Tokyo – my adventure in the Land of the Rising Sun

So, to Tokyo…..

Did I ever tell you I was afraid of flying?  Terrified of it I am.  It’s ridiculous but there you go – every one has their phobias and mine is being hurtled at a tin can at 600mph around 37,000 feet in the air.

So, imagine my surprise to find that, at the end of August, within the space of nine days I would fly from Spain to the UK, from the UK to Rome (for a wedding – more on that in another post) and then from Rome to Tokyo….and Tokyo to London four days later.  By my calculations that’s around sixty five billion miles in the scary tube in the sky but let me tell you something…..every single mile was worth it.  Very much worth it.

I’m going to concentrate on my trip to Tokyo, as a guest of Fujifilm in this post.

I was absolutely humbled and privileged when I was invited to spend some time in Tokyo with the marketing team, designers, engineers and other members of the X-Series team.

I wasn’t alone, of course, there was myself and three other X-Photographers meeting up in Tokyo.   Apart from the great team at Fujifilm, I spent time with world renowned photographers Zack Arias, David Hobby and Bert Stephani.

The point of the trip was for Fujifilm two fold.  Us (the photographers) were to give a presentation and interviews to press, staff of Fuji and other photographers.  This was then followed by the best part of two days of us being interviewed by the R&D Team, the Marketing Team, the Product Planning team, the Colour Reproduction Team, the Lens Design Team and the Camera Designers.

So let me explain further;  Fuji flew us all to Tokyo to give them feedback on the X-Series of cameras;  The X-Pro1, X100/S, X-M1, X-E1 etc.

What does that mean to us, the end users?  The photographers who are investing in the X-Series range of cameras?  It means that Fuji are putting every effort into expanding, improving and driving this amazing range of cameras further.

Before I left the UK I canvassed many other wedding photographers who use the X-Series of cameras for their “wish list” and all this information has been fed back to Fujifilm.

And they are listening.  I just know, and Zack knows, and David and Bert knows and that means that you should also know that Fuji are listening to everything we (the photography) community are feeding back to them.

What the future brings in terms of physical developments I can’t say, but I am 100% confident that Fuji are busy behind the scenes taking on board everything we have fedback, and more.  They have some wonderful ideas for the future of the system too and I for one can’t wait to see it develop.

One of the reasons we were also there was to was to test drive the new FUJINON XF23mm F1.4 R lens and you can see some of the images below along with lots more on my FUJINON XF23mm F1.4 R – First Experience blog post.

I know this project took a lot of time to organise, and there were many many people involved.  From a personal point of view I’d like to thank Kunio-san, So-san and Yuto-san for facilitating the trip and ensuring everything ran smoothly whilst we were there.

So visually, here is the story of my trip…….;

Time to leave Rome:  I’m a nervous flyer but my flight to Tokyo from Rome was on time and so off I went.

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Touchdown in Tokyo

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Yuto-san kindly picked me up from Narita and whisked me off to the hotel via the amazingly accurate Tokyo train system.   I had time for a quick shower before rushing off to the Fujifilm Head Office.  The other photographers had arrived a couple of days before me and sadly I missed David Hobby’s presentation.  I got there just in time to listen to Zack Arias’ session about the way he is using the X-Series of cameras.  What Zack doesn’t know, probably isn’t worth knowing!

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Next up was Bert Stephani.   A giant of a man with a giant talent too.  I spent a day shooting with Bert and he’s one of the most creative users of light I’ve ever met.

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Next up was me.  I’m used to public speaking at events such as SWPP but this was a little different.  I’m not afraid to say I was a little nervous….who wouldn’t be right?  Jet lagged too but I enjoyed it.

This shot courtesy of Bert.

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The next two shots were taken by the Fujifilm PR Photographer

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Part of my presentation involved a short slideshow of some of my favourite images shot at weddings using the X-Series cameras.  Here is that slideshow for those who are interested (images taken on X100, X100S, X-Pro1 and X-E1):[iframe id=”video” src=”//player.vimeo.com/video/73290651?portrait=0&color=ffffff” width=”930″ height=”523″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen]

This shot of the four of us courtesy of  Mr. Hiroshi Kawahara, one of the product planners of the X100S

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And then onto the PR & Interviews;  In this shot, David Hobby get’ his portrait taken.

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I’m happy on the inside……honest.

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Zack Arias shoots David Hobby next to one of his amazing images in the permanent gallery.

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I’m extremeley proud to have four images also in the permanent gallery at Fujifilm Head Office in Tokyo

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This photography courtesy Zack Arias

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Did I mention the food yet?  Absolutely gorgeous dining throughout our trip.

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We were privileged not only to spend time in the working environment of the good folk from Fuji, but they also entertained us in the evenings too.  One of the things I learned pretty quickly is that the Japanese work hard, but also play hard too….which is great to see.

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I’m often asked ;  “are you on the payroll with Fujifilm?” – and I know others are asked this too.  I can quite categorically sate that that is not the case.  Fuji took us over to Japan to give them honest feedback about the X-Series.  Which we did, warts and all.  Fuji, I know, will collate and work with the information to produce even better cameras in the future and I’m pleased to have some kind of helping hand in that.

They did however, present us with a small gift;  an X-M1 with our names as he serial number.  How cool is that?

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Day two saw us head to the Fujifilm production plant in Omiya.

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The next series of images should reinforce what I have said earlier.  If you don’t believe that Fuji are listening to the whole photography community, with an aim to make amazing products, even better, then take a look;

See the guys in the blue shirts?  These are the people that design, manufacture, make, forge and breathe life into the X-Series of cameras.

You know what they are doing here?  They are listening feedback from “us”.   The guys that actually build the systems, design the software and produce the cameras that we use on a day to day basis are listening to our feedback.  Feedback that all four of us took to them from many hundreds of photographers.

Fuji really want your purchase of one of their cameras to the be the start of their relationship with you, not the end.

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These are for the earthquakes.  We had one you know when we were there….only small, but we had one.
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A whistle-stop tour of the museum;  this is pure glass that lenses are made from.Tokyo Tokyo

So, just to iterate a little further the point I was making; this young man is the designer of the X100/S.  I remember when I first saw the X100 displayed at Photokina.  I, along with many others, marvelled in it’s retro-gorgeousness.  In fact, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t the physical design of the camera that first attracted many photographers.

Here, he is explaining his design philosphy and ideas behind the X100.  He showed us prototypes too, but he also listened to the likes of David, Zack and Bert intently.  His designs are amazing, but he wants to make them even better (if possible).   We also spent time with the designer of the X-Pro1 and got an insight into the way his mind worked to evolve the prototype into the finished X-Pro1 that we know now.

It was an amazingly humbling situation to be in quite frankly.
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And so the official part of our duties were over.  Zack and David heading back to the United States whilst myself and Bert were guided expertly around the sites of Tokyo by Yuto-san and Yuta-san.  We managed to fit in Tsukiji ‘fish market’, Asakusa, Akihabara (aka ‘Akiba’), Tokyo Sky Tree, and Shibuya intersection in a packed day of tourism and shooting with the new XF23mm lens.Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo

I picked up a 1958 Mamiya 35mm Rangefinder at a market stall (shhh, don’t tell my wife!).

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Who wouldn’t want to spend time gazing out over this amazing city?

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This next shot is courtesy of Bert and is actually of me, making the shot straight after.

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Bert doing what he does best.Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo

Did I mention the food? Yum.Tokyo

The view from my hotel room…..just as the storm started.Tokyo

I left Tokyo with some very happy memories, and hopefully some friends gained.  It’s a place I will definitely visit again.  It’s a place that makes me smile.Tokyo

Remember what I said about my fear of flying?  Leaving Narita during a Typhoon was …..erm, entertaining, to say the least.Tokyo Tokyo

And waiting for me when I got home …. my kids, who I’d missed dearly (and a line full of ironing, which I hadn’t missed so much).

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You can also see some more images, all taken with the new XF23mm F/1.4 lens if you wish….. but before you do I want to extend a hand of gratitude to the good folks of Fuji.  Of course, personally, it was a magnificent trip – a trip of a lifetime for someone like me; but I want to reach that hand of gratitude out from all the photographers who use, or will use, the X-Series of cameras in the future.

Everybody has brand loyalty to a certain extent, but I believe Fuji understand the mentality of us photographers.  They know that if they don’t continue to make these amazing cameras even better then we will change loyalty.  Personally I’m 100% confident they have the vision, talent and passion to continue to create beautiful things.  Why am I so confident?  Because I’ve seen it in the flesh.  It’s very real.

These cameras have soul, and by spending time with the people who breathe life into that soul I’m extremely excited for the future of the X-Series of cameras.

あなたのおもてなしのために、あなたに感謝し、よく2020年のオリンピックの確保で行わ

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23 Responses

  1. Tom Weller

    Great post Kevin – very interesting. And I have never seen you look so smart…..:)

    Reply
  2. Barrie Downie

    Great insight Kevin into what goes on in the making of the equipment we take for granted. Sounds like a brilliant adventure and a nice bunch of photographers too!.

    Reply
  3. Phil Paine

    Kevin, stunning words and images, all who know you must share a pride in your achievements especially conquering you flying fears for your art!
    A truly inspiring post,thank you.

    Reply
  4. Tina Cleary

    Wow what a trip!

    So pleased fuji recognised what an asset you are to them & have rewarded all your hard work and time, so many of us have purchased their product because of you. Brilliant blog post, well done for all that flying and seeing your kids at the end of the post welcoming daddy home bought a tear to my eye. Now I want to visit Tokyo :-)

    Reply
  5. Domenic Aquilina

    Hi Kevin mate, absolutely so informative. Brilliant blog indeed! And very impressive story telling captures as always!
    Cheers from Malta to you and the family Kevin!

    Reply
  6. Michelle Whitmore

    WOW, you are so lucky to have been invited.

    My grandson Josh (7) uses a Fujifilm HS20EXR, its a wonderful bridge camera that is great for all sorts of situations especially with the back flip screen. Its also a brilliant introduction into the world of photography too – we love our Fujifilm cameras.

    Reply
  7. Steve Gemmell

    Hi Kevin – Congratulations on a fantastic trip and experience – well deserved. I love the Fuji X series too and use them at weddings extensively. I keep hearing rumours of an X Pro 2 that could be full frame? Any comment on that?

    Reply
  8. Linus Moran

    Congratulations Kevin. Wonderful to hear that Fuji appreciate what you have done with their cameras and that they really want to innovate according to what we ‘need’. Great experience and wonderfully shhown through your images mate!

    Reply
  9. David

    What a fascinating story and privilege it must have been to be invited over to Japan. Really interesting. Would love to pick up an X100x sometime…

    Reply
  10. Karen Flower

    Fascinating stuff Kevin and a great set of images. I’m glad Fuji have recognised the great work you have produced with their cameras and value your input. It looks like you had an amazing time – Tokyo looks like a fascinating city to explore. Next post > how to conquer a fear of flying ;-)

    Reply
  11. Paul Griffiths

    Great photos, were you using your new X-M1 with the new 23 or other camera…?
    I’ve switched from Nikon to Fuji X-E1 with 18-55mm lens I’m reading a lot of guys switching out of DSLR’s to Fuji… Great news… I’ve got Zack and Dave from their youtube video’s to thank for showing the X series cameras… It was the retro that caught my eye. Now I have one its, well, just superb…
    I’ve started a blog http://onecameraonelens.tumblr.com/ which is about using the Fuji X-E1 and the 18-55mm lens – I don’t intend to get another lens anytime soon. But I wont say never!

    Reply
  12. Tony Cullinane

    What an amazing trip, and I say that having been to Tokyo myself. As well as stunning images your information regarding the X cameras is very reassuring to read having just bought an X-Pro1, it’s great to hear that Fuji want feedback from photographers who use their equipment and that they act on that information.

    Reply
  13. Kevin Laycock

    Fantastic read about your visit. I have to say that I am repeatedly drawn into the experiences you and Zack etc. are having with the Fuji X series. It seems a very real emotional connection is being made between you, the equipment and it’s makers and I feel that when I read a Fuji X series blog entry. Warm and fuzzy is not always praise when describing a camera but I think it applies here.

    Cheers – Kevin

    Reply
  14. Fraser Young

    Great write up Kevin. I’ve been to Japan numerous times and it is an incredible country. So different from all other parts of Asia. The Japanese take such a magnificent pride in what they do, be it producing electronics or bridges or highways. They are like no other race on earth.

    Very much enjoyed reading about your journey.

    Reply
  15. Grant

    that was a great read, really enjoyed it! I was in Tokyo at the same time too, and Kyoto for some days before, urban trekking with my X100s, apart from the weather i had a great time.

    Reply
  16. Adrian LeRoy

    A camera company that not only listens to its customers but solicits their opinions about its products. I have been shooting Nikons for 25 years and that has yet to happen (nor do I ever expect it to). I will look seriously into switching to Fuji!

    Adrian LeRoy
    Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

    Reply
  17. Jony Patterson

    Kevin,

    What an awesome article

    I can’t believe it has taken me until now to find it! I could have scrolled for hours through those photos :)

    I wasn’t aware of the time and dedication that Fuji invest in their customers and it was really interesting to hear (and see) a first hand account of how they go about it.

    I currently own an X-E1 but keep getting excited about each new camera as it emerges!

    Thanks again for sharing and as always I look forward to your next adventure and the photos that you capture!

    Reply

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