The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

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Developments

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Been working on a few photo stories about development in Tokyo. Lots of the older areas of downtown Tokyo are being demolished and rebuilt as modern consumer towns. Those these areas might be more attractive to younger families and women the loss of traditional Shotengai, or shopping streets is a shame. Equivalent to the High Street in the UK, the atmosphere and diversity of these areas is one that would be more attractive to foreign visitors. Japan tends to see the modern, identikit shopping and residential complexes that it is building over once lively, uniquely local communities as more favourable though. It is a cleaner image to show the world and one that is more familiar to the increasing number of tourists that are visiting.

As Japan readies for the 2020 Olympics it is easy to imagine more of these towns springing-up. The image above shows the plans for that most individualistic of places, Shibuya. While they provide high concentrations of employment and convenience for visitors, and it is true that a lot of the tradition, small, family-run shops that give shontengai their charming character are now run by people happy to sell up and retire, it is a shame that they will be replaced by international brands and large national chains housed in towers of glass and concrete. However beautiful these might end up looking.

Anyway it is a developing story in many areas of Japan and one I am sure to be following more.

Later

Damon

Happy New Year

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Been a busy year all told, my last post outlined some of the work I had been doing. Now I am relaxing getting some much needed down-time and preparing myself for what is promising to be a very busy 2016. Started well with a cold night of ringing the temple bell 108 times to see in the new year (in the photo above). Each yearI have done this something memorable and photogenic has happened in the spring. Let’s hope the luck holds this year.

To all the people who follow and read my increasingly infrequent posts (that is rather oxymoronic don’t you think?), a Happy New Year and I wish you all the best for 2016.

Damon

Sweeping

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Hello been a long time since I posted as it has been a very busy year.

Now the summer is really over it is a lot more comfortable to walk around in the city and take photos. so thought I would give you a quick update on what I have been doing.

The image above is from Ofuna in Kanagawa and shows the Ofuna Kannon-ji temple with a temple worker sweeping up autumn leaves. Just on of those quiet little vignettes of Japanese life that you can come across when out for the day.

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Last weekend myself and my colleagues at Japan Street Lens were asked by Sigma and the United Nations to photograph the “Turn the World UN Blue” campaign. This campaign celebrated the 70th anniversary of the formation of the UN by illuminating with blue light over 200 monuments and buildings in 60 countries. I photographed the Tokyo Skytree with a 12-24mm lens loaned to me by Sigma. Have to say I was very impressed with the quality of the lens and have used it a bit. The Kannon statue at the top is taken with it too.

Indeed we at JSL have being quite a lot of work with Sigma this year. Earlier in the summer I spent a long hard day filming tutorials for the Sigma USB dock and Optimisation-Pro software. I am somewhat embarrassed to be in front of the camera but the result is quite good mainly because the film-makers at ZEO were amazing: very talented and very patient wit my many mistakes. Have a look here. As part of process of filming I had to use the USB dock and software on lenses that Sigma had lent me for familiarisation. I had a 24mm, 1.4 Art lens and a big telephoto zoom, 150-600mm F5-6.3 Contemporary lens. I had to shoot some photos with them to put in the tutorials and show how the USB dock could improve them. Though to be honest they were pretty good to use straight out of the box, especially the 24mm 1.4 art lens which I truly love. Anyway some of the images I took from the summer are below:

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It was an eclectic summer from surfing and sunflower festivals to model shoots and temple details . Glad I could put the lenses through their paces though. Only wish i could have kept them.

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The last few weeks have been busy continuing to record the struggles and demonstrations against the Japanese governments reinterpretation of the unique Pacifist constitution which will allow it to send Japanese troops overseas to fight in wars for the first time since WW2. This year has sen the rise of the youth protest movement called SEALDs which drew worldwide attention to a new, media-savvy form of student activism in Japan. As Japanese young people are often reported as being politically apathetic it was certainly an interesting phenomena to find international titles interested in Japanese politics and my images of them. Even the domestic media here couldn’t ignore the protests as they usually do.

It remains to be seen if this movement has any staying power and how deep and thought-out their convictions are. Already the streets around the National Diet building are empty and quiet on the usual Friday protest night. With the passing of the bill the protests seem to have lost their anger but they certainly seemed to be able to draw on a deeper, general unhappiness with politics from the population at large, including the older people and even some frustrated politicians that have coat-tailed SEALDs’s popularity to find their own voice heard for perhaps the first time. The ultimate effect this summer of discontent will have on Japanese politics is, as yet, unpredictable however.

Of course I have also been shooting anything I hear about if it sounds interesting like the Kyogen plays I was lucky enough to go to last week, hopefully not for the last time.

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All in all a very busy years so far. Hope this keeps you up to date.

Later

Damon

Summer Fun

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In Japan summer means fireworks. This year we haven’t been to any big displays, as we did a couple of years ago, But many people also buy some smaller explosives such as sparklers and Roman candles and go to the local park to set them off. The kids love it and the smell of gunpowder is a constant companion on summer evenings.

Been very busy these last few months so apologise for the lack of posts on here recently.

Later

Damon

Sealing Their Future

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A large demo by student activist group, SEALD (Student Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy) took place on Friday night in Tokyo. The anti-nuke die-hards can still be found outside the National Diet Building almost every Friday and this demonstration continued more or less where that one left off. Though the size of the anti-nuke demos are considerably less than before, when people were calling such massive displays of outrage at the government the Hyacinth Revolution,  I was still impressed that four and a half years on from the March 11th disaster at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant, people still turned up to protest their hope for a nuclear free Japan. Especially, as I have written before, both sides seem to be aware that the protests are futile.

The SEALD group is composed of mostly younger protestors and though it grew from that same anti-nuclear activism, it’s focus is broader and mostly against the right-wing and nationalistic policies of Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.

Japan has a long history of student activism and at times the energy of the young radical has caused seriously problems for the Japanese establishment. I have done a fair amount of work with student radicals like Zengakuren and covered the issues at Hosei University, where political activism has been, often violently, suppressed.

The SEALD group is new, and new to me, but they seem determined, intelligently so, to demand a change in Japanese politics. How these young people will go about getting their demands heard and acted on with a government as single-minded as Abe’s is something that is going to be interesting to watch play-out. At this moment the students are policed lighter than the more radical activists at Zengakuren.  But as they find their voices bouncing from the walls of the Kantei unheeded though, I wonder if they will remain so polite.

More images of the SEALD demo in Tokyo on July 11th at my archive site here.

Been a busy few months so not had time to write here as much as I would have liked.

Will try and write more soon.

Damon

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.

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