The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Japan

Saving Graceless

Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo

Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo


Interesting report on efforts to save the Nakagin Capsule Tower in the Japan Times here.

Have seen and photographed this unusual and very original building a few times as I walk past it on other photo missions. It has a interesting history and was a unique experiment in finding an answer to housing in a crowded city with limited space.

It may not be to everyones taste but I do hope that it is able to be saved. Even the follies on our architectural evolution are better for us to keep, as we can learn from them.

Think I might have to take a return trip there, with more purpose, just in case, as is unfortunately likely, the developers win and this bizarre addition to the Tokyo skyline disappears.


Sleeping

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This man can often be seen in Shibuya doing this. I thought he was drunk and exhausted at first but having seen hims few times it now appears that it is some sort of performance art, perhaps a comment on the somnuambulant nightmare that is a salaryman’s life .

All I know is it must be very  tiring to stand like this for long, yet he seems to be able to look relaxed and sleepy while doing it.

Just one of the many wonderful and weird things you can see in Tokyo.

Later

Damon


Home

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An Englishman’s house my well be his castle but unless you are very rich it is unlikely to look much like a castle. In Japan the very, very ordinary life of some salarymen could very well start and finish each day in a house that ticks all the right fantasy palace boxes however.

Amazing architecture is one of the great pleasures of wandering around this country and especially Tokyo. While a lot of the urban vistas you’ll see might be humdrum and even ugly, dotted here and there among the endless screes of concrete are some truly mind-boggling buildings like those above  which I shot in Azubu in May.

Architectural experimentation combined with a pragmatic use of, often very limited, space (see top photo) means that buildings can take on very unique shapes. In my 12 years here I have seen a lot of these follies. I have even sought out some of the more famous ones for a shot or two. I once thought of getting a photographic collection of them together purely for the stock value alone but never really followed through on it. The effort involved in seeking-out each oddity jarred with my serendipitous photo-farming habit on my free days. Plus I didn’t think there would be enough return on it.

Unluckily for me I was wrong apparently because French photographer, Jeremie Souteyrat cleverly used the lack of any competition from me and has now published a book called: Tokyo No Ie – Maisons de Tokyo in which he shows a beautiful collection of his photos cataloguing many of the strangest and most interesting examples of this architecture in Tokyo.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in architecture, Tokyo or photography. It is a great work of art: just the feel of the pages says quality and the photos shine with curiously addictive depths. Even if the urbanity they show is grey and grimy, you will find yourself looking around them, examining every corner of the frame. The focus is of course on the wonderful and bizarre constructions that are the artistic purpose of the book but this is also street photography; more is happening in many of the pictures and you can get an interesting glimpse into parts of Tokyo that many people never go.

So I now no longer need to shoot these type of buildings as Jeremie has cornered the market I think, buy the book though and see why I won’t stop. They are just too interesting a find on a day out. As you trudge the suburbs of Tokyo on a free day or find one on the way to another photo job, that invariably takes place in some boring tower of concrete and glass, they put a smile on your face.

Later

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


Airport Samurai

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A day waiting at Haneda airport for my family to arrive back in Japan.

They are spending another day in a hotel in Vietnam though as the airline slowly brings them home, minus two cases so far.

Haneda International Airport has won awards for decor and themes which recreates an Edo-era village where the shops and restaurants are.

Today they also seemed to have an Edo-themed festival on with people walking around in period costume including the ninja above; dance performances and festival games and snacks.

Fun day really wish my boys could have seen it but they do get to see Ho Chi Min City at least.

Later

Damon

 


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