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By Georgette Tan
All photos courtesy of Andy Kho
ONE could say that Kuching-born photographer Andy Kho was made to co-host a travel show on Japan that took to the seas. After all, he cut his teeth on photography while working on a ship, and he loved Japan ever since his first visit in 2011.
“I’ve been promoting Japan on my blog and Instagram, but it never crossed my mind that someday I would actually be co-hosting a travel show promoting Japan,” he told DayakDaily shortly before ‘Wa! Journey!’ began airing on TV3 this month.
It began when an agency in Tokyo contacted him for consultation. They were looking for a female influencer talent for a travel show promoting Japan, and none of the shortlisted candidates appealed to the client.
His profile ended up being submitted, and it caught the eye of the client, Fuji TV Japan Masaru Akiyama, who thought that the photographer with his editorial photography background and trademark clean-shaven head was ‘kakkoii’ (cool).
“After studying my profile and doing two Skype video interviews, Akiyama thought that Anita and I would work well together.”
Singapore-based travel and lifestyle presenter Anita Kapoor was hand picked by Akiyama to work on another travel series.
‘Wa! Journey!’, currently showing on TV3, is Kho and Kapoor’s second trip following their first season ‘Japan By Sea’.
More accustomed to working behind the camera, Kho did find it weird to be in front of one.
“But since the show is featuring a photographer travelling in Japan, I was able to ‘hide’ behind my camera sometimes,” he said.
Viewers of the show could witness this in action: when confronted by a wondrous view, his reflex was to bring one of his cameras up and capture the moment.
Because of time constraint, he had to work fast in front of the camera and even faster behind it.
“You’ll notice I always have two cameras on me as there’s no time to switch lenses. And being a photographer, I couldn’t sit still and wait,” he said, adding that he was always running around taking as many photos as he could while the crew was setting up.
Being filmed himself meant that he had to be conscious of where to position himself, and where the two film cameras were.
“I was constantly reminding myself to speak and pronounce clearly. I got the hang of it after the second day. The transition was easier because I was working with a great travel host in Anita Kapoor.”
In 1998, Kho volunteered on humanitarian ship MV Doulos, the same place that set him off on his journey as a photographer.
“I’ve always had a thing for ships. The personal highlights for season one (Japan By Sea) would be me getting back on a cruise ship and travelling around western Japan by sea!”
In season two, Kho watched the Iwami Kagura, a Japanese dance-theatre located in the Shimane Prefecture.
“While the crew were setting up, I sneaked backstage and captured the performers getting ready. I’m always interested in behind the scenes shots.”
Wa! Journey! gave the two co-hosts a chance to immerse themselves in the culture, understand the essence of the tradition and way of life, from dressing in `hakama’ kimono to making the `hakota’ doll to making traditional Japanese confectionery.
“It also involved a lot of food. In every episode, you will see us featuring the local delicacy of each location.”
While everything can look perfect on TV, there are challenges behind the camera. Kho said weather and time were among the top challenges.
“One particular day, it rained the whole day when we needed to do outdoor shoots. We had to cram two days of shooting into the following day.”
Because Kho had an upcoming photo exhibition in conjunction with the show, he still had to get his images on the go, sometimes with only 30 minutes to find them.
“The other challenge I would say is sleeping late and waking up early each day,” he added.
Most travellers expect to get to their destination by air, but visiting Japan by sea has its perks.
“Every morning, I wake up to a new location. I didn’t have to worry about luggage, or check-in times or repacking before I move to the next destination.”
Every morning the ship docks at the location in the planned itinerary. After breakfast, you go on shore to explore or join an excursion. And then you return to the ship before dinner.
“Another great thing about travelling by sea is the scenery. Unlike travelling by air or land, you get to enjoy a whole different perspective. You’ve got to experience it for yourself.”
Wa! Journey! is currently airing on TV3 on Dec 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26 from 5:35PM to 6:00PM. For updates, visit fb.me/wonderfuljapaneseculture or @wa_journey_ on Instagram. — DayakDaily