The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

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Pilgrims

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Had a photo shoot down in Matsuyama in Shikoku last Thursday. Took the opportunity afforded by someone else paying for the flights to spend a couple of extra days there trying to get a feel for the Eighty-eight temple pilgrimage that has been a photo ambition for years.

Unfortunately the weather didn’t want to help me so much and my explorations ended-up being quite limited. You really need more time, and a car, to truly get a feel of the beautiful scenery the pilgrims walk through on the 1,200 kilometre long pilgrimage route.

Well not many pilgrims walk the route these days, and certainly not in rainy season, but did see a few come through the very beautiful Ishite Temple which is just outside Matasuyama. By far the biggest group I saw though were on a bus tour doing the whole pilgrimage in a week.

I loved my time in Shikoku though and would love to get back and spend more time photographing the pilgrims as they tramp between the temples. Not in rainy season though next time.

Salarymen

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Been a very busy few months so not had a chance to write here for a while. Not all the jobs have been photo related either. A potential photo clients has even turned into a different sort of employer as I have started doing some tourist guiding for them.

Primarily the idea was that I lead photo tours of an area I know well for their clients but as that gets off the ground I have also been asked to lead a few ordinary tourist trips that take in the usual sights.

It has been an interesting peek into a world of luxury travel I could never have imagined myself doing in my ten years on the road, nor wanting to do to be honest. The hotel lobbies have been fantastically opulent places to wait in though and most of the clients have been amazingly nice people and I get to show off this interesting city of mine to those with fresh eyes upon it. Indeed I get to see it afresh sometimes through their eyes also: explaining this or that and realising that perhaps I know less than I thought as, living here, we take so much for granted.

My biggest issue has been finding somewhere upmarket enough to eat. For when tourists want an “authentic Japanese eating experience” my first thought is Saizeriya. 

I am only half joking because cheap, bad food and alcohol is the staple of many an overworked salaryman and I don’t think there can be a more authentically Japanese existence than being one of those. I have never quite taken salarymen for granted, and after the last few months, which have seen me work very long hours and unable to recall days off, even less so. I have always photographed them in fact, at work and at play, and grey suited addition of scale to a city scene, or the obvious locator.

Maybe there is a small collection here that I can get together into some sort of story or artistic ode as Bruno Quinquet has here.

Anyway would just like to share some salarymen shots I’ve taken these last few months. And keep in touch with you all.

Later

Damon

Making Time

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As it has gone midnight I can safely say that, later today, I will be photographing the launch of the Apple watch in Tokyo.

Japan is one of only 9 countries where this long-anticipated and very expensive watch will be sold. Due to Japan’s position far, far to the east, The Japanese will also be among the first people in the World to be able to buy what many are calling the first true smart-watch.

And I am sure they will turn up in droves to do so if the lines outside the Apple Stores for each new iphone model are anything to go by.

Apparently such lines will be rarer for this release as appointments must be made to try out the watch and many are saying, actual, in-store purchases will not be available until the summer as they will be clearing the pre-orders first. Still I will go along to shoot what I can.

The watch is not just being sold as a tech-device though and is set to compete with other, more traditionally  branded timepieces. To this end Apple are opening an Apple Watch store in the up-market Isetan department store in Shinjuku.

The picture above was of the store about a month ago when it was just a big blank wall with the enigmatic “coming soon” message. Tomorrow it should be a much more interesting and busier place.

Now time for sleep.

Later

Damon

UPDATE: The Apple watch release in japan was a rather subdued affair in the end with not much happening at the Apple stores at all and limited crowds at the softbank store in Omotesando where people could actually buy the watches.

Images of the first day of the Apple watch in Tokyo at my archive here:

The Shortest

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Sorry not been here for a while, have been incredibly busy. Always looking for interesting images though. On the way home from the Kanamara Penis Festival in Kawasaki Daishi yesterday I stopped for for a quick stock shot of the world’s shortest escalator in More’s department store. Even shorter than this one I shot a few years ago.

Not as easy to find as you’d imagine as it is almost on the way out of the store and in the basement. And they really don’t make that big a fuss about this record-breaking piece of pointless laziness. Perhaps it’s a touch embarrassing to be famous for, so it is not really that surprising there are no signs or certificates I suppose. It was a fun 5 minute photo opportunity on the way home to file photos though. I like days like that.

More images of the world’s shortest escalator in Japan at my archive here.

Later

Damon

Gentle Brutalism

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Japan has many strange and wonderfully original buildings, Tokyo especially.

Shooting yesterday for a stock brief on Brutalist architecture I did some research and visited a few places to get images of this particular style of architecture that puts concrete and urban impact hard against the eyes and the skyline.

One of the buildings that just about fits into this category is rather small and cuddly-looking Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Tower near Shimbashi station. Designed by the famous architect, Kenzo Tange, and built in 1967 it is a famous example of the Metabolist school that tried to rebuild post-war Japan with megastructures that also felt organic. No I don’t understand it all either which is why you should read this or this.

This tower is quite small but does have a presence and is a well known and love Tokyo landmark that is a surprising challenge to photograph.

Very busy at the moment, but in a good way.

Later.

Damon

Hard To Believe

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…it is four years since the earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku. At 2:46 pm on Friday the 11th of March one of the largest earthquakes to have ever happened struck just off the north-east coast of Japan. the huge tsunami that crashed ashore later killed around 18,000 people and made many tens of thousands more homeless. It also caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant that is still affecting large areas of that prefecture today. Indeed a large number of people are still suffering from the aftermath of this disaster, with many unable to return home as rebuilding efforts have stalled. A dishearteningly large minority are even now stuck in “temporary” housing.

I remember that day well, the confusion of not being able to find out exactly what was happening and where. At the time I did not have an iphone and access to twitter and facebook so information was hard to come by. I walked miles to get to Shinjuku where the large TV screens (above) showed the news.

It was a strange day with a sense of impending tragedy that the pictures on the TV screens did not help to reduce. Even as we watched whole villages be swept away, the scale of this event was not something we could not even guess at that time and even now it seems unbelievable. But despite the worry in the air it was also a day of reassuring calmness: The office workers stranded by train network closures didn’t complain or demand, they either just resigned themselves to a long plod home or settled into cafes, bank lobbies and hotels for the night, where the people working there just carried on being courteous and serving them well past their usual working hours.

I hope never to experience such a tragedy again but I have to admit I am glad to have lived through what I consider both the best and the worst times of my time in Japan.

I will think of all those who died and had their lives forever changed this afternoon at 2:46 and urge you to do so too.

More stock images of the effect of the March 11th 2011 earthquake on Tokyo at my archive here:

Damon

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