It is probably going to be occupying my time a lot over the next 6 years but am beginning to shoot some of the preparations for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The controversial main stadium will be built from and over the remains of the 1964 Olympic National Stadium in Shinjuku. I was there last week looking for some of the preparations going on.
A lot of the work is being carried out behind walls and truthfully not a lot appears to be happening as of yet but am sure I’ll be seeing and photography a lot more activity around the capital as the infrastructure come together.
There are many stories related to the preparations for this Olympics, not least the fact that money is being poured into the event when many in Tohoku are still suffering the effects of the 2011, March 11th earthquake and tsunami. Prime Minister Abe’s assurances at the IOC, and elsewhere in the bidding process, that Fukushima nuclear disaster is under control is also something that has a lot of people wanting to show the world the opposite truth. There are people in Tokyo that are similarly angry at the effect the Games will have on their lives.
Hope to find quite a lot to shoot but for now some images of the demolition and remodelling of National Stadium.
Where the real power lies in Japanese politics
Very busy, talk soon
I missed most of the craziness around the iPhone 6 launch in Tokyo yesterday because I had a prior commitment early in the morning but even as I wandered down to Ginza in the afternoon there was still a long queue outside the new Apple store there and crowds of people looking at the new tech in the shop itself. (image above)
I love my iPhone and think it is a great tool to help me in my work but cannot understand why anyone would want to wait outside a shop for hours, even days, to buy one. These launches have now become event that people go to as much for the experience as the product. They dress up, camp-out and seem to have a good time. yet that are there to buy a product and happily part with a lot of money because a company says they should.
It is all a little bit scary that these festivals of consumerism are so important in the calendar now and attract such large numbers of people to the wishes of a corporation. I saw many tradition festivals, called matsuri, setting up for the weekend as I walked around yesterday. The Equinox arrives on Tuesday and the Japanese people often celebrate the arrival of Autumn by carrying a mikoshi around in a noisy procession. Not saying the religion that created these colourful spectacles is any less of a unhealthy mind-control than consumerism, it isn’t. But it is certainly seems more fun and is considerably cheaper than joining the hoards of iphoners.
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.