The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Japan Summer selections 1

Where I live in Tokyo we are lucky to have a large and grassy park with many trees nearby. I say lucky because many parks in Japan are not like that, indeed they are often no more than small squares of concrete and dust with a frictiony slide; an imagination sapping climbing frame; a couple of industrial looking swings (always 2, never 3 or 4) and an atmosphere of squeezed, faded jollity and denial.

Children barely make noise in those kind of parks, there just isn`t the space or ambience of invention. but in my local park children can play with, what must be to them, the whole wide world to scream, shout, roar and relax within. And they do; tearing around like a madness; a miracle of childhood in this heat, making lots and lots of noise. Yet at this time of year it is hard to hear them above the sound of the cicadas that crawl over almost every tree and shrub.

The sound of a cicada is like no other sound in the world. It feels like an electric shock, a torture of shrill rattles that drills into your head and churns your brain to lunacy and back. When one is sitting on your window netting loudly flirting with the whole suburb`s population of other cicadas, sleep is impossible and you rant and rave at them, hate them and pray for the Autumn massacre of chill evenings.

And yet three weeks ago, as the July was rolling on getting hotter and hotter, it was still quiet outside and everything felt wrong. Then one morning a lone voice spoke of the summer`s arrival like no other animal produced sound can; the first of the cicadas had arrived and now to go outside it to feel “the cicadas nailing the heat to the ground” as the Poet Laurie Lee said in his wonderful book”As I walked Out One Mid Summer Morning“.

I both love and hate cicadas for the job they do of making the heat seem hotter and giving the summer it`s distinctive sound, but here`s the thing: summer just wouldn`t be the same without them, (it seems much too quiet in England these days). Plus they provide another of the essential summer activities for Japanese children who catch hundreds of thousands of them each year in nets and boxes.

Yes I have been “cicada hunting” with my sons. That`s one of them in the photo above in what is a quintessential Japanese summer scene.

That`s all for now, oh! apart from another revamp of my website (yes I know AGAIN!!!, I`m always tinkering) have a look and any comments and suggestions greatly received.



One response

  1. Great description. We’re also fortunate to live near to a wonderful, big park where kids can really run and play — complete with a wading pond, a public pool (only open in the summer), and, for the wilder kids, a (um, concrete lined) river just big enough to play in with a real edge (deep pools, concrete waterfalls and steps perfect for a ten year old boy and a tube).

    August 15, 2008 at 3:03 am

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