Tokyo Special 2/10 – Sakura by phantastic420

For every day I spent in the greatest city last year I will be writing a post on either a Tokyo based photographer or a series set in the metropolis. An ode to the city.

This is part 2 – Sakura by phantastic420 – Exactly one year ago I had just woken up in Shibuya, ready to take on Tokyo. The smell of Sakura wafted through the city streets and in through my hotel window, it’s a smell that will forever remind me the great city.

phantastic420‘s instagram feed is one of my favourites, abundant with beauty and colour – every day allowing us to escape to the nature of Japan, travelling through the seasons and weather from snow to sunshine. Make sure to follow! 

Tokyo Special 1/10 – Tokyo Nights by Jon Siegel

Exactly one year ago I had just checked into my hotel in Tokyo along with my mum. The 10 days trip was a life changing one and I think about the city I love daily. For every day I was in Tokyo I will bring you a different photo series of the city, each photographer show casing their own view of an element unique to the city.

Seeing as we arrived as nightfall it’s only fair to start with the time in which Tokyo is at it’s best, night time.

This is part 1 – Tokyo Nights by Jon Siegel

I love the tones and colours used in this series, although we know it’s dark the city is still vibrant and energetic in its colours. The salary man having his dinner, the youth dressed to go out and the taxi man working on the roads of this eccentric city, Jon Siegel captures Tokyo from a non-alien view. Check out the full series here which comprises of over 170 photographs.

Giorno Giovanna (Jo Jo’s)

With the iconic fetishised colours and atmosphere of Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure – Giorno cosplayers and photographers have no excuse when it comes to stylising. Saturated colours, romanticism and flowers create the perfect look for this unique character. Below are 4 cosplayers that have done a pretty good job at bringing the characters and the style off the pages and into reality.

Commercial products vs. Still Life Project

Having not done a project in a while I thought it’s time to get my butt in gear and do one. I’ve been looking at a lot of product photography jobs in the last few weeks, all of which want a product style portfolio. Whilst it’s not in my nature to produce a series of “consumerism” images, I can’t think of a better job than spending all day in a studio with objects and playing around with lighting.

This made me think about a project in which I can both fulfil my desire to create and build a series of images for product photography jobs. I looked around my room, thinking “What objects can I photograph?” I thought about this past year and decided things I brought back from Japan would be great.

Not having access to Cov uni’s studio anymore I had to improvise and googled it. To my delight I found this great tutorial article “How to Create an Inexpensive Photography Lightbox” – so I did. It’s a great temporary solution if you are tight on money and rich in time.


I started with the conventional white background set up, and then moved onto a more meaningful idea – using posters-maps and documents that coincide with the object. I know neither of these ideas were great or original, but I just had to start somewhere.

I took my Blue Rose figure down from my shelf and began shooting, I used a map of Tokyo’s Akihabara district synonymous with anime/manga and Otaku culture.

testest2 testtest

As I said before this is just a kick off point, my plan is to research still life projects. However, I’m aware that what constitutes as good commercial product photography is not what I would consider a thought provoking series, I may have to run two series at the same time using the same objects.

Let the research begin… Yay!

Trading card feedback and attempts

Two lots of advances have been made on the trading cards. The first is feedback from collectors, I asked online about why trading cards are so desired and what makes them valuable, in a hope I could learn how to make my trading cards more then just pieces of paper.

The second area of development is in terms of card content, Jon Levy showed me how powerful the character in my images is without the context, taking her away using a tight crop could really work well on a card. I’ve been playing around and here are some designs I came up with, at the moment I am trying loads of looks to see what looks best.

Font: It’s important to note the font I’ve used is a historical reference to Japanese pop culture. Lolita and Kawaii came from school girls hand writing, as strange as it sounds it is true. Girls started dotting their i’s with hearts, this cute style spread into stationary then fashion and later everything else. Hense why the Japanese school girl is such an iconic image, it’s where the modern pop culture themes derived from.





Draft posters, sizing and positioning

Using a very helpful piece of software called posterazor I created life size versions of my final pieces, I’ve been really stuck on size and layout. So using my photoshop play around layouts form yesterday I made the real life thing.

(Posterazor takes your chosen image at any size and then creates an A4 PDF of the image which you have to assemble like a puzzle.)

Option 1: Square
Magical Girl= A1
Product Placement = A3
Geisha = A3

On photoshop this was my favourite layout but in real life I don’t particularly like it. The layout makes it look like one giant image rather than 3 separate pieces. There isn’t enough space for each image, they are all quite colourful and once backlit by the electroluminescent sheets they well be quite intense, therefor need more spacing. The A3 print were also tiny, the full detail couldn’t be appreciated.

Option 2: Rectangle
Magical Girl= A1
Product Placement = A3
Geisha = A3

I rearranged the images to see if it was just the formality of the square I didn’t like. It wasn’t. The images are just to different in size and still to compact.

Option 3: A2 Vertical
Magical Girl: A2
Product Placement: A2
Geisha: A2

My original plan was to print all the images the same size in order to play on the similar angles and positioning within each image. Which was completely intentional but didn’t come across in the first 2 options of layout. So I printed all in A2 thinking they would be large enough. However I still don’t think they are, I am also not too keen on the vertical layout, but depending on space allowance it might have to be adopted to save wall area.

Option 4: A2 Horiontal
Magical Girl: A2
Product Placement: A2
Geisha: A2

I tried the same images but horizontally across the wall, my original plan for the images.It looked a lot better but I was still feeling the images were too small. I have to bear in mind however that once backlit they might appear bigger due to the bright light spread.

Option 5: A1 Horizontal
Magical Girl: A1
Product Placement: A1
Geisha: A1

I hadn’t planned to go over A2 size however I did have one A1 print of the magical girl photo from the first and second option. So I put that up and made similar sizes pieces out of the remaining prints I had. I feel more comfortable with this layout, however I will have to talk to Amber and Maria before making any plans because there might not be enough wall space to do this. I also worry about how having the backlighting will change this, will it become too much?

With this layout I imagine a podium around hip height underneath the middle of the magical girl image, with the figurine and trading cards on it.

Purikura scans

Today I was able to scan in large format images of the purikura stickers for my trading cards. All thats left to do is research the aesthetics of trading cards and test out some materials. I am really happy with these images, they are exactly what I had in mind, tacky, sickly, over the top and perfect for trading cards.

All images below ©Daisy Ware-Jarrett

Figurines in Akihabara

Akihabara is Japans if not the world anime and manga Capital. A district obsessed with technology and the future, the inhabitants of Akihabara work hard and the majority of them are mega fans of anime and manga. I have been talking about creating a figurine of my character to compliment my final piece images. So whilst in figurine heaven thought I would conduct some research, in particular to the characters with different looks and interchangeable outfits and body parts.

I also made a purchase of my own. In a second hand figurine shop I purchased a chibi Blue Rose from Tiger and Bunny. I wanted to buy a full figurine just like the one I want to make as reference but they were too big to fit in my case as I had all my final piece outfits to fit in too. So tonight I will be online hunting for a cheap second hand figurine I can buy.

One thing the experience has made me think about it wether I want packaging or not. Is the figurine something that people look at and can’t touch? The packaging is always an important part of figurines, some never leave their boxes. I thought about this for a while but soon realised I need interaction within this piece to make it relevant to the issue and themes of participation and consumption.

Hatsune and Kyary in Tokyo

Whilst in Japan I tried to take a photo of anything Hatsune Miku related I saw, just to document her dominance in Japan and get first hand research for my interchangeable looks idea. I soon realised photographing everything was unrealistic, I tried my best but this is a tiny percentage of the Miku stuff around Japan, not including her official merchandise inside shops. Note that these images are from all districts, even the expensive Chelsea-like district of Shibuya.

I attempted to take photos of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s presense in Japan too, but this was nearly impossible. She was on the trains, in the shops on the streets on the TV on the billboards. Everywhere there was a place for advertisement or any pop culture areas she was everywhere.

What I oped to achieve with this research was to prove that pop culture icons change their looks to fit consumerism. They become what they are needed to be rarely wearing the same thing twice, they are what the advertisers want and what the consumer needs them to be.

Tokyo : 8

Today we approached the 2nd to last day in our Tokyo adventure. All the finals are now complete and we had 2 sightseeing days in Kyoto. All that was left on my project to do list was Purikura or Photo Club. I’ve done some research on the machines prior to coming with the intent to use the images on trading cards that will accompany my images and figurine. So we headed to the back of a Sega arcade in Shibuya, Tokyo and chose our booth.

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Nothing could prepare me for the photo booths. They were fast paced, intense and in Japanese only.

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As soon as I it my money in I was on a timer to make my decisions, do I want to elongate my legs? Do I want anime eyes? So I want spots or stars in the background? On the first attempt I didn’t choose fast enough and the machine chose for me. It then proceeded to take the images while I was getting ready which resulted in these images.

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In the neighbouring editing booth I tried to add as much glitter as possible to rectify my mistakes but it didn’t work out too well.

Now I knew what to expect I hit the booth again. Trying to be as cheesy as possible these are the images I created of Icitha’s 3 looks.

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Magical Girl
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Product placement
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21st Century Geisha
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After this ordeal myself and my mum decided to get some of our own too as a reminder of the trip.

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I attempted to email myself the images too. But so far only 2 have come through so I may have to scan the printed stickers for my trading cards. First I have to get them back to the UK safe and flat.

Tokyo: 3

Today we revisited Harajuku in order to shop for my final piece outfits. We were more successful than our first attempt, resulting in a completed shopping list. The majority of the clothes came from 2 stores, one who’s name escapes me but it is one of lady gaga’s costume shops.

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Which is where we found this beauty. Perfect for the Sakura look.

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The second shop we had never been in before, in Japan you have to remember to look up as the shops are layered on top of each other. Today we remembered to look up and found the gold mine of all Cosplay/ Lolita shops.

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Here I found the majority of my magical girl look as well as some beautiful red shoes for my product placement look.

After that we ventured to a Harajuku shopping centre. What I love about Japanese shopping centres are they are tall and thin, there are no corridors, the box shaped floor has open shops on all 4 sides of the wall. In Topshop I was given a face mask whilst trying in clothes, the changing room assistant told me it was to ensure my makeup didn’t go on the clothes.

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On our way out we saw the beautiful architecture of the shopping centre.

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After a few more shops we returned home, I decided to bring all my looks together to make sure nothing was missing.

Here is 3 days worth of Tokyo shopping in 3 photos…

Magical Girl
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Product Placement
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I am very happy with the results and can’t wait to get shooting.

Tokyo: 2

Today was a successful day of research and shopping in Tokyo. We spent the day walking around Akihabara, the electric city and the birth place of the term Otaku.

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I had big hopes and they were beyond fulfilled. Yesterday I wrote about Shibuya and Harajuku, I compared them to Chelsea and Brighton in England. But there is no where in the world that I could compare Akihabara too, it’s a fantastical place built around the admiration of fantasy stories and characters in anime. I not only did some personal shopping but managed to get some things for my final piece too.

Yodobashi was our first stop. The biggest electronics shop in Japan the shop covered 8 floors and had its own food court.


I had been planning to buy a pentax in Japan and yodobashi was the ideal place. They also have a huge film section which meant I could buy a five pack if film, I will also be taking my images to be processed there. After this mammoth shop we stopped for a bit of lunch, ordering our food at a vending machine then receiving it in the restaurant.


We then took a walk around the streets looking in all the fan shops. I made a few personal purchases, including my first figurine. I am going to look more into the packaging in a deprecate post for my final piece.
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We then discovered Mandarake thanks to a helpful maid wondering the streets. The self proclaimed biggest anime and manga related shop in the world. 8 floors of books, posters, and merch it was like a shopping centre exclusively for geekery… ^_^ be careful of the adult shops, when you don’t read japanese you can find yourself in some very questionable shops.

It was really helpful for the final project, I found the perfect wig (the quality of wigs is unbelievable), trading cards and window posters which are printed on transparent paper in order to let light in. Just like mine will be, i will go into more detail about the cards and posters at a later date. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take photos in the shop, which is especially a shame because they had a whole room full of dolls and Barbies and all their interchangeable outfits. They even had a doll wig which matches my new one.

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We then started the train ride back to Shibuya after a successful day. As we did we ended up getting lost, frustrating, but perhaps a good thing as I found the perfect line of vending machines for my product placement photoshoot. A full 6 line of vending machines in a secluded area with the choice of a high up or ground level viewpoint.

We also saw some beautiful lanterns in Shibuya.

Today we are heading back to Harajuku to buy a dress I previously saw and will star shooting tonight. Starting with the Sakura look.

Locations: Product Placement in Shibuya

As we have been walking around I’ve been constantly looking out for locations. We have yet to go to Akihabara, a Sakura park or somewhere high up so I have only found possible spots for the product placement image. Here are some interesting vending machines I’ve found in the Shibuya province.





I will have to start focussing on the Sakura images more as the Cherry blossom is only around for a week and its already covering the trees. We are headed to akihabara tomorrow so I will be able to purchase all the film and accessories I need and hopefully a costume too. We saw a beautiful costume in Harajuku which I might go back to buy for this shoot.

Tokyo : 1

Today is our first full day in Tokyo and is the first chance I’ve had to get online. The first thing that I love about Tokyo is the respect everyone has for eachother. I am so used to city-goers barging past and throwing all sorts of food on the floor but Tokyo is clean and everywhere you go you are welcomed in and bowed too, it takes a bit of getting used to but it is quite nice.

Coming into such a different culture is a shock to the system. Getting used to people’s mannerism and learning what socially acceptable and not. Here are some of the things I’ve picked up on in the first 24 hours.
– don’t put your bag on the floor in a resteraunt, put it on a chair or in some places put it in the delighted box.
– don’t hand money to a cashier, put in in the tray at the till.
– it’s considered rude to blow your nose in public.
– always use two hands to give and receive items.
– be prepared to take your shoes off at any point. I had to take my doc martens off to go into a changing room. (Doc martens are not ideal for Tokyo, a quicker slip on/ slip off shoes is more appropriate)

We are staying in Shibuya which I have renamed “made in Shibuya” because I see it as the Chelsea of Tokyo. Everything is beige and over priced. Looking for a more colourful and affordable city experience myself and my mum got the subway to Harajuku. After a bit of eating and light shopping we were shattered after having only done 1 lane, the infamous Takeshita Dori a narrow street of shops I can only compare to Brighton Lanes, but bigger and better. Each shop sold a different style of pop culture attire, from kawaii to rave and decora. Unfortunately I didn’t buy anything, the whole experience was overwhelming and I am still getting used to the currency exchange and having to hand over thousands.

Tomorrow we head to akihabra, Tokyo’s electronic/anime/manga central. Here I hope to buy my maid costume and possibly my magical girl costume as well as a new camera, some figurines and some other anime goods.

Here are some snaps I’ve been taking on my phone, I wish I could have taken more but I didn’t get access to a charger until today. (I’m blogging from my phone which doesn’t give me the option to annotate pictures but the images below are what we’ve seen, what we’ve eaten and little gadgets in our hotel room)












Phantastic420 on Instagram

Phantastic420 is an Instagramer based in Shizuoka Pref, Japan. With images focused on Japanese scenery around the Mount Fuji area. A lot of the shots are taken at night and I am particularly interested in the reent uploads of the Sakura in Japan which I will be around soon. I love the lighting and colours in the images, it’s making me second guess my time of shooting. In Coventry the images were coming out too dark even at twilight but i think there are so many City lights in Tokyo I might be better off shooting at night and choosing well lit areas. This is something I will have to experiment with on my digital camera whilst i’m there.

You can see Phantastic420’s instagram feed here.

All images ©Phantastic420

One taken at nightღ
27.Mar.2013 20:04:20
N35°14′15.600 E138°52′37.799
One taken at nightღ
24.Mar.2013 20:54:20
N35°07′19.799 E138°55′08.400
One taken at nightღ 24.Mar.2013 20:44:20 N35°07′19.799 E138°55′08.400
One taken at nightღ 24.Mar.2013 20:34:20 N35°07′19.799 E138°55′08.400
One taken at midnightღ 24.Mar.2013 00:04:20 N35°07′19.799 E138°55′08.400


One taken at midnightღ 24.Mar.2013 00:04:20 N35°07′19.799 E138°55′08.400
One taken at midnightღ 24.Mar.2013 01:42:00 N35°07′10.800 E138°49′33.599
One taken at midnightღ 23.Mar.2013 23:04:20 N35°11′84.025 E138°91′85.126


Photo and location insperation

I’m feeling disheartened by the lack of City streets in coventry, I cannot test with skyscrapers and an abundance of light because there is none. So I am on a hunt to find some photo inspiration of Tokyo. I already have a tokyo book with check lists for shoot props and images to make, after this I will have a collection of images for reference. Click the image to see the source.

Magical Girl







I feel a bit more at ease that I will be able to find locations and work with more heavy lights than in coventry.





Interchangeable Icons

TOKYO, 2013

21st Century Geisha, Magical Girl and Product Placement. These are all “looks” of our protagonist. Female pop cult icons change their visual identity in order to comply with whichever product or theme is in demand.  They become like dolls boundlessly changing whilst simultaneously being branded as unique and liberating. Consumers are led into a false sense of empowerment, told we are free to choose how these icons look, when really we are being drip fed options. Our so called freedom is choosing from a series of pre-selected branded looks which demand we pay before getting access. This transcends into all aspects of consumerism surrounding these transmedia icons, figures, photos and trading cards all offer different variations, we buy into choices in order to show we don’t conform. When the act of needing them suggests the opposite.

Digital Rest

UK, 2012

We live in a society in which we passively communicate, and whilst many people see this as a negative thing, I don’t. I made this series to portray the emotion and comfort technology can bring us in relationships, long distance ones in particular. Each Image is named after the singular light source used in the image.

Tokyo Clash: Japanese pop culture by Ralf Bahren

Tokyo clash was published in 2010 by h.f.ullman and is written by Ralf Bahren. Ralf explores the mass culture in Tokyo and depicts through images and writing how we are “exposed to sensory stimulation beyond anything you have ever experienced”. I ordered this book when i was considering just looking at Japanese pop culture, obviously I have widened my ideas back out to Pop culture in general but that doesn’t mean this book won’t be useful. let’s see what it has to say.

Its multitude of parellel cultures and styles blurs the boundaries between colourful chaos and retained tradition. It is a culture of NOW, an immediate presence that often lasts only the blink of an eye, changing faces as you advance, with yesterday and tomorrow somehow condensed into the moment.
-Page 7

Each exploration of the city comes under a title, I will look at these individually.

Flowers p12

Massive, earthquake-proof buildings cover up almost all the finer, flourishing details that make up its lively spirit.

Cute p16

Cute does not only apply to living beings, but even more inanimate objects.

Print Club p98

Like our photo booths but the booths allow you to add cute decorations and effects to your images.

Cosplay p106

Cos(tume)-play and masquerade are widely accepted as expressions of personal and emotional freedom.

Doll p123

If you can’t get it in real life, just get it in plastic.

Advertising p138

Escape is not an option. Commerce is lurking everywhere and it’s by far the major cause of colors stimulating your retina… It brightens up the daily grind

I found this book a decent brief look at all aspects in Japanese culture, however I was expecting it to be a depper analysis/look into things like otaku, colour, packaging  manga and consumerism. And whilst it did cover these topics it didn’t explain anything about them, just a short paragraph about what they are. There was no context or information, it just showed me about Japaense culture rather than explain it to me.