I apparently wrote this 4 years ago, but never posted it. ha ha...
And apparently, another year has passed and I still hadn't posted this... ack!!!

Last May (2014) I attended my first wedding in Japan. While all weddings are wonderful occasions, this particular wedding was a little more special for me because of what it represented. I actually don't know the couple very well, nor the family, but I have spent some time with them over the past three years as a result of my work documenting the recovery efforts in the Tohoku area.

So some of you are probably wondering why I was invited? Part of the reason is because they wanted me to come and take photos. They couldn't pay me though, but I also didn't have to give the traditional Japanese wedding gift (money), nor could they pay for my travel expenses. Normally, I'd be a little peeved about this, but for this particular family, I was honored to do it...and I was happy to do it for free.

Even though I don't know a lot about the couple or the families, I knew enough. I agreed to go because of what I did know and because of what it really represented - the unspoken bond that has been forged between myself and the family, more particularly, the father of the bride, Mitsuaki Maeda.

Out of all the people I have met during my travels through the devastated areas in Tohoku, Maeda-san is one of the people I think of often. I wrote about this bond we have created toward the end of another blog post Bonding for the Future. He lost his brother, his sister-in-law, his home and his sushi restaurant during the tsunami, yet, despite his tragic losses, every time I see him, he always has a big smile on his face. I can't help but smile back when I see him.

While I wish he and I could talk more, I am content in knowing that the reason for that smile on his face is his positive outlook on life.

Part of the reason I don't know a lot about the family is because of the language barrier. Despite my many trips to Japan, my Japanese is still not very good, so communication is difficult at best. The day before I left, I asked my friend in Tokyo for some last minute Japanese lessons. How do I say "please tilt your head a little to the left"? Please turn your head a little to the right. Chin up. Chin down. Look this way. Look that way. Aaaaaack!!!
Yuya and Juri
So I had arrived in Sendai, cameras in tow, prepared to shoot a wedding and wondering how the heck I was going to do this with my limited Japanese. To my pleasant surprise, and relief, there was a team of photographers on site who were hired to shoot the wedding. They were very well trained and worked together very well as a team. *Phew* I'm off the hook. I was NOT the hired photographer!

So the team pf photographers were shooting the usual photos (and doing a really good job). This meant I was able to wander around and shoot more for the aesthetics rather than having to get THE shots. This ended up working out great! I was able to provide the family with shots the other photographers weren't shooting and I was able to relax more even though I was still taking photos.

In the end, it was a great experience, and I got to hangout with Maeda-san and his family.

June 2016. Hanging out with the Maeda's at Sendai station. Juri (and Yuya) have two kids.

UPDATE: Fast forward to August, 2018, Yuya and Juri now have 3 kids.


End of an Era: Tsukiji Fish Market Closes

A large tuna is cut into sections with a special
"maguro kichi bocho," a samurai sword sized knife.
(The original color of the raw tuna was photoshopped back into the photo.)
It's a sad day for fish lovers and instagrammers. The Tokyo Central Wholesale Market in Tsukiji, more commonly known as the Tsukiji Fish Market, or just Tsukiji Market, is now closed. On Saturday, October 6, 2018, the world's largest fish and seafood market officially ended it's stay on 57 acres of land in the Chuo Ward of Tokyo. The market is being relocated to Toyosu, 2 kilometers to the south in nearby Koto Ward.
Tsukiji Fish Market is a hub of activity at 7:15 in the morning.

I was lucky enough to have visited this behemoth of a market four different times in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2016. Back in 2006, it was a sight to see and a photographer's wet dream. There were no restrictions on where you could go.

I stood next to the auctioneer while he barked out numbers from his short wooden pedestal and jotted notes on his notepad. I stood behind the buyers as they raised their hands to place bids on the prized tuna. I followed buyers carting tuna to the cutting room. I roamed the aisles freely, taking photos of whatever sea creature caught my eye. I stood next to the traffic guard while turret trucks, motor bikes, and cargo trucks drove by within inches of my lens. Perhaps, it is people like me which caused the government to ban tourists from the famed market several times for disruptive behavior between 2008 and 2010. 
Frozen tuna purchased at the auction is carried on a wooden handcart.
A queue of frozen tuna waiting to be cut.
A frozen tuna is cut in half on a band saw.

I imagine some people got injured. The floors were slippery. While the professionals all wore rubber soled boots that didn't slip, tourists like me wore tennis shoes, or worse, high heels. Luckily I never hit the pavement, nor did I wear high heels (in case you were wondering) but on numerous occasions I almost bit the dust. There were also hundreds of turret trucks zipping around the market and through the aisles, transporting a bevy of seafood items, honking their horns as they whizzed by unsuspecting tourists. 
A turret truck transporting frozen tuna.

Not counting the tuna auction, the highlight was always stopping at the outer market area and eating some of the freshest sushi and sashimi you can imagine. Some of these places are holes-in-the-wall that seat only 10 people, yet the line outside snakes around the building and people have been known to wait 3 hours or more. So yes, I did. Normally, I wouldn't, but my friend insisted this place was worth it. Being the foodie that she is, I trusted her. She was right. Sushi Dai was to-die-for. It better have been since she practically dragged me out of my hotel before the sun had risen.
At 8:50 in the morning, many food stalls near the Tsukiji Fish Market, are busy
serving up bowls of noodles, rice, and of course, sushi.

I'm sad that I won't be able to take any of my friends here again, but I'm grateful for the memories. The last people I took there were my uncle, my cousin and her husband. It was one of the highlights of our trip in 2016. We dined on some delicious sushi and sashimi - maguro, hamachi, ebi, i can't remember them all, but I do remember the smiles on our faces. The rest of the family missed out. Now, they'll just have to live vicariously through us. 

Unfortunately, the new fish market in Toyosu will not have nearly the same charm as Tsukiji. There is too much history and nostalgia associated with Tsukiji that Toyosu will never live up to the bar that Tsukiji has set, at least not for me. Perhaps the next generation will create their own memories in Toyosu, but I can see myself being that old guy sitting at the table saying, "I remember when I held my camera above the auctioneer's head to take a 'hail mary' shot of the auction."
A tuna auction in progress.

It will be interesting to see whether or not it will be a popular tourist stop and whether or not the shops and restaurants around Tsukiji Fish Market will stick around. Some have already decided not to relocate and have closed for good.
Due to disruptive behavior, certain areas were made off-limits to tourists. 
you can see more photos here. 


Revisiting the Story of Sadako Sasaki

This past weekend, I met Masahiro Sasaki, the older brother of Sadako Sasaki, when he spoke at the Japanese American Community and Cultural Center in Los Angeles, California. I decided to repost an excerpt from a blog post I wrote in February, 2009. I felt it was appropriate to revisit Sadako's story as a reminder of the horrible events that happened 69 years ago and to remember her life.

The Life of Sadako Sasaki and a Thousand Cranes

While doing my research on Hiroshima, there was a sad yet inspiring story that I came across. The story of Sadako Sasaki.

On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima killing over 70,000 people instantly, an estimated 140,000 by the end of the year and injuring countless others.

Sadako survived. She was two years old and a mile away when the bomb was dropped. Ten years later, she developed leukemia, as did many other survivors. While undergoing treatment, Sadako began folding origami cranes.

Japanese legend says that a crane lives for a thousand years and is one of three holy beasts. By folding a thousand cranes, the legend promises that you will be granted one wish. Sadako believed that if she folded a thousand cranes, she would be healed and free of the leukemia.

As she continued to fold more and more cranes, they became smaller and smaller. Some were folded using needles and had less than a half-inch wingspan. The number of cranes was no longer important as each was instilled with her hope to live.

On October 25, 1955, Sadako Sasaki passed away at the age of 12.

Sadako’s story has become an inspiration to children and people around the world. Her classmates began a crane folding campaign in remembrance of her life. Soon children across the country and around the world were folding cranes in memory of Sadako with the hope that there would be peace throughout the world.

Her friends and classmates wanted to do more, so they raised money to build a monument in remembrance of Sadako and all the other children who died as a result of the bombing and their hope for peace in the world. “This is our cry. This is our prayer. For building peace in this world.” is inscribed on a plaque at the base of the the Children's Peace Monument.

Today, thousands of cranes are sent from around the world and brought to the Children’s Peace Monument and left in display cases at the base of the monument.


'Twas the Night Before Christmas [phojo style]

Dec. 24, 2013; in my office; USA - Remembering the good ol' days. My photojournalistic twist on a classic Christmas poem. © Darrell Miho

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the land,
Newsrooms were buzzing with deadlines at hand.
Assignments were posted on the wall without care,
In hopes that some photos soon would be there.
The writers were typing and pecking away,
On keyboards their fingers composed what to say.
The boss with his sleeves rolled up in a bunch,
I at my desk, with a doughnut and spiked punch.
Then over the scanner there came such a chatter,
I perked up my ears to hear what was the matter.
Squawking and beeping alarms over the air,
The voice from within called out in despair.
Fire trucks, paramedics, ambulance and PD,
Possible five-ten, multiple vehicles and tree.
Streetlights were out with nary a glow,
Roads were all slick and covered with snow.
I knew in a moment, this news would be big,
I yelled, “Stop the presses!” and squealed like a pig.
A semi! A porsche! A stroller, oh no!
Tragic this is, need photos, gotta go!
Out the front door, like a bat out of hell,
I raced to the scene with cameras and cell.
Upon my arrival, I could not imagine,
All the wreckage I saw, how did this happen?
The semi was twisted and wrapped ‘round a pole,
The Porsche was blazing, hit a tree, flipped and rolled.
Stumbling around was a man dressed like St. Nick,
Who reeked of liqueur, A ha! there’s my pic!
Dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

His clothes were all tarnished with gashes and soot;

His eyes were all teary, bloodshot and red,
His breath smelled like eggnog and vodka, ‘nuff said.
So I pressed on the shutter and snapped a few frames,
Pulled out my note pad and jotted down names.

Back to the office I returned in a hurry,
Into the darkroom, I worked in a flurry.
Turn off the lights, flip the door latch,
Pop the film cannister, reel it fast, fast.
Drop in the tank and cap it real tight,
Crank up the temp and shake it left - right.
Push that film baby, one-hundred degrees,
Grain is no problem, Acufine is key.
Developer then fixer, rinse and then loupe,
Into the enlarger, straight from the soup.
Dodging and burning, slip it in tray,
Agitate, agitate, fix and then pray.
Potassium ferricyanide, reveals Santa’s face,
Oh my! This is scandalous and such a disgrace.
Editor says “Yes!” so off to the printer,
Scanner and halftone, layout and waxer.
With plates made of metal in place on the drums,
Presses start rolling, the ink flow begun.
Alas it is done, the newspaper complete,
Tossed onto doorsteps while most people sleep.
This is what life was like once upon a time,
Photojournalism is dying ‘cause pics cost a dime.  

may every day be christmas


Bonding for the Future

Minamisanriku - It has been one year since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake rocked the Tohoku region of Japan and sent a series of tidal waves that wiped out much of the northeast coast and created an ongoing nuclear crisis. In the small town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, more than 75% of the city was destroyed. The town was literally washed away.

More than 500 people died and over 100 are still missing. On Sunday, March 11, it was standing room only at the Bayside Arena where more than 3,000 people gathered to pay their respects to those who had perished and those who are still missing. Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda addressed the nation at a memorial service in Tokyo that was simulcast to all the memorial services across the country.

The Emperor expressed his heartfelt gratitude to his country and to the world for their overwhelming support. “I hope that all of the people of Japan will sympathize with the disaster victims and that persistent efforts will be made to improve the situation.”

Prime Minister Noda was deeply saddened by the loss of life and vowed to do everything possible to speed up the recovery and help people return to their hometowns. “We will stand by the disaster victims during these difficult times and work together to fulfill the historic mission of reinvigorating Japan through reconstruction.”

Minamisanriku Mayor Jin Sato (above), who himself barely survived the tsunami by clinging to a broadcast antenna atop the three-story Minamisanriku town hall building and Miyagi Prefecture Governor Yoshihiro Murai also spoke at the service.

The service featured several chorales of students from the local elementary schools each singing songs they had written and ended with a presentation of flowers for all in attendance.

As I was leaving the service, someone was calling my name. I turned around to see Mitsuaki Maeda, his daughter Juri and niece Megumi. I was very happy to see them. I held back tears as Megumi showed me a picture of her mother and father who passed away in the tsunami.

When I first met Mitsuaki in June of last year, he introduced Megumi to me as his own daughter, It was only later that I learned that his brother and sister-in-law had died and he had taken on the responsibility of caring for Megumi. It is this deep commitment to family and values that keeps bringing me back to Minamisanriku.

Mitsuaki (far left) is one of the people who truly inspires me to help the people in Japan. He lost his brother, his sister-in-law, his home and his sushi restaurant. Yet, despite his tragic losses, he still wears a smile on his face and remains positive about the future.

I met him and his family for lunch the following day at their temporary housing unit. He told me that my friend Ken and I were the first people he ever met outside of Japan when we were there cooking a barbeque for the evacuation shelter he was staying at. Since then, he said that he is now learning English and watching American movies because he wants to learn more about life and cultures outside of Japan.

Kizuna is the Japanese word that describes the bond and emotional ties between people. Since the triple disaster, it has become more widely used as more people create those bonds by working together to rebuild their lives and their communities.

During these past few days, several people have told me that they really appreciate it when people come to visit them. It’s not the donations or the money that are important to them. It’s the relationships with others that raises their spirits. It is my hope that these bonds, the spirit behind kizuna, will last forever.


Have a Heart, Buy Some Art!

please feel free to share this with a friend...or two or 100...

the MIHO gallery
is now open!

i have chosen a few select photos from my travels to Hawai'i and Japan as well as a series of flowers. prices vary depending on the size and type. some are limited edition prints (signed and numbered : more expensive) that are ready for hanging while others are mounted and ready for framing.

so for the month of February, i am kicking of the grand opening with the "Have a Heart, Buy Some Art!" campaign to help raise money for a few long term projects i have been working on. it's a sweetheart of a deal for family and friends. you'll automatically get 20% off and 33% of your purchase will be tax deductible and will go towards making this world a better place.

to place an oder:
go to the MIHO gallery
click on limited edition prints and fine art prints.
find the perfect photo(s) for your wall(s).
click on "add to cart" to see the different sizes available and prices.
write the name/number of the photo and pick a size/price.
click on contact and email that information to me.
do not purchase the photo through the website. you won't get the discount or the tax deduction.

the final prints will not have any of the text on them. it is merely a security feature built into the website so that people don't steal my photos. yes, unfortunately, people do do that.

to order your print(s) or for more information, please send me a message by clicking here or on the contact button on the MIHO gallery site.

here are the projects you can support...

Project Hibakusha : Hope for Peace
in partnership with the American Society of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors (ASA)
i am documenting stories from atomic bomb survivors to archive their stories and to create a traveling exhibit to promote world peace. i have over 100 survivors signed up from South Korea, Japan, Canada, Brazil and the US.

Ai Love Japan
in partnership with Pacific Film Currents
my friend Ken and I are documenting stories of tsunami survivors in Tohoku Japan to share with people in the US to encourage people to do more and give more. and in the process, we are learning about the community needs and raising money to provide direct aid to help them rebuild their lives.

the Garrett Miho Foundation
We assist children of single parent households so that children can continue to have access to activities and programs that provide life experience, leadership skills, interpersonal relationships and build self esteem. we are now supporting children in Japan who lost one or both parents in the tsunami.

thank you very much for your support...together, we can make this world a better place.