Shitamachi is literally “downtown.” Its connotation is that of an unchanging working-class neighborhood populated by Edokko, or Tokyoites. Tokyo has a reputation as Japan’s modern city, yet sections seem to miss the constant development. Yanaka, just north of Ueno park, is probably one of the most recognized Shitamachi.
While Yanaka is well within the modern Tokyo today, that was not always the case. The Great Fire of Meireki in 1657 destroyed 65% of Tokyo, then called Edo, and claimed over 100,000 lives. Thought to have started in a temple, the Tokugawa Shogunate moved many temples outside the city to the north. Yanaka was one of the towns created from that migration. This image is from Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Emptiness. Click on the image for a larger view.
We have just received copies of our new book Tsukiji: Tokyo Fish Market Suite. It is a small 48 page book with 40 images documenting a day at the world’s largest fish market in Tokyo. The Tokyo metropolitan government has had long-term plans to close this market and this book is my homage to this place. The book will debut at the Griffin Museum of Photography during their Photobook Showcase this Sunday and we will have more about this title at Hakusan Creation soon.
The Griffin Museum of Photography will be hosting events around publishing and the photo book on March 26th. From 10 am to 1 pm, Viginia Swanson will be hosting To Be Published, or Self Publish? From 2 pm to 4 pm, self-publishers, including us, will be showing their work during the Photobook Showcase. We hope to see you there.
Naomi and I are pleased to announce our next book: Tsukiji: Tokyo Fish Market Suite. This 48 page soft cover book shows the inside of the world’s largest fish market. Tokyo Metropolitan Government has plans to relocate the market because of its aging 1935 infrastructure. This collection of 41 photographs pays homage to this remarkable place. The book will be released at the end of March. Click on the image for a larger view.
On March 11th, 2011, a devastating tsunami hit Japan. One of the towns that was destroyed was Rikuzentakata, the birthplace of the Japanese landscape photographer Naoya Hatakeyama. Kesengawa is his intimate portrait of that place and event. You can read about this remarkable book in our Out of Print section in resources.
Naomi and I are pleased to announce an upcoming publication: Kukai no Hitobito. This is Naomi’s memoir of her experience as a pilgrim to the Eighty-Eight Sacred Places of Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan. The text is in Japanese and will be available to purchase in October.
Naomi and I have been following the heartbreaking news of the earthquakes in Kumamoto, Japan (as well as the event in Ecuador). I was reminded of a story the American scholar Joseph Campbell used to tell about one of his visits to the country. Campbell overheard an American social philosopher talking to a Shinto priest, “We’ve been now to a good many ceremonies and have seen quite a few of your shrines. But I don’t get your ideology. I don’t get your theology.” The priest paused to consider the question and then answered, “I think we don’t have ideology. We don’t have theology. We dance.”
Tucked in along the walls of a valley just south of Nara is the Buddhist temple Hase-dera. The Japanese visit in the spring to see the cherry, plum, and magnolia in blossom. The compound is huge with over thirty buildings. Long flights of stone steps help you traverse the topography. Despite the size, Hase-dera has cultivated a landscape where it is difficult to separate the artificial from the natural. Click on the image for a larger view.
We are introducing a new section to our blog called Out of Print. We want to use this to share books we have been inspired by. The first book is Hyaku-sai-ohby Ono Shoichi. This very unassuming book is one of those quiet books that hides a treasure between its cover. To see more of this book, go here.
Dragons are creatures of water, dwelling in the ocean, rivers, clouds, and rain. Koi carp are symbols of strength and perseverance. In ancient times, a school of Koi came to a huge waterfall while swimming upstream. The fish tried to jump the falls to continue their journey. Seeing their struggle, a demon made the falls higher out of malice. The fish did not give up. After a year of striving, one fish managed to reach the top. The gods, impressed with its determination, turned it and the fish that followed into a golden dragons. These Koi are in a pond in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Click on the image for a larger view.
New years in Japan is a rich event. Millions of Japanese visit shrines and temples. One of the largest temples in Tokyo and one of the busiest is Senso-ji in Asakusa. This temple is famous for its gate. What it is little known for is one of the shortest rituals of the new year celebration, moja-okuri. Click on the image for a larger view.
A schoolyard nativity scene in Tokyo, with pink rabbits and Winnie-the-pooh. Note the shoe boxes where students place their footwear before entering the school building. This was one of the outtakes from Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Emptiness. Click on the image for a larger view.
Illuminations are part of the holiday season. These lights are in Tokyo where Christmas is less a religious observance than a time to have fun. This is actually a small family restaurant that is in someone’s home. Click on the image for a larger view.
A report was issued recently on the state of the cod fisheries in Maine. After decades of overfishing, a strict quota was placed on the level of the catch. Based on models of cod reproduction, the stock should have rebounded, but it didn’t. What was left out of the model was the change in the environmental conditions in the Gulf of Maine. That body of water is one of the fastest warming areas in the ocean. It is claimed that if we protect the environment, it will destroy economic growth, it will kill jobs. Yet, I don’t see the current plan working out very well…
It is no secret that Tokyo is a sea of buildings. Its reputation of using every inch of space is hard to imagine until you have been there. What is less known is the topography of hills and valleys throughout the city.
On the top of a hill in Shinjuku ward is Tsukido Hachiman Shrine. In its day, the shrine would have been a prominent site overlooking Edo. Today, it is hidden beneath layers of buildings. However, in spring, the cherry trees lining the approach make it hard to miss.
The stone gate, or Torii, dates from 1726 and is all that remains of the original shrine that was lost in the fire bombing of Tokyo during World War II. The bamboo trees attached to the front of the gate are in preparation for the new year celebration. The small area to the left of the gate is a children’s playground. Click on the image for a larger view.