• Jason Garcia

35mm Film in Aoyama Cemetery - Taking Time to Focus

I retreated from the commotion of 14 million people and went to Tokyo's Aoyama Cemetery to soak up the silence and shoot film.

People often associate Tokyo with Blade Runner. You know, all those neon lights, robots that look like people, hyper-futuristic game centers, and maybe a scene from the movie...

"That gibberish he talked was Cityspeak, gutter talk, a mishmash of Japanese, Spanish, German, what have you. I didn’t really need a translator. I knew the lingo, every good cop did. But I wasn’t going to make it easier for him."

―Rick Deckard

Yeah, I've seen this setting in my head a few times but it never actually happens. Regardless, Tokyo is ON.

So how do I get away from it all? Well, there are many choices, but I never consider cemeteries and I'm not sure why. They are beautiful, have lots of wildlife (I encountered many different kinds of birds on my last visit), and are filled with the most epic photographic opportunities. If I shot this place with my digital camera, I know that the textures and sharpness would blow you away. That said, I'll be back with my digital rig.

I shoot film because it offers a bit of "unknown", especially if I use a film stock that I'm unfamiliar with. Regardless, I went in to this excursion with my favorite stock, Ilford XP2 Super. I love the highlights and shadows that this film offers. It has a fine grain and I used it because I wanted to see the textures of the property without masking those elements with a large-grain film. XP2 hit the mark, in my opinion.

I used my trusty Canon EOS-1n because I like the metering options, and the lenses available, of which I own two, a 50mm f1.8 and a 28–135mm f3.5. These lenses suffice, and just when I feel I need more, I look at what I capture and then forget about lens acquisition. Pssst. Here's a list of all those lenses I can use on this camera.

I'm was very respectful of where I went and how I interacted with the property. I stayed on paths, made sure to adhere to rules that are posted on signs, and also I picked up some trash that was laying around. Many notable people are laid to rest here, including physicians, translators, Kabuki actors, journalists, former samurai, and many foreigners may know Nishi Takeichi, who was portrayed in "Letters from Iwo Jima", the film by Clint Eastwood. The list goes on and on and I look forward to understanding more about who is laid to rest on the property. It's truly a learning experience which I appreciate as a newcomer to Japan.

Shooting this on 35mm film was dreamy, but I'll be back with my digital camera to get some crazy sharp images, oh and to get away from those Blade Runner scenes we think about.

Here are a few links so you can learn about Aoyama Cemetery.


Live Japan

Tokyo Park - PDF map

Kanpai Japan


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