September 3rd is apparently the “birthday” of the famous manga and animation character, Doraemon. It is hard to say how old he is exactly, as this robotic cat was made in the future, 2112 to be precise, so this year marks his 98th before birth. It doesn’t make sense if you think about it to much so don’t even try.
Doraemon is easily one of Japan most popular and recognisable characters, and the fans get a big kick out of finding the details of his birth date repeated throughout the traits of the character. For example he was born on 12/9/3 (which is how the Japanese write the date) and he is also 129.3 cms tall. His weight is 129.3 kgs and he can run at 129.3 kilometres an hour (if scared that is) and jump 129.3 metres (again when running away from something). Even the diameter of his feet is 129.3mm.
Doraemon first appeared in manga magazines in 1969. Around 1,350 episodes were published over the next 10 or 15 years, including several stories that stretched to book-length. An animated television series arrived in 1979, followed by several movies.
I am not really a fan of Japanese manga but of course I recognise the character and his importance on the shared memory of many Japanese people, mae and female alike. From what i’ve heard the stories are very funny and have a good moral undercurrent that tackles important subjects like bullying that children may have to deal with in their real lives.
And to be honest I found myself wearing a smile almost as big as he kids were when I saw all the Doraemon models crowding the park below Roppongi Hills Tower the other week. He is kind of cute.
So Happy Birthday Doraemon!
On my way back to Japan from the UK earlier this week I had to spend the night in Doha airport. I was there for seven hours (slightly too short to get a free hotel stopover}. I arrived just after midnight and until my flight to Tokyo left at 7:50 I was free to rest and stretch my legs outs. It was a mostly sleepiness night as you can imagine. I was unable to sleep on the chairs like the passengers waiting to return home in the top photo, so I ended up walking around taking a few photographs.
Doha is a busy airport the planes take-off and land through-out the night. It is also a very modern and quite beautiful place that is kept shining by an army of itinerant workers.
I would see them wondering around, little more than shadows among the shining marble and sparkling opulence, sweeping, dusting, tidying-up and tidying-away. Nearly one and a half million migrants work in the tiny Gulf State of Qatar; making up around 94% of the total population. While the 6% of native Qataris live with one of the highest per-capita GDPs in the world many of the Asian migrants that work for them are treated very badly. Those in the construction industry especially have been abused, underpaid and and even killed in accidents with a regularity that created a global outcry and has taken the gloss from the controversial 2022 World Cup preparations.
I didn’t have time to leave the import and learn more about the lives of such workers in Qatar. It is a story that Qatar is keen to not have told also so it probably wouldn’t have been easy to follow up. But the almost invisible cleaners that kept Doha airport gleaming were a constant presence throughout my night wondering around the place.
The Israeli retaliation in Gaza for the kidnap and murder of three Jewish teenagers, has been called disproportionate. That is an understatement.
To date nearly 1,800 Palestinians have died in bombing and artillery attacks by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). Almost 400 of them have been children and the images of dead and bloodied civilians, caught in the crossfire, coming out of Gaza make this current operation, nominally to protect Israel from Hamas rocket attacks, especially cruel.
There have been many demonstrations against the war globally and today in Tokyo, Japan further joined that clarion call for restraint and peace in Gaza with a small, vocal demo in Shinjuku.
The rally began before 2pm in the park outside the east exit of Shinjuku station and about 600 people were said to have joined the rally and demo march that started at 3pm. It looked more like a thousand or so to me though. Most were Japanese with members of the Friday anti-nuke and anti-war protest groups making-up the majority. But there were also few Muslims residents of Japan and a couple westerners among the marchers.
I do not know enough to comment on the significance of this protest in affecting Israeli policy. The protests in other countries like the UK and US have been much larger and more vocal in their opposition to Israel. More leverage can be applied by the US to reign in an angry, vindictive military and the people of America are growing louder in demanding their government does just that. Japan by comparrison has little dealings with the Jewish State.
How the fact that people thousands of kilometres away care enough to march in the street for you will affect the moral and determination of the Palestinians is another thing.
That is perhaps more the point.
I had always been a grudging admirer of Israel due to its indomitable wish to just exist. But this action in Gaza is just plain nasty and seems determined to solve the problem of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel by cleansing the Gaza Strip of its population.
The whole situation is very complicated with extremists on both sides ratcheting up the violence and vitriol, and I cannot see it ending well. But people all around the world who value peace and the lives of innocents have to make their voices heard to try and stop this war.
Images above of some of the protest.
More images of the Gaza protest in Tokyo, Japan at my archive here.
A good day shooting on Friday. More about that later.
After the shoot I walked around a bit to grab some street shots in the unexpectedly good weather.
Luckily Typhoon Neoguri missed Tokyo and I could enjoy the sunshine and colours of Ginza in the image above.
Or Visa Versa?
A quick zip around, between meetings, to the Softbank store in Omotesando on Friday to photograph the latest robot Japan’s cutting edge robotics labs have produced.
Called Pepper it is billed as an emotional robot that can recognise faces and have “real” conversations with people.
Quite impressive but not really sure what is does other than provide limited friendships for the lonely.
It’s current usefulness is not the point though. This technology is still developing and all these quite amazing creations so far are just the evolutionary links on the way to a robot that is able to perform in a capacity, and with an identity, that may allow us to interact with it in a human way.
Even in my lifetime the steps towards that goal have been monumental. Who can really predict where the next forty years will take us.
Am busy this weekend so going to be hard to get out to the Sanja matsuri ,which is taking place in Asakusa this Saturday and Sunday.
Still I have seen and shot a fair few mikoshi festivals and though Sanja is a big one, indeed it is considered one of the three great festivals of Tokyo, they do kind of resemble each other. Sanja is mostly different in the number of heavily tattooed supporters you can see and the crowds you have to push through to see them. My friend, Chris Willson got a great image of the tattooed supporters in the Sanja matsuri here.
The festival actually started on Friday, when the mikoshi were pulled out from storage and readied for carrying. Various other cultural events take place that day too. I was free most of yesterday and went along to shoot some of the preparations the most spectacular of which was a parade that included these Shira-sagi no mai (White heron dancers).
Hard to frame them to get the heron’s (or crane’s) head in and not include too much of the crowd. But really like this shot.