The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Posts tagged “Japan

Feeling Blue

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Friday was a bit of an LED day for me.

First I headed off to Ichigaya to shoot the Crystal Buddhas at the Ruriden in Koukoku-ji temple. Each of the 2,000 plus Buddha statues that line the walls of this octagonal mausoleum is carved from crystal and lit with a colourful LED light. When I arrived the lights weren’t on and I stood in the dark a while wondering if I would get some shots. Only the larger Buddha statue at the back of the hall was illuminated. After about 10 minutes a temple worker came into the place to do some work and turned on the lights for me. Suddenly I was surrounded by colours. The hues changed  from autumnal reds, yellows and oranges to pink and purple and the ubiquitous blue. Quite an amazing place which has been making the news recently.

Then I took a train, with blue LED lights on the platform in an effort to reduce suicide to Nakameguro to photograph the most obsessive collection of blue LED lights I have ever seen.

The Japanese invented the blue LED and are extremely proud of that fact. Recently also they seem to have put blue LEDs into or on to almost everything. It’s a mania of sorts. Must admit the blue canyon over the river in Nakameguro was very spectacular though. And very popular with crowds lining the banks and bridges to take snapshots or selfies.

Rather too tired and busy to write a journalistic travelogue of my day. Will try and add more details when I have time but just wanted to share these photos for now.



Cemetery Gossip

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One of the problems of having been in the same city for so long is that on photo safaris it is easy to end up in  a place you have already been. On Friday, as I was wandering around enjoying the wonderful Autumn light, I found myself in Aoyama Cemetery again.

I was last there about six or seven years ago and the views, as you would expect of a cemetery, had not changed that much. One advantage of being in Tokyo though is that it is never really boring and there are always new pictures to find if you look. As I walked around looking for something I had not seen before I found these two monks talking in the cemetery temple. I didn’t get too close preferring not to disturb them and shot from a distance with the shrine roof and doorway providing a frame for them.

Nice little encounter on a short but magically lit day out.

Busy at the moment, more later.


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:


All Hell Breaks Loose

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It is All Hallows’ Eve, an ancient European festival of remembrance that is more or less meaningless to most people these days. But it is known as Halloween and celebrated very energetically in many countries, especially in America (and since the movie ET also in Britain) and even in Japan where the young dress up in costumes and put on rather macabre make-up and parade noisily around places like Shibuya enjoying this totally strange, borrowed piece of culture.

I have shot it a few times and it is fun, the crowds all seem to have a good time and the costumes reference Japanese popular-culture icons and for some reason lots of nurses along with the usual vampires and monsters.

Anyway sending images off to agencies and such like thought I would just share a few portraits from tonight here with you.

More stock images of 2014 Halloween in Tokyo available a my archive here:



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.



Saving Graceless

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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.


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