The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Japan

Gentle Brutalism

dc Shizuoka Press and Broadcasting Tower-201503171681

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


Old and New

Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree

Been incredibly busy the last week or so. Managed to grab a quick evening shot of Tokyo Skytree while out shooting on Monday.

I like this shot as it was taken from near Edogawa where there are many older, traditional houses and buildings which provide some nice foreground for this iconic, modern addition to the Tokyo skyline

Will be posting back soon.

More stock images of the Tokyo Skytree, and its construction, at my archive here.

Later

Damon


Vigil

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It has been a week since the news of journalist, Kenji Goto’s murder by ISIS militants.

Tonight in Shibuya in Tokyo, and in seven other cities across Japan, people gathered to hold silent prayers for his memory and that of Haruna Yukawa who was killed a few days before.

About a hundred or so people got together at 5pm in Hachiko Square. Word had spread on twitter and other social media and those nominally organising the events asked that people use it to remember the lives of the two hostages, and that of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh; The Jordanian pilot shot down in December who was shown being burnt to death in a gruesome ISIS video earlier this week, by not bring their banners and anger to the event.  Some people in Japan blame the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, for the death of the hostages: fearing his growing geo-political reach and ambitions are now making Japan a target for such terrorism. Other fear his relatively obvious naivety and ineptitude when dealing with the hostage crisis last month may have hastened the murders.

It is hard to know how this is true as it should not be forgotten that ISIS are a cruel and unpredictable opponent with perhaps much more to gain in publicity by actually killing those they have kidnapped.

For the most part the people at the vigil stayed true to the purpose; silently remembering those who had died with prayers and candles. Signs proclaimed solidarity with “I am Kenji” or “Je Suis Kenji” out-numbering those that angrily proclaimed they were not Abe.

The vigil finished around 7:30; a small shrine had been built on the floor of Hachiko Square and as the candles were put out friends of Kenji San and Haruna san in the crowd promised that the flowers and messages would be delivered to their families.

In all a very touching and dignified celebration of two lives cut brutally short.

RIP Kenji san and Haruna san.

More images of the silent vigil for Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa in Tokyo at my archive here:

Damon

 

 


A Sad End

 

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dc kenji Goto support rally-201501300742 dc kenji Goto support rally-201501302377A sad piece of news this morning when a new video by so called Islamic State (ISIS) appears to show the beheading of Japanese freelance journalist, Kenji Goto.

His fellow hostage, Haruna Yukawa (who Goto San returned to Syria in an effort to free by negotiating with ISIS) was supposedly killed a week ago; a few days after they were first shown on screen, kneeling in the desert, as prisoners of the self styled Islamic caliphate. (top photo)

At first their lives were to be ransomed for 200 million US Dollars. This amount matched the pledges of non-military assistance Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had made, in a shockingly inept piece of international diplomacy considering he knew Japanese hostages’ lives were at stake, to those fighting ISIS terrorism while on a tour of the middle east.

Having convinced the world that they were serious with the cruel death of Yukawa san the demands got strange for a week. The usual videos were replaced with audio recordings that might or might not have been Goto San and obviously photoshopped images helped move the demands on to the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an al Qaeda prisoner and failed suicide bomber, from a Jordanian jail where she is facing the death penalty for terrorism attacks in Jordan in 2005 that killed 60 people. The Jordanian government were surprisingly open to the deal at first, dependent obviously on the additional demand that a fighter pilot of theirs, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh whose plane crashed over ISIS held territory in December 2014, was also released.

For a while, at the end of the week, there was even a feeling of very cautious optimism that Kenji Goto might actually get out of this alive. Rallies of support tried to pressure the Prime Minister to do more to ensure that and an “I am Kenji” campaign started; mirroring the “Je suis Charlie” movement that grew in response to the terror attacks in Paris. As the Thursday sunset deadline for al-Rishawi’s release came and went though the hope began to ran out. ISIS were unwilling and perhaps unable to prove that the pilot was still alive and the deal that people so desperately wished for seemed to stall and then fade.

Over Friday and Saturday the silence from ISIS on the fate of the two captured men was deafening. A last, hopeful rally by around 200 supporters outside the Prime Minister’s home on Friday night (photo 2 and 3) showed how much the story of this man’s life had affected the population. Despite reports, like this one in TIME magazine that many people didn’t care and actively blamed the hostages for their predicament, I feel many people really saw something nobel in the efforts of Kenji Goto especially to help the much weaker, and perhaps judged as much less worthy, Yukawa.

Sunday morning many people who had followed this convoluted drama for the last week or so woke up to find the TV showing a worryingly familiar image on the screen. This time though there was only one man kneeling in the dust wearing that orange jump suit. This time the distracting talk of digital manipulations and them not really being there as captives was pointless. Jihad John roughy held Goto’s neck and angrily told the people of Japan that they were now targets in an “unwinnable war” as he waved a knife around. He then apparently decapitated Kenji San with that knife.

I know not one person who is not sad and angry at this. Kenji san, who I never met, was a good man by all accounts. He cared deeply about the lives of those that suffered and were affected by conditions they did not control. This is probably why he foolishly went back to held Yukawa san gain freedom because he had suffered many unlucky situations in his personal life and been drawn to the danger of reinventing himself as a Military contractor in Syria and Iraq. The world has  lost a good man who died to help a man whose story he felt equally sad as those of the children and women afflicted by war that were the staple of his reporting. I hope we do not forget them as we are bound to forget the man who dedicated his life to telling their stories.

RIP Kenji Goto San

Damon


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