Adventures in Japan | Hiroshima & Miyajima

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[Itsukushima Shrine at Sunset] 
[Mt. Misen Observatory]
[Statue friends at Daishō-in]
[Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum]
[Itsukushima Shrine]
[One of many deer on Miyajima Island] 
[Itsukushima Shrine at Sunset]
[Prayer cards at Daishō-in] 
[View from a café on Miyajima] 

     After a straight week spent hopping from one train to the next, our few days spent on Miyajima island were ones of serenity. At times, I felt like I was on a deserted island, with no where to seek refuge, like in a movie, but it was an enriching experience to be on the tiny island. The second we hopped off at Hiroshima station, we walked over to the Peace Memorial, where Obama had been just one week prior. I, too, did some origami making, so I guess you could say I'm famous or something. And, not far from the memorial, we looked in awe at the last standing building post-atomic bomb. Aside from our visit to the somewhat chilling memorial, we spent most of the majority of these days on Miyajima, after a short ferry ride from Hiroshima. I mentioned some dessert delicacies in a previous post-- if you are ever in this area, PLEASE do yourself a favor and try the maple leaf shaped desserts (preferably chocolate, but bean paste is a Japanese favorite). You will not regret it. Trust me. 

     Miyajima was extremely picturesque, with the beautiful, floating Itsukushima Shrine. As the tide goes in and out, you can see different perspectives of the shinto shrine. We also did an early morning and late night shoot by the shrine to capture different images of the famous landmark. While shooting, we danced around the deer who inhabit the area, seeking out tourists' clothing/maps as the perfect snack. I left Miyajima unscathed (stomach full of maple leaf shaped delicacies)  but there were some moments of negligence that almost cost me my bag and trendy Japanese gauchos. 


Ask Yourself Why | On Staying Connected

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      The internet, and the social-media age for that matter, exude presentation. Individuals use modern media outlets to display different facets of themselves in a myriad, endless ways. Some choose to highlight their creativity through photos they've captured, and others, their witty sides via less than 140 character tweets. Or, if you're like me, you enjoy posting photos for days on end, but can only attempt to craft marginally funny tweets (hey, at-least I try?) 

     An avid social media user for quite some time, I appreciate the aura of "connection", "self-love", and "expression" that social media bears. These are some aspects of different platforms that have championed my continued usage of the likes of Facebook and Instagram. From making friends from as far as Russia at a camp growing up to attending a boarding school with international students, I've never had all of my friends in one place. Admittedly, keeping in touch with friends throughout the years has not been one of my strong suits, but adding people on Facebook makes you feel somewhat connected once you part with people. With Facebook messenger easily accessible worldwide and photos/statuses at your fingertips, you feel apart of your friends' lives, to a certain extent. However, with the underlying barrier of a screen signifying the distance between someone and me, I find it difficult to maintain a humanistic connection through devices. While I acknowledge that social media helps aid the daunting element of long distance friendships, or whatever you'd coin it, we can very easily be sucked into the self-deprecating, "black-hole" of social media on a day to day basis. 

    I know both ends of the spectrum all too well-- using social media for pure, harmless fun and for affirmation, achieved by valueless likes and comments. Through my studies of philosophy, I've come to realize that Instagram and other outlets oftentimes swing to the latter end of the gamut, satisfying the "id", which operates in accordance with the so-called pleasure principle, as Sigmund Freud once described. Because of the instantaneous nature of technology, social media only fuels the temporarily satisfied id within our human nature. This is not to say that posting photos is an act that is in vain, as I, too, enjoy editing my photos and getting feedback via photo sharing apps. It's just that I've personally come to terms with these instances in which I realized that what was once fun had turned into a posed, fake façade of myself that I could not recognize. Instead of truly being present at certain concerts and social gatherings, I noted that it felt as if my peers and I were on a mission to capture the perfect photo of said event. We were seeking to capture a moment in time that we were not authentically experiencing, because we were too concerned with documentation. And that is not what living is supposed to be. 

     Most importantly, I came to the realization that I was subliminally basing my self-worth on what others thought, simply by repeatedly checking to see 'who' viewed my Snapchat Story and continuously snapping photos, only to arrive at one Instagram worthy picture. While checking your Instagram feed in the morning once you wake up or posting endless photos of yourself on vacation may be in good nature and entertainment, I personally found that I was only wasting my time and clouding my mind. My ephipanies, if you will, regarding my own perception of technology are continuously developing, but it was my time spent in Japan that proved to be eye-opening. With a 13 hr time difference making my distance from home seem even more vast and a portable wifi machine that was the size of my phone keeping me in touch, I felt like I was being put to the test. From our time spent in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to days of tranquility on Miyajima island, I had the opportunity for the past two weeks to disconnect. At first, I kept up with everything happening at home--graduation parties, other people vacationing, beach days--but, when I decided to turn off my Wifi-Walker (Japan's greatest idea, ever), I felt a sense of peace. Not only did I begin to enjoy our trip more, but I also notcied myself caring less about what others were doing and whether or not they cared about what I was up to. Of course, I turned on my phone perdiocially to make sure nothing ground-breaking had occurred and to post some of my favorite photos, but not staying plugged in 24-7 felt refreshing. 

     During our trip, I finished the book "You Are a Badass" by Jen Sincero, as mentioned in a recent blog post. While this book, in terms of prose and style, definitely is not for everyone, I have gleaned valuable lessons from it that have prompted me to rethink my actions. In the chapter "I Know You Are But What Am I?", Sincero touches on these questions of affirmation, providing tips at the end of the lecture, as she does for each chapter. In a list of tips on how to not care what others think, she writes:

"1. Ask Yourself Why" 

"Why are you about to say or do something? Is it to be liked? To put someone down because you feel insecure?...""Or is it coming from a place of strength and truth? Are you doing it because it'll be fun? Because you feel called to do it? Because it'll change someone's like in a positive, martyr-free way?" (Sincero 68)

     Sincero calls for readers to reevaluate their motivations in all aspects of life with, these particular questions being universal catalysts of our potential happiness. If we stopped to acknowledge the groups of people we choose to surround ourselves with and the media we choose to look at, we would laugh at our toxic routines. Many factors of our despair are so immediate to us and our daily lives, that we hardly notice their harmful effects. None of this is to say that I am going to move to the middle of nowhere, deleting my various accounts and ostracizing myself from modern-day technology. However, I have decided to take social-media less seriously as it pertains to me personally (aka, outside of my blog platforms), and to just live my life as it is. With the recent tragedies in Orlando and the continuous violence around the world, we have no choice but to be present in our own lives by being honest, not only with others, but also with ourselves about how we can successfully achieve total happiness individually and with the help of each other. 

I hope you guys enjoyed this different style of post. Let me know your feedback on the topic at hand, and whether or not you'd like to see more content like this. xoxo Isabelle 


Adventures in Japan | Kyoto & Himeji

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[Reflections from a shoot I did with a traditional Kyoto Maiko] 
[Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine at sunrise] 
[The hustle & bustle of the station by Himeji Castle]
[A bridge overtop a small river in the Shimogamo-jinja Shrine]
[The impressive dragon painted ceiling inside the Buddhist Kennin-ji Temple] 
[A beauty shot from the same shoot with the Kyoto Maiko] 
[Tourists take a boat ride on the river adjacent Himeji Castle] 
[Otherworldy reflections in the water at Kokedera (Moss Garden Temple)]
[A working Geisha walks the streets of Kyoto] 
[All smiles at Sanzenin temple]
[Monk crossing at Shimogamo-jinja Shrine at sunrise]
[WA Experience KAFU, Ikebana and Calligraphy]
[Exploring Koko-En] 
[Wedding sighting at Shirasaginomiya] 
[Bamboo Forest at sunrise] 
[Profile shot from the shoot with the Maiko] 
[Our driver frames the perfect shot at Koetsu-ji Temple] 

     As I obsessively reviewed my photo selections for this post in my perfectionist manner, the overwhelming sense of curiosity and anticipation I felt in Kyoto returned. Moving from landmark to landmark, the excitement to see what unique structure or coincidental, "perfect-timing" scenes we came across fortunately became an unwavering sentiment. This thrill of stumbling upon photo opportunities even held true through our early-morning shoots in Kyoto, which ranged from as early as 6 to 6:30 a.m. starts and 7:30 a.m. finishes. I'm not necessarily the first person to propose an early start, but getting up to take photos was worth the fatigue. In addition to the striking architecture, it always seemed as if the photo-gods or whatever managed to throw in some perfect subjects for photos that I had only ever hoped to capture. The vibrance of this city and the endless photo opportunities hallmarked Kyoto as my favorite destination on our trip. 

     Aside from the mosaic-esque landscapes we saw and the myriad nature scenes admired, Kyoto also brought about a unique photo experience for me. Previously, I've only ever done impromptu photo shoots with my friends, in which half of the time is spent laughing about how awkward posing is, while the other half of the time, you can see me trying to get us to focus for a bit. Otherwise, I have had little to no professional portraiture experience. In Kyoto, however, I was fortunate enough to get a personal shoot with our guide and a traditional Kyoto Maiko, who gave us insight into her lifestyle, discussing what exactly had prompted her to go down this path toward becoming a Geisha. She was just a few months or so older than me, so hearing about her starkly contrasting life was both interesting and strange in the best sense of the word. We all drove to a nearby teahouse to take photos, some of which are included in this post. I really surprised myself with my sliver of ability to shoot portraiture, capturing some cool reflections and the Maiko's beauty. Click here for more information on what being a Maiko entails.

Keep checking this space for more Japan photo posts, organized by city! My favorite shots will be featured very soon over on my portfolio, Isabelle Nazha Photo. 


Adventures in Japan | Kanazawa

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[The Golden Pavillion - Kinkakuji]
[A girl runs upstairs in Kenroku-en]
[Workers tend to the flower fields in Kenroku-en]
[A woman works on the traditional Kanazawa gold leaf]
[Three young women walk up the steps to a shrine]
[Solitude in the D.T. Suzuki Museum] 
[Two tourists clad in Kimonos strut around Kanazawa Castle Park] 
[A small fountain that is frequently found in Japanese temples/shrines] 
[School children en route] 
[More kimono-clad tourists in Kanazawa Castle Park]
[Small ornament-like pieces that people can write prayers on outside a shrine in Kanazawa] 
[Women laugh as they observe the giant fish in Kenroku-en garden] 
[Kenroku-en Garden]
[A couple strolls the streets of Kanazawa in traditional Japanese clothing]

Just a couple of days after our arrival in Tokyo, aka 48 hours spent adjusting to the haziness of our jet lag, we began our trip in what I would call the "quaint" city of Kanazawa. In comparison to the other cities we visited, Kanazawa had more of a residential feel to it, while still having plenty of cars, tourists, and sights to see. One of the highlights of my time in Kanzawa was the famous Kenroku-en Garden, which was filled with photogenic scenes of flowers and bridges everywhere you turned. When we weren't in the garden photographing, we were promenading the stone streets, which boast unique wooden architecture. Something I enjoyed about Kanazawa was that, whether you were in a garden or just in the streets, you could always see nature, close or far in proximity, with the mountains along the horizon. Reflecting upon the entire trip, I realize how surprised I was by how plentiful in nature Japan is, especially in its major, insanely busy cities. 

In addition to the nature and city scenes, Kanazawa also gave us our first taste of the distinct Japanese culture, kickstarting what I'll call our "Japan food tour", with Miyajima featuring my favorite dessert (more on that in a future post!). We learned from our guide that different cities tend to have their own unique product, food, or craft, and Kanazawa has its gold-leaf, which can be found on desserts, in body lotion/face masks, and on different crafts, like small boxes and jewelry. While I can confirm that we bought too many souvenirs to be proud of throughout the whole trip, even just peeking into gift shops around Japan revealed noteworthy historic elements to us, the outsider tourists. 

Keep checking this space for more Japan photo posts, organized by city! My favorite shots will be featured very soon over on my portfolio, Isabelle Nazha Photo. 


Bittersweet End | High-school Graduation

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      Crazily enough, it has been about two weeks since I graduated high school; wrapping up four years of countless papers, immense stress, late nights slaving over my laptop, but most of all-- lots of laughs. The last week we spent as a class together was especially jam packed, from our last day of classes to a trip to Hershey Park to alumni induction shenanigans. Throughout this busy time, my classmates and I mostly all had our own respective moments of clarity. For me, however, the moment in which I really appreciated what my school gave me was on the drive home, when I was stuffed in my car alongside my sister and my towering suitcases. In that moment, after a day of a whirlwind of emotions, I was appreciative of the knowledge gained and the lifelong friendships formed at my high school. It's difficult to really acknowledge that which becomes secondary to the stress of studying for a  test and meeting deadlines. But, if I could give anyone who is still in high school any advice, it would be to appreciate the seemingly pointless antics of your school, because you'll never have an experience quite as frustrating yet rewarding as high school.

 If you didn't know, I'm currently in Japan (follow @lostbutntfound on Insta!), and I have been reading up a storm-- currently, I'm on "You Are a Badass" by Jen Sincero, and much of my present gratitude for my struggles and successes alike in high school has been formed through this read. It presents different tips & advice in a myriad areas of life, but it is what you personally gather from what Sincero writes that is most valuable. 

I'll be coming back atcha with plenty of Japan photos! Stay tuned. xoxo Isabelle 

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