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Interview: Scott Gold (January in Japan)

The beautiful, almost meditative video ‘January in Japan’ created quite a lot of buzz when it received the well deserved Staff Pick badge at Vimeo earlier this month.

We got in touch with Scott Gold, the author of the short, and asked a few questions about his trip to Japan and experience shooting travel videos.Could you tell us about your background? How did you start shooting travel videos?

I’m a director and photographer living in Irvine California. I bought my first video camera in 2003 and have been making little vacation videos for fun ever since.

How did you decide to go to Japan? Was it a long time dream, or a spur of the moment decision?

I’ve always had a strong affinity for Japanese culture and I’m fascinated by its history. I don’t exactly know why, I just know I’m drawn to it. My birthday was coming up (January 25th) and my wife suggested we go on a road trip. After discussing a lot of options we decided to be spontaneous and do something big. We bought the tickets a week before we flew to Japan.

Was Japan all you expected it to be? What surprised you the most? What was your favourite region and why?

Japan exceeded every expectation I had. It was amazing! What surprised me the most was the people. They were more humble, respectful, and beautiful than imagined. Due to the sheer number of people living in Tokyo, I expected it to be quite chaotic like New York or Los Angeles, but it wasn’t.

 It was so organized and clean… amazingly clean… I don’t think I saw a single piece of trash on the ground anywhere. People lined up to enter and exit the subway and no one talked annoyingly on their cellphones. Harmony seems to be the best way to describe it. Everyone seemed to have a sense of “iki”.

A good part of the video was devoted to food, from the Tsukiji fish market, to juicy yakitori. What’s your favourite Japanese dish? Any tips for amateur film-makers looking to make their dinner look as good on camera, as it tastes in real life?

My wife loves food and seeks out new experiences everywhere we go, I would consider her a professional in this department. She had a list of places she wanted to visit and it did not disappoint. Here’s a rundown of where and what we ate.


Sushi Dai-wa in the Tsukiji Fish Market: We didn’t feel like standing in line for 2 hours at Sushi Dai. We ate at Sushi Dai-wa and used the extra time to shop the fish market.
Maishin: Tiny hidden spot in the middle of Shibuya. Considered to have one of the best sake selections in all of Tokyo.
Yakitori Akiyoshi: Fun yakitori near Shibuya station. We loved it so much we ate here twice!
Maisen: Best Tonkatsu we’ve ever had…amazing!
Kyubey: It’s the original restaurant in Ginza. One of the best spots for high end sushi. We were served by sushi master Kyubey himself. Order the omakase, it’s a wonderful experience.


Tsujiri Tea House: The best tea! Amazing matcha teas and desserts. Great place to pick up gifts.
Gion Kinana: Hidden Japanese ice cream place in the Gion district. Delicious ice cream served with hot tea. Yum!
Giro Giro Hitoshina: Modern Kaiseki style dinner at a great price. Fun atmosphere and creative food pairings served in quirky mismatched dishes.


Tamaya: It’s a Sumo themed restaurant. We had a wonderful dinner eating Chanko Nabe while it was snowing outside, it our favorite meal of the trip.

Last but not least! Family Mart for late night snack attacks! Boss coffee and something chocolate is great combination!

As for tips on making food look good, here’s the best one: Photograph everything with backlighting. Example: If you are eating in a restaurant with only one window or light source, make sure you are facing that light source and place your food between you and it. When we go to a restaurant, we always try and pick a seat that offers good backlighting, it makes the food look delicious. Here’s a great explanation on the subject: A Simple Way To Light Your Food

This is not your first video from a trip abroad… Did you find it more or less challenging to shoot life in Japan? Were people (and venues) generally understanding and forthcoming?

Filming in Japan was very easy, we had no issues filming anywhere. I firmly believe if you don’t act like a tourist, you won’t be treated like a tourist. This means being polite and respecting people. It also means learning about the culture and language so you can interact appropriately. We practiced speaking Japanese the week before the trip and it helped tremendously when talking with people.

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