Now that we’re into December, it’s time that I start thinking seriously about where to go traveling next year, and a return to Japan is high on the list. Nonetheless, it’s unlikely that it’ll happen. I’ve been keeping an eye on the dollar-yen exchange rate and its not good – for American travelers, anyway. When I went to Japan in 2004, I think the rate was about 106 yen to the dollar. Even then that wasn’t a lot of yen for the greenback. Now, the dollar buys only about 86 yen.
All other things being equal, then, a trip to Japan now costs about 20 percent more than it did then. Unless the dollar makes a miraculous recovery (and nobody is holding their breath), it looks like Japan – expensive at any time – will have to wait.
Still, I do have plenty of film of Japan to go through. Of the three and a half weeks I spent in Japan in 2004 and 2005, I’ve only really scanned just a few days worth and have not made any prints at all – so I’ve got plenty to hold me over until I can get back.
Here now are a couple of photos that I scanned some time ago but that I don’t think I’ve posted before. They were made at one of my favorites in Japan, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto called Tofuku-ji. When we hear the word “temple” here in the U.S., I think most people think of a single building like a church or a synagogue. In Japan, though, Buddhist temples can be very large complexes with many buildings and a great deal of greenery. Tofuku-ji is one such place, and it is a gorgeous, very peaceful place to spend some time. I look forward to going back – whenever that will be.
Tonight (Tueday) I went to another benefit auction, this time selling photographs to benefit an organization called Friends Without A Border. The autumn seems to be benefit auction season. In October, I went to the one held by the New York Academy of Art. Last month it was the one for the Photo Review – and there are plenty more, too, like those for the Aperture Foundation and the Camera Club of New York. What these all seem to share in common is that they raise money to benefit arts organizations.
Tonight’s auction is different, in that it raises money to support the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Supporting the arts is certainly a good thing, but if there were only one auction I’d buy from, it would be this one. I visited Cambodia last year and saw for myself the poverty and poor conditions that people live in. As I’ve said before about southeast Asia, the worst slum apartment in New York City is like a palace compared to how where many people live over there.
Naturally, quality medical care is something that many (or most) people have no access to. When I was in Cambodia, our guide told us that long lines of mothers with their children are formed in the wee hours of the morning outside another hospital, just to try to get in – so evidently a children’s hospital is sorely needed.
I had told myself that I would limit myself to just one (not too expensive) picture to take home, as I’ve spent a lot this year and need to start saving for next year. It looked toward the end of the silent auction that I would be the winning bidder on one photo, but thinking back to what I had seen, I decided at the last minute to get a second one with low bidding on it. It’s true that I also got it because I really liked the print, but as one of the speakers there said, buying something from this auction really does make one feel good inside.
Way way way out of my price range, the most expensive photo of the night was Irving Penn’s “Dahomey Children” (seen here) from 1967. It sold for $18,000 – which will hopefully buy a lot of medical supplies.