Yashica MF-1

Godzilla on a table in a hotel in Shinjuku.

I love to travel and now that I have the time I’ve been doing it quite often. I don’t travel high on the hog, my modes are dirt cheap. I joined a site that used to be called Scottscheapflights, though they recently changed their name to something much shorter and trendier. They send alerts to flight sales and airline mistake fares. I recently grabbed a roundtrip mistake fare from Portland, Oregon to Tokyo for $300. I had to go through Calgary to do it, but that price is pretty much free – so I went. I’ve never been to an Asian country before. When I travel I usually just bumble along, trip over myself and, by total luck, find my way around and have a great time. I have to admit, Tokyo was a challenge. My first few days were spent in Shinjuku, which felt kind of like sink-or-swim Tokyo. I’d chosen Shinjuku due to its proximity to Camera Town at the west exit of the train station. Don’t even get me started on that train station. Ho-lee-shit. Every time I went there it was like an entirely different place, it was so big. The camera town ended up being a bust. It was interesting to poke around but nothing more than what I might see at a PSPCS camera show, yet more expensive.

Oh but the lights and craziness of Shinjuku are intoxicating, and eventually mind-numbing.

Or maybe it was the highballs?

One evening I found myself drawn to a huge display of bright and multi-colored Instax cameras. “Tax Free” stores are all over Shinjuku. I’d managed to avoid them … until now. Oh the colors! The lighting! The hubbub. I didn’t really understand the “tax free” thing but whatever.

In the back of the store I found an old friend. There was Sailor Boy, winking at me in five collectable colors! The Yashica MF-1, a plastic, fixed focus, point ‘n shoot 35mm camera with built-in flash. The question wasn’t would I buy one? The question was which color would I buy? Plaid? Blue? I decided upon yellow. It’s not just any yellow. It’s this weird, soggy, flat-finish yellow. But Sailor Boy!?! The yen thing was impossible for me to calculate off the top of my head (highballs). I found the salesguy and pointed (the universal symbol of “I want”) at the Yellow model.

 

He packaged it up. And packaged it up. And packaged it up. Then he scanned my passport and hermetically sealed the package with some official-looking tape. It was so fun and I didn’t really understand all the packing (again, highballs). He handed me some sort of instruction card, printed in 18 different languages.

A few days went by and I continued my bumbling. Tokyo is a cool city. I basically just wanted a fork. I tried to fit in, knowing I never stood a chance to. I’d take my seasoned quail eggs back to my room and relish the fact that I had the foresight to pack a spork. I spent many days boarding the wrong trains, making bumbling faux pas and enjoying the chaotic symmetry of Tokyo.

Here’s a typical example of stuff I do: One night I got stuck in a torrential downpour without an umbrella. The people of Tokyo use umbrellas 24/7. No matter what, they proudly brandish their bumbershoot.

 

Umbrellas on a sunny day.

 

Umbrellas on a rainy night.

This night had me so soaked, I decided to buy an umbrella the first thing in the morning. Next day I stopped at a convenience store and got a cheap-o. When the rain started, I popped that sucker open just like the 20,000 other umbrella-toting-Tokyo-ites who were waiting for the light to change. Only my umbrella turned out to be a child’s umbrella. I’m a nearly 6 foot tall white lady blending in like nobody’s business in a sea of rain-savvy Japanese normal people.

 

I glanced up at my child’s umbrella. Yup … that’s about right.

Over the next few days the MF-1 pretty much stayed in my bag. I moved on to a hut in Kamakura, then a cubicle in Asakusabashi. It was there that I began to wonder about the crazy packaging. One evening I took out the receipt and calculated what I had paid, which came to a mindboggling $56 US. I removed the instruction card.

Among other DO NOT OPEN warnings, it said, “Do not open the packaging until you have left Japan. Please note that if you consume this product while in Japan you may be subject to pay consumption tax.” I decided to throw caution to the wind. I opened it.

 

The MF-1 turned out to be a bit of an actual MF, if you know what I mean?

 

 

The camera came pre-loaded with 400 iso Fuji color film. I didn’t read any instructions or anything. I didn’t even know it had instructions. Still bumbling. I bought a battery for the flash. I took half the roll with the thought that the camera was saying good-bye to its home country. I took Sailor Boy to the lakes below Mount Fuji. When I got home, I finished the roll and rewound the film. Well, I thought I rewound the film. I opened the back and there was the exposed film, staring at me. Turns out the film is already completely wound onto the take-up spool and as you advance the winder, it’s sucked into the cartridge. All I needed to have done was open the back. The rewind I performed, instead of winding it into the canister, pulled it back out. I slammed the film door shut but it was too late. It was then that I found the instruction booklet inside the packaging. (Oh, and the battery that comes with the camera.)

My blunder exposed all of the shots I took in Japan, but kept the shots taken after I got home. The first image? The neighbor’s fridge! (password “Polly”) I was elated to find it still there, waiting for me. The light leak on the left is from my mistake:

Yashica MF-1

I’ll take Sailor Boy out again soon. Right now he’s settling into the time change.

 

 

 

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