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.
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.
Takadanobaba is a town between Ikebukuro and Shinjuku. It is fairly much residential with a few universities and colleges in and around the area. This particular place is where the Zenpukuji river flows into a subterranean channel—it later resurfaces when it joins the Kanda river.
We are happy to announce that our forthcoming publication Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Emptiness: Tokyo Landscape will be going on sale on June 28th. You can find out more about this book here. Click on the image to view the front and back cover.
Every city has a landmark that defines it. Imagine looking over a bay and seeing lady liberty holding her torch to the sky—a colossus proclaiming to take the world’s tired and downtrodden. Behind her lies a gleaming metropolis where people come to build their dreams. The place is instantly recognizable—Tokyo. Click on the image for a larger view.
Naomi and I are excited to announce our upcoming book Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Emptiness: Tokyo Landscape. Taking inspiration from the five elements in Japanese Buddhism, Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Emptiness is a homage to a city we called home for ten years. Starting from the simple question of what is the natural landscape of Tokyo, the book weaves a quiet narrative of this city through space and time.
80 photographs, 1 illustration, text in English and Japanese, 96 pages, 8.5”x11”.
Available spring, 2015. Click on the image for a larger view.
If anyone has seen the work of the director Hayeo Miyazaki, a common motif may strike you: trees. In the movies Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princes Mononoke, powerful, towering arboreal characters appear. The early Japanese believed trees, particularly evergreen trees, were dwellings for deities from heaven. With roots firmly in the earth and branches reaching into the sky, living off the wind and sun, and lifespans greater than any human, how could these beings be anything but divine. The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore said, “trees are the Earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.” Click on the image for a larger view.
Tokyo, like many cities, is built up of layers upon layers. Time shift those layers, removing old ones and adding new. But somehow, when you stand in front of a landscape, you feel its solidity—a sort of eternal presence. If I had taken this picture one hundred years ago, all I would see would be the water of Tokyo bay (not this canal), the horizon, and sky. Nothing you actually see in this photograph would be there. Click on the image for a larger view.