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An Englishman in Japan - ďSay cheesuĒ

Date Posted: 2002-01-24

I used to love mazes when I was a kid. I completed the puzzles at the back of comics in seconds, and Iíd be in and out of a labyrinth faster than you could say "minotaur." However, the last time I walked into a Japanese camera shop, it took me three days to find my way out.

If you want to buy a camera, the process of choosing can take months, if not years. The selection is vast. There are the disposable cameras that everyone has at Christmas parties; compact cameras so small you could accidentally crush, inhale or swallow them; and digital cameras that allow you to e-mail photos of your dog or hamster to people all over the world. If you want a professional camera, then the choice is limited only by your physical strength and the generosity of your bank manager.

Japanese companies dominate the production of cameras. People all over the world are using Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta and Sony cameras to photograph their families, holidays and special events. But for sheer enthusiasm it is Japanese people who get the gold medal for being snap-happy. On bus tours, I am sure that there are more cameras than people. After each person has taken several rolls of film with their own cameras, then everyone gathers round for the big group photos taken by a professional.

Even if you donít have a camera, you donít have to stop taking photos. Every night out at a bar, karaoke box or game center there is an opportunity to make instant photos. Print clubs are possibly the ultimate reminders of nights out. No longer will people forget whom they went bowling with or what they wore last time they went to the cinema; they can just refer to the mass of stickers covering their diaries. They are the perfect reference tool for people with a big circle of friends, and if you are currently print-club free, itís a sad reminder that you need to get out of the house more often. More advanced print club machines allow you to write in names, dates and comments. In the future, history books may be little more than a collection of print club stickers marking major world events.

Iíve been affected by the Japanese love of cameras over the last three years. I arrived at Narita Airport with little more than a simple compact camera, and now I walk around with a tripod, camera and a bag full of lenses. I am currently saving up for a professional system, and then all Iíll need is a truck to carry it around in.

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