Land of the Rising Sun — and sushi, cherry blossoms, quirky fashion, the beautiful Mt. Fuji, dreamy streets, and many other cultural wonders. No wonder Malaysian photographer and designer Yip Choon Hong recently got enticed to whip up an impromptu trip to Japan. However, given the Asian country’s popularity among travelers, it might not be an entirely spontaneous trip anyway; seeing the handful of shots he shared with us, he could have been subconsciously planning to see the sights that Japan is known for.
For his trusty analogue companion, Choon Hong made an uncommon choice. While many travelers would rather pick up a compact camera to toss in and fish out quickly from their bags, he decided to lug a Kiev 60 medium format camera. Unwieldy for some, but for him, he couldn’t have chosen a better camera to get the travel snaps he wanted.
“Size and weight of the camera don’t matter to me; what matters the most is the result,” he said.
Looking at his photos above (and the rest here), we can’t help but agree.
Without further ado, please read on to learn about our featured analogue traveler’s Japan adventure in this quick chat for Wanderlust.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do? How long have you been shooting with film? Anything keeping you busy or inspired aside from film photography?
Hi, I am Yip Choon Hong from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I am generally a man of few words – more of an introvert. Which is why I realized that I am able to express myself best through photography. Complementing my love for photography, I also have a strong passion for travel and design. I appreciate the things and people around me in the way I would relate best – the angle of art. I have been shooting with film since my first backpacking trip back in 2007.
Please tell us the basics about your trip to Japan. When did you visit, which towns or cities did you head to, and for how long did you stay? Did you do anything special to prepare for this journey?
The trip was an impromptu one, so I didn’t make too much planning on it. Growing up with influences of the Japanese pop culture, I have basic ideas of what Japan is like, so I’d like the trip to be more unexpected and let my camera captures the surprises I saw and experienced.
What were your first thoughts when you first set foot in Japan? Can you still recall the first scene or view that welcomed you as soon as you arrived?
“WOW” was literally my first thought when I first set foot in Japan. It definitely outshined the springs I’ve experienced in other countries. The pastel pink of the sakura throughout the country just made the whole trip so dreamy.
Since Japan is a country where film photography is very much alive, we’re curious, did you ever get to interact with local film photographers? Were you able to visit any shops that still sell films and analogue cameras in any of the cities you visited?
Connecting with local photographers would definitely be in my next itinerary when I visit Japan again, but for that trip, I just wanted see Japan through my lens and be overwhelmed by the beauty of it. I did come across some shops that sell films and analogue cameras in Osaka, and spent some good hours there.
We’re also curious about the analogue arsenal you had with you for this trip. Is/are there any particular reason/s for going medium format for this trip, given that most 120 cameras are big and unwieldy and not the typical choice for travelers?
Since the beginning of my photography journey, I have always been fascinated by square format photography. I guess it is more of a calling for me to stick to square format photography. Size and weight of the camera don’t matter to me; what matters the most is the result.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your trip? Which city or town, out of all that you visited, stood out to you and why?
Among all the cities that I visited, Kyoto stood out the most to me for it’s historical structures and well-preserved traditional arts as well as culture. Its sense of zen made it the best place for me to enjoy the scent of cherry blossoms while watching the locals live.
Can you give an important piece of travel advice for film photographers like yourself, especially for those who want to try using medium format cameras for their travel snaps?
It is better to mark what ASA/ISO film that you put into the camera. Never put your film in a checked-in luggage, keep them in a clear plastic bag and request a hand inspection. If possible, try to avoid traveling with film faster than ASA/ISO 400 because ASA/ISO 800-1600 might pose a problem in airport x-ray scanners.
Lastly, if you could take just one camera and one roll of film to a dream destination, where would it be, which camera and film would you bring, and what will you make sure to take photos of?
I will still bring my Kiev 60 medium format camera with Kodak Ektar 100 and capture Iceland’s mysteriously, magnificent landscape and rawness.
To see more of Choon Hong’s photos around Japan and the rest of his works, please head to the links below: