Good news! It’s Friday!
Actually pretty busy tomorrow
They had all that your self respecting teen-idol group should have: They had their strange, fan-boy dancer out front; they had school uniforms on and they had their smiley but very protective management. What was different however is that their songs also had a message, a massage about the the folly of nuclear energy which apparently got them banned from Fuji Rock festival in 2011.
Stronger messages in popular music or the “talento” media mass-production machine are not something that is common in Japan. To attack the companies or products that advertise on the TV or in the magazines; or to go “off-message” at in anyway can find you lost in the celebrity wilderness. Ask the actor, Taro Yamamoto, who angrily tweeted his feelings against nuclear energy after the problems at Fukushima Daichi and has since found it difficult to find work. It was perhaps a growing experience for him though that allowed his interests to broaden into politics and activism. He even stood for the governor of Tokyo.
How much the teenage girls that sing in this group know or believe in the message they speak is debatable. It could be a cynical attempt to exploit a vert particular niche. Yet if it is is seems curiously short-sighted and they cannot get reported on in the usual media. They do have a bit of a history with their pop song containing a message also.
Of course no-one in the media in the west knows or even really cares who they are so these images are not exactly profitable. Still it was interesting meeting and learning a bit about them on the day.
Later. got to rush off now to another job
There was a biggish anti-nuclear protest in Tokyo on Sunday. The government of Shinzo Abe has stated its determination to restart and exapand on the nuclear generation of electricity and around 7,ooo people took to the streets to protest this. Though the Japan Times quoted organisers saying 60,000 people attended this seems way too many. Even the police estimate of 20,000 to 30,000 still seems high compared to my own rough calculation at the site. The police are not known for talking-up the numbers of protesters though; indeed usually they do the opposite so I wonder what the real number was.
Some might say that it is foolish to hope the country will be nuclear free in the future,;Japan has no choice but to use nuclear energy when it consumes electricity at the level it does with no significant natural resources of its own to support it.
True these protests are not of the same scale they were at their height in 2012. But a lot of people still do care that government and industry collusion and corruption created the problems that Fukushima Prefecture and Japan has been dealing with since the earthquake and tsunami of March 11th 2011.
One man, who many people credit for having saved the country shortly after those events took place is Naoto Kan. When the situation at the damaged Daichi plant was at its worst and TEPCO were apparently preparing to abandon it, he is supposed to have forced them to go in and manage the shut down. Rumour has it that he did this quite forcefully. So forcefully in fact that it appears as soon as was possible the powers in the political system and the vested interests in the power industry got rid of him pretty quickly afterwards.
So even he wasn’t exactly among friends when he turned up later in the day at the protest to speak, he could find some sympathy and gratitude in the crowd of protesters that surrounded the National Diet building.
Still as a politician, despite having nailed his green credentials to the mast most of his political career, it was a brave thing to do. His security was quite light and he was right there in the middle of an angry, motivated crowd that have a visceral distrust, even dislike, of most politicians.
I think history will be kind to Naoto Kan though.
A good day shooting.
More images of Naoto Kan speaking at the anti-nuclear demo at my archive here.
I am not crying, there is actually nothing in my eye, but I do feel nostalgic. We often appear to cry when we have dust or grit in our eyes. Perhaps I am a little melancholic due to some grit, Gritstone to be exact, from the Derbyshire Peak District.
At this time of year I always miss that particular rock most. May is the perfect climbing season for those wobbly edges of beautiful rounded stones: the days are hot (mostly) but not too hot, the moor smells fresh and the rocks are dry and frictiony after winter.
A strong feeling of adult loss for that younger, freer, fitter me had me looking around the web earlier today for names from my past. I should have been working obviously but enjoyed the short surf through the great and good of my twenties. Coming across images of outrageous climbs in the the Peak and names like Ben Moon, Jerry Moffat and Johnny Dawes.
Now I am a photographer and my heroes live on this unreal space where I write these words. Their personalities and wares inhabit webpages that are meant to be easily accessible. Accessibility is our business after all and we push it out to find new people that will learn to like us and what we do and in turn give us jobs in interesting places and money to spend in less interesting places.
How different to the climbers of my earlier life. Inaccessibility was where they made their mark and reputations. Most have webpages now of course: their business is also to bring the idea of adventure to the consumer. Their reputations have to pay for the scraped-together maturity building itself from the vagabond life they used to lead perhaps. We used to lead.
I never quite made it a career that could support me. I was not quite good enough or brave enough. I did live the life though: ten years of travelling irresponsibility that has me struggling for respectability now. An ambition to be tanned and free is one no employers unsurprisingly finds worthy, (believe me a photographer is not much higher up the food chain either). Climbing for the sheer visceral pleasure of it is still possible with friends in high places though and not just an altitude freak show as some Everest climbs seem to be these days. The people I admired when I started climbing were full-on lovers of experiences that you had to earn and maybe would never get. You couldn’t be real if you didn’t feel the history of the activity you undertook or gloated too much over reaching some goal. Everyone posted their colours to their future greatness but stood them in a veneration of the past and and the best were confident but humble. I loved them for it.
It was perhaps the desire to connect with that past that made me send an email to one Johnny Dawes. Without a doubt one of the boldest and best climbers of his generation, he was the person we all aspired to be. I had nothing to say to him really; we are and were not friends. I have perhaps spoken less then twenty words to the man in my entire life when I ran into him at the crag occasionally. One of those encounters I remember well is at my beloved Burbage Crag, when I was trying to solo some E2 climb I liked but kept bottling the top smear and clmbing down to rest. Johnny Dawes was bimbling around the boulders and edges nearby and asked politely if he could climb past me.
“Of course.” I said and by way of explanation on my lack of upward progress said something like, “I can’t seem to get the top moves anyway.”
“Yeah, it’s a bit bold, I’ll probably fuck it up myself.” said Johnny.
“Who are you kidding!” I snorted. “You’re Johnny Dawes.”
He smiled and climbed through on a move that was way below bold for him. And that was the last I ever saw of him in real life. I moved to Japan a few months later and have barely climbed since.
It is a mark of the man that the supreme self confidence needed to climb the routes he does and did is not exhibited through a crushing ego. He didn’t rub my face in his ability that day and he was incredibly nice when he replied to me just now. Despite both my interactions with him this last ten years having something of the stalker about them. He thanked me for my mail said it made him feel good as he was feeling a sick today and it was nice to hear someone say something about days that were in his own words “a great time on the rock”.
I have written before about heroes of that time. About Alan Rouse who informed my every ambition on the life I pursued then. How it was the book: Alan Rouse: A Mountaineer’s Life, written as an act of love by his friends after his death on K2, that made me turn up in the Byron Pub in Nether Edge knowing no more than that one name and the craziness I wanted to join. The middle-aged climbers that humoured me must have seen some passion in wanting to follow in his footstep. I was naive and immature but they took me under their wing and helped me by taking me out cragging on grit for the first time ever the next day. That day changed my life permanently for the better.
Some people say it is never good to meet your heroes as they invariably disappoint. I am lucky, I think, in my twin passions of climbing and photography as I have not only been able to use the opportunities both give me to visit some amazing places and gain an understanding of them that is perhaps deeper than most passing through. I have also met some amazing people. Heroes and new new people alike, those without fame or notoriety but all have ambition and talent. The heroes have almost never let me down; being as generous and genuine in the flesh as you expected them to be. And the friendships I have made through sharing these interests, encouraging and educating each other are still the deepest and most meaningful of my life.
Great days indeed.
Pic at the top of this post is Over Owler Tor with my good friend Ivan Waldren scrambling around on an icy dawn, while someone was breaking into our car.
The second is Ivan again bouldering at Curbar Edge moments after we got to climb with the legendary Ron Fawcett.
The third is a climber I met, and whose name I forget now, cranking-out on the boulder problem, Brad Pitt at Stanage Edge. I do not know if the Hollywood actor Mr Pitt is aware that he has a boulder problem named after him and if he would approve. I fail to see how he could really take offence though, but then again I have not had my name attached to a grotty dark hole between some dripping rocks on a un-noteworthy low hill in a poverty-striken part of a small, insular island off the coast of Europe
It is all those things and I still miss it!
Still haven’t been up the thing. Must get onto that the next fine day we have.
You’ll just have to make do with this image of another right wing nut job, the current Tokyo governor, Naoki Inose, who may recently have lost Tokyo its Olympic bid. He also lives in my town and can sometimes be seen jogging around on his tiny little feet.