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.
Been busy with other jobs since I shot these few images on a day out with the family last weekend. But it was a good day and wanted to post them up.
On Sunday we took a train and a bus out to the Sagami River near Sagamihara and Zama in Kanagawa for the Sagaimi Odako matsuri.
In this festival, local people fly very large kites above the fields and riverbanks in a tradition that is meant to ensure a good harvest. Even away from the festival ground I found some farmers flying their own large kite from the back of the farm truck (bottom photograph).
Though we nominally went there on a family day out, and because some Ultraman thing was there for my boys, I did manage to grab a few quick shots of the kites flying. Though there was also music, dancing, Samurai costumes and kids sumo to keep us entertained.
Apparently the largest kite flown in Japan can be seen at this festival (photo 1,2,& 4) It really is the star of the show and a monster of a thing at 14.5 metres by 14.5 metres and weighing in at nearly 1,000 kilogrammes, Quite amazing actually that a hundred people could manage to hoist it into the air for a short flight, which started at 3pm, Though two of them did end up in ambulances for the effort. (photo 5)
The kites are made of bamboo and handmade Japanese paper. and watching them tie the things together and take them apart at the end of the festival was interesting, though I couldn’t get many images of that as Ultraman and last buses beckoned.
Maybe a dedicated trip next year as I wasn’t expecting it to be so spectacular.