johnliddlephotography

Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


Leave a comment

Toyota Car Museum (Odaiba)

Travel photography often requires one to adapt to circumstances. My visit to Odaiba was one such day due to miserable weather, which meant I spent longer than expected wandering through the Toyota Car Museum. Before that I spent some time trying my hand on a car-racing simulator and let’s just say that had it been real I doubt I would have survived to visit the Museum. Great fun though!

You don’t have to be into cars to enjoy the Car Museum, as many of the cars are displayed quite theatrically within movie-set environments, thus adding to their appeal, especially the older vehicles. The vehicles shown here were produced in the period 1945 to 1973 and in some cases are significantly different to the cars produced today. For example, during their heyday, the owners of these cars would have had little awareness of computerisation, yet modern vehicles rely heavily on integrated computers to manage many automotive systems such as anti-lock braking.

Looking back through my shots to select the included images also made me think more broadly about the car industry. Whilst today’s cars are very different to those displayed in the museum, we are of course in another transition phase with the move from petrol powered to electrically powered vehicles now regarded as inevitable. Given that Ford’s Model-T commenced production in 1908, the internal combustion engine has been around for just a little more than a century. In this time it is fair to say that the car industry has impacted significantly on our lives and cultures, in both positive and negative ways. Where then will we be in a further 100 years and how different will the vehicles of 2117 be? Something for us all to ponder!

On a less philosophic note, my personal favourite was the 1967 Toyota 2000GT (pics 3 to 5), of which only 337 were built. James Bond fans may remember the convertible version of the 2000GT featuring in the You Only Live Twice movie, which was predominantly set in Japan. Fifty years on the car has lost none of its appeal. The other Japanese made vehicle shown is the 1955 Toyopet Crown (pic 13), which I can’t help but visualise as a car that would have been popular with gangsters.

Of the others, they all have individual charm and serve as reminders of other times, but the 1954 Porsche 356 (pics 17 to 19) is hard to ignore. Few car companies are as true to their heritage as Porsche and although the design has been progressively modified over the past 70 years, the underlying design principle has been maintained.

Which car would you choose to drive away in if you had the choice?

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


2 Comments

Contemporary Architecture in Japan

We depend on buildings for so many aspects of our daily lives such as shelter, safety and places of work, study and recreation to name a few. They are perhaps the most dominant mark that humankind has made on the planet and all buildings, regardless of size or function, started as an idea in someone’s mind. Architecture gives form to these ideas and when we travel to new places, we bring with us a natural curiosity about the architectural forms we will encounter.

So it was with my visits to Japan and although I was probably more interested in Japan’s older and more traditional buildings, I also found much of interest in its more contemporary architecture. In my last post on Shinjuku I featured a few examples, two of which are shown again here along with other selected buildings.

I have chosen to open the post with two shots (pics 1 and 2) of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum as a reminder of Japan’s diligent and ongoing commitment to world peace and as a reminder of the extensive rebuilding that was required post-war. The domed glass roof shown in pic 1 reminds me of Hiroshima’s famous domed building that stands as a monument to the horror and folly of atomic war. Similarly, the striking shadows at pic 2 invite visitors to the museum to contemplate past events as they wend their way down to the museum via the gently curving walkways.

Also utilising a lattice structure, the aptly named Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower (pic 3) in Shinjuku houses three tertiary educational institutions (as identified in my previous post). To the bottom right of the photograph one can glimpse the adjoining dome structure, which, viewed at street level, is reminiscent of a golf ball half buried in a bunker. I’ve never really thought of buildings as “eye candy”, but this particular building jumps out and demands to be viewed.

Not far away, also in Shinjuku, one finds the towering Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (pics 4 and 5). This truly is a colossus and although I did not find it very appealing aesthetically, its scale commands attention. The more visually appealing part of the complex is the semi-ringed structure shown at pic 2, itself of considerable scale as can be gauged from the solitary figure traversing the forecourt. Although it is an illusion I like the way the forecourt appears to be sloping away from the building.

Probably what most surprised me about Tokyo’s commercial towers was their scale and solidity. Compared to skyscrapers in cities such as New York and Chicago, the buildings in Marunouchi opposite Tokyo Station are not particularly tall. However, they sit so solidly on the ground to appear unshakeable, thus bearing witness to how architects have designed buildings to survive in an earthquake ravaged land.

As a demonstration of scale, one of my favorite shots is that of the three glass towers (pic 7), which was shot from a viewing area atop the Kitte Shoka shopping centre. The solitary figure highlighted at street level (bottom right of shot) hints at our physical insignificance, yet we must remember we are looking at the product of human imagination and construction.

Tokyo’s tallest structure is Skytree (pic 8), which, like other tall structures dominates the skyline. I recall one day being in Ueno and on impulse deciding to walk to Skytree. No maps or GPS navigation was required. All I had to do was look up and follow my nose. The structure is so dominant it did not even allow one the excuse of practicing Japanese by asking for directions. During that walk I took many photos along the way with Skytree in shot and perhaps I will post a “Finding Skytree” blog at some stage.

I mentioned Kitte Shoka a moment ago, which is a relatively new shopping centre directly across from the Marunouchi entry to Tokyo Station. As shown at pic 9, the internal design is interesting with the shops arranged on several floors following a triangular layout.

One of Tokyo’s most striking buildings is the Tokyo International Forum (pics 10 to 12) located near the boundary of Tokyo’s CBD and the Ginza shopping district. The building functions as a convention and exhibition space and is the outcome of the first international architectural competition held in Japan in 1989. Inside the building is especially magical and teases visitors to open their imaginations. Designed in the shape of a sailing boat, one could equally imagine being Moby Dick swallowed by a giant whale, or even being held within an inter-galactic spaceship.

To conclude this post that, in reality, has not even scratched the surface of contemporary Japanese architecture, I have chosen three smaller scale structures. Pic 13 can be found in Ginza and is included simply for its elegance and distinctly Japanese aesthetic. At pic 14 I have shown an external staircase attached to the FUJI television headquarters building in Odaiba because, for some reason, I felt compelled to include something brutal. In my opinion this staircase met that need. Finally, the vertical garden at pic 15 seemed an apt way to acknowledge that there is always room for nature amidst the concrete and steel.

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