Toronto Kills Me: Summer 2017


Candid travel photographs in the cold and the rain from my – ongoing – summer trip to Toronto, Ontario, a.k.a. (among others) CondoToronto – and rightfully so! Toronto often gets knocked for being an ersatz city, lacking any real sense of place. That “There is no there there,” as Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland. In this photo essay I go looking for T.O.’s genius loci – and find it there, among the historic brick buildings and glass-and-steel skyscrapers.

Toronto Photo Gallery on 500Px

Toronto, Summer 2007

New City Hall
New City Hall

I continue to re-build my Lightroom Library of images after an epic fail when I upgraded my Mac operating system to El Capitan… Oh well: gives me a chance to sort through, edit, and upload from the 25,000+ images on my hard drive 🙂

I’ve also resurrected my photo gallery at 500PX. Currently, I’m adding pictures Toronto pictures from 2007, including some photos of the old Port, UofT and the Annex area, Cherry Beach, and so on.

Canadian Museum of Inuit Art, 2007 – 2016

Canadian Museum of Inuit Art
Canadian Museum of Inuit Art

I was hoping to visit the Canadian Museum of Inuit Art (MIA) this summer in T.O. If nothing else, I wanted to upgrade my earlier, low-quality photos from 2007  (shot on the Sony R1) of some of the museum’s traditional and modern pieces of sculpture. Then I read this story on the CBC website (“Small but mighty Canadian Museum of Inuit Art closing its doors”) and learn that the museum will close permanently on May 30, 2016 — tomorrow! — just a few weeks prior to my arrival. Guess I’m going to have to live with the pictures I’ve already got, soft focus and all, at least until the collection finds a new home…

Good luck to David Harris and everyone at the Canadian Museum of Inuit Art! I enjoyed both the museum and its earlier incarnation as the Harris Gallery, and appreciated the many educational conversations, displays, help with my own small collection of pieces – and especially the opportunity to photograph so many more pieces in the museum! The Harris Gallery and MIA taught me that there’s a lot more to Inuit art than just dancing polar bears…

The Nightmare before Christmas: The North American Ice Storm of 2013

Extreme Weather, Toronto and Tokyo


William Gibson wrote that the soul, like lost luggage, needs time to catch up with the long­ distance traveller.

Maybe that’s why I feel… discombobulated as I wake to the scrunch of rain turning to ice outside an unfamiliar window. This is not my bedroom in Tokyo. Then some part of my jet­lagged soul catches up, and I remember: I’m back in Toronto, my first trip “home” for Christmas in 15 years.

Still woozy from the dislocation in time and space, still moving under water, I throw on every stitch of warm clothing I brought, grab a camera, and stumble­tiptoe out the slumbering guesthouse and into the gentrified Cabbagetown neighbourhood downtown.

The scrunch of rain into ice is louder out here. The canopy of maple trees, the park benches, the renovated workers’ cottages, have come alive in a Tim Burton­esque web of freezing branches and power lines dripping with short, sharp little icicles pointy as teeth.

It’s Friday night/Saturday morning, and hipsters in knit caps skid home from the bars artisinal craft beer pubs along Dundas Street West.

“Whatcha taking pictures of, bro?”

This magical, fantastical nightmare before Christmas.

The next few days I trip through the streets of my hometown, the familiar made strange, taking more pictures and waiting for the jet lag to subside enough to make me fit, once more, for human company.

Streetcars, overhead lines frozen solid, stand abandoned in the middle of the road. Bicycles, billboards, movie posters, hand­lettered signs to lose weight or earn $10,000 a month: in my heightened state, all seem preserved in a Pompeii of ice.

Outside a church, I mistake a statue for a real person. Later, on the university campus, I mistake a real person for a statue — until a pair of police officers shake the snow off the frozen figure and bundle… him? her? into the warmth of cruiser.

This is not the Toronto the White Christmas I rhapsodized to my wife back in Japan. That Toronto is a wintery wonderland of sledding — even skiing — in the parks, in the ravines that cut through the city, An urban pastoral, powdery snow transforming the gritty streets into the Christmas dioramas in the windows of the department stores of my childhood.

No, this is the stuff of TV melodrama. Winter is coming. White Walkers approach the gates Rob Ford, Toronto’s crack­smoking mayor, refuses to call a state of emergency. Never mind that, in the near north of the city, above the shore of an ancient lakebed which divides the city north/south, hundreds of thousands of homes, including my family’s, including my friends’, go days without heat and light. Even downtown, where I’m staying, some neighbourhoods have lost power. Mornings, McDonalds and Tim Horton’s are full of these temporary evacuees as they warm themselves after a night in a dark, freezing home.

“Really? Do you REALLY think this is the time to tease your sister? Tommy, I need you to stop being six.”

Speaking of coffee, to show everyone just how cold it is, weathercasters toss cups of boiling water in the air to show how quickly it turns into a fine, icy powder.

“It’s probably, like 10 degrees above zero and sunny in Tokyo right now,” I tell friends and family, and aloof bartenders at those Dundas West hipster joints.

But Tokyo is another hallucinatory trip. (Was that my soul I saw out the airplane window, still playing catch­up over the Pacific?) I return to a city where people on trains, on streets, in Starbucks, go about with white gauze masks over nose and mouth. No, it’s not fear of radiation from the still­leaking Fukushima Dai­ichi nuclear power plant. It’s allergy season, made worse than usual by a cold, record snowy winter.

Still, my neighbour’s plum tree has its first light purple blooms of the season. Soon it will be sakura cherry blossom season, the first real harbinger of spring. Everyone breathes a — pollen­laden — sigh of relief.

Soon enough we’ll be back in Tokyo’s tropical summer, hot and getting hotter. Worse nowadays than Bangkok or Singapore, they say, though perhaps those cities are also heating up along with Tokyo, along with Toronto, along with everywhere else, it seems, and we’ll all wax nostalgic for winter again.

“May you live in interesting times”, goes the legendary curse. Interesting times, indeed.


Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to Union Station on the Metrolinx Union Pearson Express: Photos

Pearson to Union on UPX

Pearson to Union Station, the ride in

The new train service between Pearson and Union Station has been up and running for a few weeks now – and is already the subject of much discussion on travel discussion forums.

I won’t repeat the discussion here, except to say that there are some photogenic moments – of the suburban and/or urban bleak kind – that break up the 25-minute train ride. Unfortunately, I was unprepared when we pulled out of Pearson and missed some shots of condos and overpasses. Maybe next time… These pictures were all previewed and edited in the new Photos app on a MacBook Air 11″: not my usual Lightroom on an iMac monitor. The software is unfamiliar and the small screen on the MBA is difficult for me to really see pictures with any detail, so apologies in advance if these pics aren’t all that great…

Toronto Photos: University of Toronto


Photo walks in summer and winter around University of Toronto’s (UofT’s) St. George Campus

University College, University of Toronto

Even now, despite all the new buildings along St. George and other parts of the downtown campus, and the twenty years (!) that’s passed since I graduated (BA Distinction, English, if you wanna know), the UofT campus still draws me into its orbit whenever I visit T.O.. Never mind that they paved Philosopher’s Walk; ignore the astroturf being laid for the 2015 PanAm games. The campus still feels like some secret garden in the midst of Toronto’s condo boom, one heckuva green space in the heart of the city, with acres of (real) grass and tree-lined paths and Hogwarts-style buildings.

On a more personal note, uni played an important role in the ongoing adventure of my life, and I always re-connect with my younger self as I walk past the houses and colleges and libraries where I spent much of my twenties – before this continuing adventure of life took me to Montreal for grad school, and Japan for a teaching career )and not a little writing and photography).

“Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”


I recently put together a slideshow of pictures from around campus, mainly Hart House, and University, Victoria, and Trinity Colleges, where I spent much of my time.

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