johnliddlephotography

Frozen moments from the infinity that is time

Everyday Tokyo

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This is my hundredth post on Japan, thus bringing this series to an end, at least until I can return to build a larger image stock. I am, however, intending to finish the year with a couple of posts based on specific individual images to ease my withdrawal symptoms. The images I have shared over this journey were taken during two separate six-week visits during the Japanese Autumn and Spring seasons, with the approach evolving as I went. From my perspective I have enjoyed the experience, which allowed me to stay in touch with Japan and to gain enhanced knowledge through comments made on photographs from time to time.

Whilst this is really a low-key finale I thought it fitting to finish with a few street shots of everyday life from the world’s most populated metropolis. The opening image (pic 1) was clearly shot in the Ginza where upmarket brands compete for attention and seem to be regarded as commonplace by local Tokyoites. Of course, I’m sure the subliminal messaging is still working. From the Ginza to the older Tokyo vibe of Asakusa (pic 2) is a big change, but kids are kids and I thought the teacher (my assumption) setting-up for a group shot to remember the outing was quite universal in its nature.

Pics 3 and 4 taken on a Sunday visit to Ueno Park are reminders of the contrasts to be found in all societies. Whilst the bike-riding drummer (pic 3) attracted a crowd, almost directly across the pathway was the homeless person (pic 4) alone with her thoughts. During my times in Tokyo I visited Ebisu often for the convenience of shopping (pic 5), as well as being a frequent visitor to Tokyo’s wonderful Museum of Photography (pic 6).

I’ve included three shots from Hibiya (pics 7 to 9) as I believe the area highlights two commendable characteristics of Tokyo life. For an area that in many other cities around the world might tend towards seediness, the pictures demonstrate the typical cleanliness of the streets and the high level of public safety.

This brings me to the final shot taken in Roppongi. Compared to the ordered chaos of the famous Shibuya crossing, the street crossing in Roppongi (pic 10) is humdrum. Nevertheless, I found it an interesting example of proxemic behaviour where those waiting to cross have each taken up positions that maximises their personal space. The classic example of such behaviour is most easily observed in elevators. Be observant next time you ride a lift.

Thank you to everyone who has visited my blog, with an especial thanks to those who have been regular visitors since the early stages of this series.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

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This gallery contains 10 photos


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Streets of Asakusa

To conclude this series of posts on Asakusa I have selected shots to show what visitors may typically see if strolling the streets of this interesting and often quirky area.

Designed by Phillipe Starck, the renowned French designer, the “Flamme d’Or” (Flame of Gold) atop Asahi’s Super Dry Hall (pics 1 and 2) is difficult to miss. The Super Dry Hall takes the shape of a beer glass and is quite architecturally striking in its own right, but absolutely unmissable with the 300 ton Flamme d’Or perched like a crowning glory. The building to the left is the Asahi Beer Headquarters, with the complex of buildings occupying the site where Asahi started brewing beer over 100 years ago.

Visitors will usually spend some time walking through Shin-Nakamise (pics 4 to 7), an undercover arcade running parallel to the more famous Nakamise Dori approach to Sensoji Temple (refer to previous post).

On the outside streets there is much to catch the eye. The Nimi building, or as I prefer to call it, the Tea Cup building (pic 8) presents as an eccentric novelty. However, it is actually in keeping with Asakusa’s hosting of many businesses supplying product to the hospitality sector, an example of which is a vendor’s display of takeaway food trays (pic 9).

Translation is always good for a laugh and although the antique shop’s wares (pic 11) appear interesting, my attention was initially caught by the misspelt word (“planing” rather than “planning”). Nonetheless, I freely admit that their attempt is much better than I could manage if operating in reverse.

Tokyo must go close to being the Starbucks capital of the world (pic 15) and yes I did succumb to taking a break and enjoyed looking out over Asakusa life from an upper level vantage point. Just as Starbucks is everywhere in Tokyo, so are bicycles (pic 16) and titling the shot as “bicycle calamity” is probably unkind. What most impressed me about this and other bicycle parking I observed in Japan was the general absence of security devices to prevent theft. I read recently that one of the reasons for the low crime rate in Japan is the high proportion of travel made on foot or by bicycle and perhaps there is some credence to this argument.

I felt a bit sorry for the rickshaw operator being passed by the cyclist at pic 17, as it is was hardly a fair contest in “power to weight” terms. It never ceased to amaze me how fit the rickshaw operators are and their ability to maintain conversations with their clients while jogging along.

I have shown the house at pic 18 in a previous post on concrete buildings and am indulging myself by reposting here as an example of the innovative architecture one finds in contemporary Japanese residences. By contrast, I also offer pic 19 as an example of how small many Japanese residences are.

My farewell to Asakusa is pic 20, which serves to remind that no matter how busy and bustling life can be, water and greenery combine to create opportunities to enjoy tranquil moments.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


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Sensoji Temple – Asakusa

With an estimated 30 million visits a year from locals and tourists, it is safe to conclude that Sensoji Temple is Asakusa’s most popular drawcard. First established in 645 AD, Sensoji is Tokyo’s oldest temple and has been revered by many influential historical figures through the ages, as well as by the general population. Sensoji is devoted to the Bodhisattva Kannon who is regarded by followers as the most compassionate Buddha and is seen as a source of benevolence and relief from suffering.

Judging from my personal visits the temple is always busy, somehow befitting its background as the centre of Edo (present-day Tokyo) culture. Such busyness also fits well with Tokyo’s image as a bustling, vibrant metropolis.

Looking back from the temple steps (pic 1) through the Hozomon Gate to Nakamise Dori gives some impression of the temple’s popularity. Indeed, for some visitors it is likely that the highlight of their visits will be walking the gauntlet that is Nakamise Dori (pics 2 to 4). This is a long approach path through rows of souvenir shops and food stalls. Whilst such an approach to Japanese temples is quite common, I found Nakamise Dori to be overly commercial, though its longevity suggests that my view may be in the minority. Nevertheless, it is an interesting place to observe the contrasting and sometimes individualistic dress styles of visitors.

Japan has many impressive temple gates and the Hozomon Gate (pics 5 and 6) is yet another. First built in 942 AD, the Hozomon Gate has been destroyed twice; firstly by fire in 1631 and again in 1945 during the bombing of Tokyo. The current structure of steel-reinforced concrete houses many of Sensoji’s treasures in its second-storey; including a copy of the Lotus Sutra that is a designated national treasure. Standing almost 23 metres high, 21 metres wide and 8 metres deep, it is a commanding presence and a worthy gateway to Tokyo’s oldest temple. However, the most eye-catching feature is the large red chochin (lantern) weighing approximately 400 kilograms that hangs from the gate’s central opening.

Passing through the Hozomon Gate brings one into an area (pic 7) where official temple souvenirs and worship related materials such as amulets, incense and scrolls may be purchased, beyond which lies the temple’s main entrance. Upon entering the main hall, one’s eye is immediately diverted upwards to a series of impressive ceiling paintings (pic 8), which, despite the different subject matter, reminded me of Kyoto’s Kennin-ji (covered in a December 2014 post). Ceremonies occur throughout the day and although one’s view is generally restricted, it is always satisfying when one can experience any temple ceremony (pic 9).

Some respite from the crowds can be found within Sensoji’s gardens, which, as can be seen from the glimpse viewed from the left-hand exit of the main hall (pic 10), are quite beautiful in their own right. Within the gardens are many statues of deities, including those at pic 12 where the statue to the right of the shot is said to represent the image of the Bodhisattva Kannon. I have always found Jizo (protectors of children) statues to be rather comforting (as in pic 13) and given that Sensoji is associated with compassion, it seemed an appropriate way to conclude this post.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


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Looking for Old Tokyo – Asakusa

If one is looking for old Tokyo, one must visit Asakusa given that it is seen to be the centre of Tokyo’s shitamachi (low city) districts. Whilst this post focuses on showing examples of old Tokyo, I should say that my visits to Asakusa were not strictly for this reason and I will post photographs offering other glimpses of Asakusa at a later time.

If I had to select one image that says “old Tokyo” from this and previous posts in this series, I would select the delightful old house shown at pic 1. Coming across this old place was as if one had stepped back in time and one hopes that buildings such as this will survive for many years to come, thus giving us a glimpse and a sense of what old Tokyo was like. However, when one considers that the house is within a fifteen to twenty minutes walk of Tokyo Skytree, perhaps all we can do is hope.

One may imagine that in times past the residents of the house would have patronised nearby shops such as those featured in pics 2 to 6, whose quintessential charm continues to be relevant today. Each of these stores has a story to tell that is, in turn, woven into Asakusa’s story.

Other examples of old Tokyo can be found (pics 7 to 12) by walking the streets, where the old and new exist side by side such as in pics 11 and 12. For the most part I found the blending of old and new to be quite aesthetically pleasing, perhaps due (as in pic 12) to the design similarities carried over into the new buildings.

Memories too are created among the old buildings as in pic 8, where a teacher can be seen setting up his camera before rushing back to join his students for a photographic memory of their trip to Asakusa. Who knows what will become of these buildings, especially when the average life of buildings in Japan is said to be in the order of twenty years. Nevertheless, whatever they become, these students have a memory of how it once appeared.

It would be remiss not to include a photograph of Senso-ji (pic 13), Asakusa’s major attraction and Tokyo’s oldest temple, which dates back to the seventh century and will be the subject of a future post.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)