The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

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There Is Some Corner of A Foreign Field

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Went along today to the Yokohama War Cemetery in Hodogaya to photograph the Remembrance Sunday ceremony there.

I and only recently found out that such an event was held in Japan. The wearing of a poppy at this time of year in the UK is something we, to a certain extent, take for granted. Though recently the meaning and justification behind the poppy has been twisted and questioned by those with their own agendas.

I used to be a member of the Air Training Corp, a kind of boy scouts connected to the Royal Air Force, and we definately felt something of the importance of this day when we paraded to the local war memorial. We were all quite hung-ho and borrowed selfishly from the high regard given to our professional ambitions in the real RAF. We also took kudos off those we wanted to follow who had never come back.

I still honour the men and women who went to war and paid with their lives. I don’t think I could have done what they did and I now dislike the idea of war. I respect them unquestionably for their bravery; for  I understand their sacrifice meant I never have to test my own courage in such a way. I may count myself as less deluded by patriotism, but I wonder if they too, soon realised how the war was using the youngest and best of it population to to move along the senile wishes of its worst. I worry now, as memory fades, that those who have again a similar desire to advances their own causes, inch by bloody inch, have forgotten the poppy’s message is one of  hope our children will never have to fight another war.

There is one grave from a WW1 serviceman in the cemetery. But most of the war graves there date from the Second World War and the occupation that followed.

It was good to go there with my wife and family, to try to explain how fundamental this is to a British and European Identity that is now often judge as indifferently violent as our unbloodied ally across the Atlantic. I think Japanese people can understand the horror of war better than most, a horror so large that you wish, forever, to avert its return. It was harder perhaps to explain that honouring soldiers is not to glorify war because the jingoistic politicians and idiot rightists in Japan and the UK  do just that and damage their memory and our freedom to give our gratitude. Looking along the names of the men and women buried there and the lack of years each shared before they found rest here in Japan it was easier to feel that waste of life.

We might have lived a nominally peaceful existence since the end of World War 2. But the First World War was meant to be the war to end all wars and now people talk in a detached way about the brutality of combat; coming as it does for many through a redacted report or the electronic eye of a Predator Drone and I wanted to show my sons, my wife that though it is often done in our name, and was done before, it is not who we are, just as most Japanese are not Yasukuni crazies.

Anyway a moving and memory-filled day in a beautiful place.

Will certainly go again, and as this was a much bigger event than I had imagines with some very important people in attendance, I will dress better for the occasion next time.

More images of the Remembrance Day ceremony in Yokohama, Japan at my archive site here:

Damon


In Readiness

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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.

Later

Damon


The Management

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Where the real power lies in Japanese politics

Very busy, talk soon

Damon


Six and Counting

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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.

Later

Damon

 


Happy Birth/Made Day

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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!

Later

Damon


Itinerant

 

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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.

later

Damon

 

 

 


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