Tokyo to Osaka (part 2 of 2)
Any photo could be described as documentary. I guess this is why I have found it so difficult to determine my reasons for taking pictures. Is it street photography? Is it fashion? Is it anything? Why am I taking photos?
Being from Manchester, I often take things at face value. My instinctive reaction to comments like, “what are you trying to say with your photos?” irritate me but at the same time provoke me into questioning myself. It was this provocation that recently brought me to a personal conclusion that I am actually shooting documentary photography. Not just in this series, but in all of my previous photography too. I couldn’t recognize it before, but as I learned to strip away the aesthetic value, I began to see that I have being unconsciously documenting everyday life. I find new people and new surroundings interesting, so I feel the need to document them.
I am not trying to make a dramatic statement with my pictures, more that I am recording the characteristics of a place. So the question is not, “what am I trying to say?”, but more, “look at this, I think it’s interesting, tell me what YOU think”. My opinion is irrelevant.
Before reading any further, if you haven’t already, please look at my images before their descriptions hider you’re your first impression. It is not necessary to read the descriptions either. Thank you.
1. The first image is entitled ‘Shrine’. In my journey from Tokyo to Osaka, this was the first image which interested me. Viewing the Hakone Kuzuryu shrine without its surroundings, I could truly appreciate the workmanship and sturdiness of such a powerful object. An object which is surrounded by folk law and instantly recognizable when viewed in its lake. The idea of this photo probably came around due to my visit to the open air museum in choukoku forest. Going there taught me that there is more than one point of view when enjoying a sculpture.
2. The second image ‘laundry’ is possibly the least aesthetically pleasing, but the most personal of the series. It was my first night of my journey, and I opted to wash my clothes in the shower. This became my routine every night, and when I departed the next day, I would have cool damp pockets which were quite welcoming in the hot weather. The two walls at either side of the picture seem to create a composition reminding me of my super 8 camera ratio. I primarily shot super 8 during my journey, constantly having it in my hand and shooting scattered bursts of frames. The image represents the journey aspect of this series.
3. This third image ‘peak’ was taken at the top of a mountain close to Hakone. I like this photo because it reminds me of an older Japan. Come to think of it, this is probably why I found Hakone so interesting. It has its own particular feel, the transport is limited and it was easy to feel cut off. I feel this image reflects this nicely.
4. In my journey I also tried hitchhiking for the first time. I suppose I felt more embarrassed than scared, but my next stop was in the countryside and there were no buses running. I had the feeling that it could break my spirits if nobody stopped, but after 3 minutes my spirits were elevated. A mini van pulled over and the door opened revealing a lady at the wheel and three children in the back. After talking for a while I became more relaxed. My eyes suddenly panned around to notice that all the children were in swimwear and surrounded by inflatables. It was then explained to me that they were heading to a local river nearby. They offered to take me half way to my destination, and when we got to the river, Instead of leaving, I was invited to go for a swim. My plans were changing all the time and it was an amazing feeling to not have to be anywhere. I spent about 2 hours swimming with the clothes I had on and conversing with the lady who had brought me there. ‘Adventure’ is my experience put into one image and shows how relaxed the Japanese countryside really is.
5. After hitchhiking with a young mountain biker back to Fuji city, I travelled to Shizuoka and met many nice people along the way. This next image ‘locals’ was taken in Nagoya. I met these two ladies when visiting a gigantic green Buddha. The lady on the left was in her eighties, and the lady on the right was in her mid seventies. They were very good friends. This is another thing that amazes me about Japan; elderly people are so kind and still full of life. It was about 28 degrees that day.
6. This next image is of ‘Toganji’ temple and is entitled ‘nature’. I am aware of the almost gimmicky title and composition, but I still like it. Including the trees with the Buddha makes for an intended harmony. I am not a religious person, but I think it is easy to feel spiritually influenced by such an amazing object. It almost feels like the Buddha is not a statue, but a humble person meditating in a peaceful forest for eternity. An amazing display of power without using any power at all.
7. Ise jingu (Ise grand shrine) is considered to be one of the most holiest and important sites of the Shinto religion. I will not get into too much detail, but there are many special ceremonies and rituals involving this sacred space. The site is actually a giant shrine complex rooted in a sacred forest. Access to the shrines is limited and it was prohibited to take photos in the main shrines. Instead I opted to take an image of a structure which reminded me of Ise. The result was this photo of ‘Kaguraden’ entitled ‘Ise’.
8. Nara was one of the best places I visited on my trip due to its distinct calm feel. It was Filled with open areas and parks inhabited by deer. Despite its influx in tourism, I still managed to experience Nara’s culture due to the festivals and the people I saw. I suppose the deer in the photo could reflect the contrast between the old and the new or the east and the west. Not just in Nara, but in other parts of Japan. Western influence and tourism help the economy, but culture must be preserved through the practice of it, not just through the preservation of structures. The photo is entitled ‘deer’.
9. This next photo ‘onlooker’ complements the previous. It shows a reversed view of Nara, with the deer looking at the tourists. After looking at this photo, I couldn’t help thinking how we must look to the deer. Are they the attraction or are we? I think it’s an amusing concept.
10. ‘Toy shop’ shows a nice moment as the old aged shop owner talks to the little boy about what souvenir he would like. When I was a little boy, my parents would always let me buy one toy at the end of the trip. This would be the best part, and shops like this were very important to me. I am envious that I can no longer be so easily content. Traditional and local businesses are so important because they keep things personal. I hope the next generation will still have them to look forward to.
11. A few days earlier I had met a man from Kyoto at a bus stop. He asked me if I was going to visit Kyoto during Obon (the festival of the dead). He explained that in a few days, they would light great fires on the mountainsides and it was a good chance to see something rare. I decided to go to Kyoto, and on the night of the festival, it was like nothing I had ever seen. The streets were crowded with locals and tourists. People were shoulder to shoulder and all talking about the same thing. The energy of the place was far more exciting that the fire itself. Japan celebrates the dead as well as the living. In some countries, it is sometimes easy to forget the deceased, but not in Japan. The blurred ghostly looking people in the foreground add to the feeling of the image ‘Obon’.
12. My last stop in my journey was ‘Osaka’. I had heard a lot of things about the city and its people. It is said that the people of Osaka are generally more relaxed and easy going. Although I spent only a short time there, I felt the change in atmosphere. The people were very nice and more common like the people of Manchester. I can’t wait to visit there again. The image itself is a typical outsider’s view I think. I am sure Osaka warrants a better, more personal photo, but this contains some elements of Osaka which are worth documenting.I feel I could take a similar picture back home in Manchester.
I hope you enjoyed the series. A short companion film shot on super 8 is available here: