourist traveling TO a destination but more about trying to feel the experience of living IN the city while connecting with locals. In my free time, my days were largely unplanned and all I knew was that I had a camera, I was falling madly in love with the Japanese aesthetic and I had an undying desire to take as many photos as I could. The best way to do so was to walk and thankfully I was in one of the most walkable cities in the planet.

This is when my mindset towards travel took a different meaning and I started to embrace the concepts of Slow Travel.

Slow travel is an approach to travel that emphasizes connection: to local people, cultures, food and music. It relies on the idea that a trip is meant to educate and have an emotional impact, in the present moment and for the future, while remaining sustainable for local communities and the environment.

My love for street photography grew in lockstep with my new found love to slow things down. Little to no plans and I had yet to really find a niche in terms of style but as long as I had my camera I felt like anything could happen. Being in less of a rush to capture all the big moments I started to experience and photograph the little moments. The daily life often overlooked and those memorable encounters with locals.

Embracing the spirit of Slow Travel, I recently headed off to one of my favourite cities in Japan, Osaka. If Tokyo is proper and Kyoto is refined Osaka is just raw. While the food is cheap and delicious and the streets are teeming with life, the infrastructure is, well, let’s just say the city won’t be winning any prizes anytime soon. Not the prettiest city by usual standards by any stretch but what it lacks in the polished beauty department it makes up for with loads of character from the Showa era buildings and neighbourhoods to the cities quirky inhabitants. And the food! There’s a reason Osaka is known throughout Japan as 天下の台所 (Tenka no Daidokoro or the Nation's Kitchen).

Off I went from my Airbnb located conveniently right beside the very central Hommachi station with no real set plans and headed north towards Yodogawa-ku and the Yodo River. I passed through the major commercial area of Umeda, over the Juso-Ohashi bridge and on the other side of the Yodo River was something entirely different. Starting in the neighbourhood of Juso, I would soon find myself in a part of the city where time seemingly stood still and was certainly not on any tourist itineraries. You didn’t have to scratch too far under the surface (or at all actually, see below) to see some stark contrasts which kind of assured me that I was in the right place.

I would set off on a full day of trekking on foot with my camera from Juso to Shin-Osaka to Awaji and finally end up in Kami-Shinjo where I ended the day with a well-earned beer watching the sun begin to close on another day over the Kanzaki River. No doubt, this part of the city is very much LOCAL Osaka as I could count the amount of foreigners I crossed in the day on one hand. I tried to capture the essence of what I felt throughout the day which was like a movie with seemingly no plot or script but its biggest charm was the daily routine of life itself.

I would end up coming back the following day as I had an afternoon of portrait shooting with local resident Ruru-san scheduled. Adding a model into the local scenes I had just experienced was like giving the scriptless movie I saw the day before now play out with an entirely new director at the helm. Below are just a few of my favourite shots right around blue hour on the Yodo River Bridge. For more from that shoot please head over to my Instagram page and view the posts here and here.

Thanks for reading and any questions or comments feel free to hit me up !

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