The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Japan

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.


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


Waves

Prince William in Japan

Prince William in Japan

A quick shot of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, as he left the Hodogaya Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery near Yokohama today. He had just laid a wreath to commemorate the war dead that are buried there on the second morning of His four day visit to Japan. It appears to be a pretty packed schedule with visits to Tohoku and many other places squeezed into theweekend before he leaves for China on Sunday.

Quite a crowd had gathered for a glimpse of the British Prince, who is travelling without his wife, Kate Middleton, and he seemed genuinely happy to wave to them as he was driven out of the cemetery gates. Mostly old ladies they waved back  and shouted out, “O-uji sama! loudly” I got pushed around quite a bit too as they struggled and pushed forward to get their shots.

The Palace mucked-up my accreditation with my agency in the UK so I was unable get in closer and take more sellable shots unfortunately . Instead I had to resort to looking for crowds and his interaction with the locals. He didn’t do a walk around this morning so this car snap was the best I could get. I’ll be papping him again tomorrow though.

More images from Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge’s, visit to Japan here:

Later

Damon


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