Tag Archives: Japan

Thou shalt not covet

Sunday 6th December 2020, 1.55pm (day 3,391)

Katana, 6/12/20

I don’t normally covet material goods. People, places, experiences, sure… but not normally things. Today I made an exception. Although it’s just as well the price of this marvellous item is concealed on this shot.

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Tokyo Bay (blue…)

Wednesday 29th March 2017, 7.45am (day 2,043)

Tokyo bay, 29/3/17

The long journey home began at 7.15 Tokyo time, when the airport shuttle bus picked us up from the hotel. This shot was taken as it crossed the ‘Rainbow Bridge’ across Tokyo Bay. Not a rainbow of colours however: thanks to the rather alarmingly blue filters on the bus windows, which were so potent that I was seeing extra pink shades inside, to compensate. Still, it’s a nice effect. Farewell to Tokyo anyway — until next time? Sayonara…

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Cherry blossom worship

Tuesday 28th March 2017, 10.40am (day 2,042)

Blossom worship, 28/3/17

Last full day in Japan. A couple of free hours this morning were spent in Shinjuku-gyoen park, along with several thousand other people, most of whom seemed to be cooing over the blossoming cherry trees (sakura), with dozens of Japanese engaging in what I could only perceive as a form of fundamental nature worship beneath each one. A total stranger asked me in the hotel elevator this evening whether I had seen the blossoms. They even have national news announcements, blossom forecasts if you like, stating where the best displays are to be found. I don’t dispute these plants’ beauty, but I can’t help thinking — you know, we have cherry blossoms in England too. They’re just there. But clearly I’m missing something.

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Shinjuku station

Monday 27th March 2017, 2.35pm (day 2,041)

Shinjuku station, 27/3/17

Shinjuku railway station is a few hundred meters from my hotel, and is not only the busiest railway station in the world, but the busiest transport hub of any kind. 3.5 million people DAILY pass through here — that’s the entire population of Greater Manchester plus Leeds, or more-or-less the population of Los Angeles, through one single railway station. Every single day. It beggars belief. This picture was taken at a relatively quiet point in the daily cycle, but still gives an impression of it all, I think.

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Incense burner, Senso-ji temple

Sunday 26th March 2017, 10.55am (day 2,040)

Incense burner, 26/3/17

On a Sunday of, frankly, foul, revolting weather, my friend Mariam took me on a sightseeing tour of Tokyo, including the Senso-ji Buddhist temple, the city’s oldest place of worship dating from 645AD. Here, visitors purify themselves at this massive bowl of incense sticks, wafting the ‘breath of God’ over themselves before entering the shrine.

I post this pic partly because of the odd added detail, odd to us sensitive Westerners anyway; I know, I know, it’s an Eastern symbol of the sun, good fortune, life itself even. It’s found carved into church windows in Ethiopia, Bronze Age stonework in Yorkshire, prehistoric pottery in Bulgaria. Its name, translated from the Sanskrit, means “it is good”. But still, you wouldn’t find it easy to litter your holy places with swastikas in Europe. I dunno, probably we’re the ones who’ve lost out.

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Tokyo sunrise (with Fuji-san)

Saturday 25th March 2017, 6.15am (day 2,039)

Tokyo sunrise, 25/3/17

The remnants of jet lag saw me up early, but I had to work today anyway, and photographically, it was probably worth it. Within a short time after taking this the haze had risen and Fuji — a truly beautiful sight — had disappeared behind it. But there you go — Japan’s iconic (and highest) mountain, in its late winter raiment.

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Osaka Castle

Friday 24th March 2017, 11.30am (day 2,038)

Osaka Castle, 24/3/17

I’m sure this is the standard tourist shot but never mind, this was an impressive place. Built around 1590 and destroyed at least twice since, first in 1615 and then again in 1868, this is more like a museum that was built to resemble the original castle keep (the disabled access elevator at the front was probably not part of the architect’s original design), but it was still well worth a visit.

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The Osaka recruitment fair

Thursday 23rd March 2017, 7.00pm (day 2,037)

Osaka fair, 23/3/17

I am here to work rather than just swan around visiting shrines, so here is a picture of that side of my life. We are trying to persuade Japanese potential students to come and study in Manchester — many of whom are vastly intelligent, fluent in English and would be obvious assets to the intellectual community, only you try telling this to certain elements in the reactionary press. Anyway, ignoring this aspect of our lives my colleague James, on the left, and his temporary client, seem happy enough as they discuss how to arrange this. I like this picture, it makes it feel like our presence here has a real positive point.

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Prayers at the Meiji-Jingu shrine

Wednesday 22nd March 2017, 12.10pm (day 2,036)

Prayers. 22/3/17

Worked in the afternoon and evening, but had a bit of time off in the morning so spent it visiting Meiji-Jingu, a Shinto shrine to the Emperor Meiji who is revered for being the ruler under whom Japan transitioned from a feudal to a modern state towards the end of the 19th century. It was set in a beautiful, tranquil forest park, though the shrine itself, while an attractive building, was nothing particularly spectacular. A peaceful (and free) way of spending a couple of hours though.

For a donation of ¥500 (£3.50, give or take) visitors can acquire one of these prayer tablets and hang up their appeal along with a few thousand others on these boards outside the main temple. The reason for picking this photo in particular is the tablet to top centre. If there are such things as kami (spirits in the Shinto belief system), I hope they address that one, at least.

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Side street, Shinjuku district

Tuesday 21st March 2017, 8.25pm (day 2,035)

Shinjuku side street, 21/3/17

So here I am in Japan, specifically a side street not far from the immense Shinjuku station, which is like, take the biggest metro station you’ve previously seen in your life and octuple it. Since getting completely turned on to the country — or a certain stereotypical idea of it — by reading and watching Shogun when I was a teenager I have wanted to come here, and so now I’ve finally made it, thanks to a complete work freebie that just fell into my lap two months ago, it’s not easy to know how to depict it. Obviously it’ll take a few more days (months, a lifetime maybe) to even start the process of learning what the ‘real Japan’ is actually like, but let’s start with this shot. I suppose I picked this picture because it’s as good an effort as I can make at picturing my preconceptions. There were plenty of Blade Runner moments this evening, put it that way. But is that life imitating art, or the other way around? What I can gather so far, is that there’s not a lot of point worrying about the difference here.

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