Cyclogeography 2: Sumigawa River Drift

Nishi Sayamagaoka- Ome (Hatanaka)

Drift Starting & Ending Points: Nishi Sayamagaoka- Oume (Hatanaka)

Distance (approx) 12 miles/19.3 kilometres

Following on from my first cyclogeography post back in November last year, a drift earlier this month took me around my new surroundings in Saitama prefecture  . Saitama  borders Tokyo and other prefectures. In an unfamiliar environment and my limited sense of direction, this mindless pursuit was very stimulating. Once off the busy, frantic , overbearing highway (463), my drift took me to natural surroundings and I felt more at ease. I found myself alternating between river trail and Route 63 . The river, being enveloped by trees, became a refuge as it offered resistance from the heavy sun and suffocating heat. The light flickered and dazzled brightly on the river surface while the lazy trout were clearly seen in clusters swishing around on the river bed. As well as the river trail, my attention was diverted to the surrounding architecture. There are many old glorious structures almost in ruins. How have they survived typhoons and earthquakes over the years?, I wondered to myself.

I recorded a bit of footage, the visuals are nothing special though it’s the sound that I find particularly engaging. The cicadas, when screeching in unison, are deafening but it’s a ubiquitous sound of the Japanese summer.

SOUNDS OF THE SUMIGAWA RIVER TRAIL  

 

I headed off from the Sumigawa river and pedalled still sprightly into Hatanaka, a district in Ome-shi. Along the way, I  was particularly drawn to this old house. A house most definitely build during the Showa period (1926-1989). It’s characteristics being a little unusual as it’s made up of wood and corrugated iron. The lower structure could have been built for industrial purposes. I’m memorised by this hideous yet fantastic spectacle. I decided to take refreshments at this spot near a desolate bus stop. With my note pad, I made a few preliminary sketches. The surrounding debris and worn objects were scattered around in no particular order. This space seemed still and lifeless, yet there was evidence of life existence within. It would be great to live here, I thought. I imagined about its interior and how worn the tatami would be.  Then I thought about my mother-in-law and her rambling shack  just up the road, comparing and contrasting while sketching. Here the mayhem is visible on the outside. A dusty, old, orange bus passed and a few curious heads looked my way.

 Ome-shi Showa House

Ome-shi 2(2016)

 

 

theguardian: Family Publications

 

 

Snapshot: My Sensible Look for a Big Occasion  Publication Date: April 12, 2014

Original article title: Wear Something Sensible, Jason!

Snapshot-Jason-Murray-for-011

 

Playlist: Heartbreak at My First Disco  Publication Date: September 20, 2014

Original article title: Panic at the Disco

Turning Japanese

 

Playlist: My Boy’s Homework Triggered a Memory  Publication Date: June 27, 2015

Original article title: Just Who is the Five O’clock Hero?

Just Who Is The 5 O'Clcok Hero

 

Snapshot: Tokyo Summer and the Sound of Cicadas  Publication Date: March 5, 2016

Original article title: The Sound of Cicadas

Hayato & Moe Guardian Pic (2008)

 

We Love to Eat: Maki’s Tempura Udon, British Style   Publication Date: April 22, 2017

Original article title: Maki’s tempura udon done British style

Tempura Udon British Style (2017)

 

 

 

 

 

A Japanese Funeral (2016)

Introduction

Inside one of my Christmas cards last year read the message, ‘Hope this year is a better one’ or words to that effect. The meaning of the message relates to the passings of my parents last summer. A kind message from a thoughtful person. However, sadly, on the 19th of January, my father-in-law passed away due to heart failure. He was 75 years of age. Due to his deteriorating mental condition, he had been admitted to a nursing home five months earlier. Nevertheless, is passing was very unexpected. His funeral took place three days later.

In Japan, traditional burials are not the norm, only cremations. From my recent experience, I have found out that Japanese and English cremations contrast considerably. The Japanese employ particular rituals which might appear a little too disturbing for those with a sensitive nature. From my recent experience, my perspective of cremation funerals has changed somewhat.

Part One: The Funeral

The ceremony took place at the Jizo-in Temple in Ome, West Tokyo on Friday, January 22nd. This glorious piece of architecture is located not even a stone’s throw from my in-law’s house. You could say across the road. It was an icy cold yet crystal clear sunny morning. The ceremony began at 10:30 a.m. prompt. The congregation were offered green tea on arrival. By the time we were all inside the temple, there were around 75 people consisting of close family, distant relatives, friends and neighbours. My father-in-law was one of seven children. Incidentally, his oldest brother (85 yrs), the oldest of the seven and his youngest brother (68 yrs), the youngest of the seven, both still survive and were both in attendance at the ceremony.

First, in turn, (always in hierarchical order, I was fourth so I always had to carefully watch what to do. No rehearsals!) everyone knelt and bowed before a large decorative alter inside the temple. The alter consisted of the open coffin which was surrounded by flowers and wooden tablets. Then, each person lit a jostick (senko), placed it upright into a small bowl of sand, chimed a small bell and prayed. Next, the congregation took a seat which are in rows. The close family sat on one side of the room facing friends, relatives etc on the opposite side. Though not a blood-relative, I sat with close-family. In the centre, two priests conducted the service. In this case, father and son, both were facing the temple alter.

Jizo-in Temple in Ome, West Tokyo and its surrounding environment

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The older priest then read the sutra (Buddhist scripture) to the congregation. After the reading, my brother-in-law (the eldest brother of the deceased’s family) read a kind of eulogy to the congregation.

The next stage is to burn incense for the departed’s soul. In pairs and in hierarchical order, everyone went to the alter and placed a pinch of incense on the smoldering incense after bringing it close to the forehead. This action is repeated twice. Then, before returning to their seat, each pair bowed twice, first to close family then to the rest of the congregation. While this procession is happening, the priest continued to chant.

After the last pair bowed, like a swift scene change in a theatre, the suited temple staff appeared from behind the scenes and hastily cleared the alter in preparation for final coffin viewing. Pallbearers carefully manoeuvred the coffin from the alter area. The Flower heads were cut off and with origami, are presented (in  hierarchical order) to everyone on large steel trays. We placed the flowers carefully around my father-in-law’s body. I think I was presented with flowers and origami at least three times.  Though I found this whole experience very over-whelming at first, I soon adjusted and felt more comfortable just by the aura of the spectacle. Also, I was surprised by how composed everyone remained through this ritual. Finally, the coffin lid is sealed and is carried out to the hearse. The family then travelled to the crematorium. The ceremony at the temple took around 90 minutes.

Jizo-in Temple (interior) in Ome. Photographs taken just after the funeral ceremony

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Part Two: The Crematorium 

The car ride (riding in a newly designed sporty-looking Japanese hearse) to the crematorium took between 10-15 minutes. Once inside, we were directed to the elevators and to the second floor. The building is modern, large and spacious. I felt slightly agoraphobic and once inside the building, I soon lost my sense of direction so it was a case of just following the crowd. From the elevator, we are all herded into a grey-walled, windowless, high-ceilinged, unfurnished, square-shaped room. We waited in silence for a few moments as the coffin was carefully brought in by the pallbearers.

A small window on the coffin lid was opened, my father-in-law now visible again but for the final time. A priest asked everyone to come forward to the coffin to make a final prayer. Again, in order, we clasped our hands together and prayed. The coffin was then moved and placed onto a platform near a wall. One of the crematorium staff, in this case a suited women, opened a discrete operating pad from inside the wall. A section of the wall opened up revealing a dark, rectangular space. The coffin was then electronically transported like a box on a factory conveyor belt into that space. Everyone was asked to pray again. The coffin then slowly disappeared from view and the wall is sealed back to its original state. At this point, I was unaware that the coffin was heading into the vaults of the building and then to the incinerators. We were all led outside the room and taken to the crematorium canteen.

Lunch was served up at 1:00 on the dot. A traditional Japanese meal consisting of delicacies such as sushi (raw fish), miso soup, tempura (fried seafood) and dango (pulped sweet rice) for dessert. My wife, her mother and brother sat with the local priest. I sat next to my wife’s cousins. I usually feel a little anxiety in family situations in Japan, largely due to my hopeless Japanese speaking skills. Fortunately, I had my son and daughter to translate my thoughts and feelings which was a relief.

Lunch at the crematorium

2 Lunch at the Crematorium

At the end of the meal, I assumed the ceremony had finished though there was one more ritual to come. At 2:00 the crematorium staff led us back up to the same room where we had previously been. I must have been the only one curious to why we were going back into that very room.

Picking the Bones

A table had been placed in the centre of the room. On the table was a large decorative blue and white ceramic urn and a framed photograph of my late father-in-law.  Everyone assembled around the table. The wall then magically opened and one of the crematorium staff, took out a large steel tray with a portion of bones and ash on the tray. I must admit I winced when seeing part of my father-in-law’s skull and what looked like his pelvis and shoulder blade bones on the tray. We (members of the family) were then given unusually large thick wooden chopsticks. In pairs, using the chopsticks, we picked up the bones and placed them into the urn. My chopstick dexterity didn’t let me down, thank God. The urn was half filled. However, there was still a considerable amount of bones and ash left by the time all the members of the family had picked the bones. Then, a member of staff intervened. It was obvious he had an important role to play in the next procedure. I vividly remember his white gloves, his movement, poise and grace. First, he placed his hands on the bones inside the urn and gently crushed down. Then, using the chopsticks again, he gathered the remaining bones, each time crushing them down to make space for more. Finally, only the skull and ashes remained. I was relieved to see the skull remained not crushed,  he simply placed the part of the skull at the top. Then, using a white bristled brush and a small shiny steel pan, with exquisite manual dexterity, he brushed up all the remains from the steel tray into the urn not leaving a trace of ash. Finally, he placed the urn into a wooden box then covered the box with a decorative Japanese designed cover. We stood and watched in complete silence. I was mesmerized by the whole process. This was a performance.

The bones picking ritual stayed vivid on my mind for days after the ceremony. It was such an astonishing and over-whelming experience for me at the time. Also, I was mystified about the incineration. How could only some bones remain solid while the other bones had dissolved into ash? I later found out that the incinerators are always set to a certain temperature.

Part Three: Paying Respects at Home

The urn, now filled, was taken away from the crematorium with the flowers and the framed photograph by the family. My son held his late grandfather’s photograph in the back of my wife’s car. When we got back to the house, my mother-in-law set up the praying area in her bedroom. Re: Photograph (below)- To the right of his photograph are a wooden tablet with details of his name and age and the urn in its decorative cover. On the next platform (from left to right) are the objects which are used when praying. A candle, a box of matches, a jostick bowl and sand, a vase of josticks, and a small metal pitcher (pot) with chimer. Also, it’s customary for fruit and rice to be displayed too.

The day was still unfinished. Friends, neighbours and my father-in-law’s ex work colleagues came to the house to pay their respects from late afternoon into early evening. My mother-in-law offered green tea and then directed each person to the praying room. The door bell never stopped. Even my brother-in-law’s work colleagues came too. Like my father-in-law, he’s in the construction industry, so there were quite a few builders coming to the house after their work. Finally, after a light supper, by 10:00 p.m. we were all bathed, changed and under our futons. The candles remained burning through the night.

The Praying Room in the House 

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In Memory of Akio Ogura (1940-2016) R.I.P.      

 

On a final poignant note, it seems that with these recent family passings and all the passings you hear about everyday in the media from cultural rock & pop icons, to politicians and TV personalities, I feel it has starting to take effect on me. I’m in my late 40s and for the first time in my life, I’m starting to consider my own mortality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Dinky: Shop Fronts Tokyo (Shinjuku & Koenji)

The adjective ‘dinky’ means small and neat. For me, it’s the most appropriate word that springs to mind when describing typical characteristics of bars and eateries which can be found in the labyrinths in the Tokyo Metropolis. The capacity for most bars are room for barely half a dozen. A few tables and a bar area inside the cozy interior, though in summer time, stacked up plastic bottle crates are used as makeshift chairs and the clientele spill out into the street. However, despite the size, it doesn’t seem to perturb the publicans. Business as usual.

SHINJUKU

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It is well known that the Japanese are renowned for attention to detail and that opinion can be justified here. Even though the detail might not be aesthetically pleasing. Western influences are increasingly evident, for instance, bar names using English words or expressions. Postcards, signage, stickers and ripped up pages from glossy film, rock and fashion magazines, an overload of references to popular culture. Decorative styles you might see in a stereotypical student’s flat. Another predominant feature is that beauty bodes well with the unsightly. Part of the ubiquitous exterior decoration which seems ever-present outside the dwellings are the abundance of electric matter. Air conditioner ventilators, electric meters, masses of painted wire. Evidence of beauty vs ugly combinations working in harmony.

KOENJI

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The Tokyo Underground: The Still & The Moving (experiment 1)

These past few days I’ve been out on-site (The Tokyo Underground) filming mainly around the Shinjuku area on underground and overground trains. Also, I’ve been using archive footage I took earlier this year, hence passengers in coats, hats and scarves attire.

Although I’m not over-excited with preliminary results, it was essential that I get the ball rolling.  Hopefully, these initial experiments will activate new ideas, generate alternative angles and I can gain more impetus over the next few months.

On a different topic though project-related. I’ve noticed how I’ve tended to become more impatient with projects recently. It’s like I DEMAND immediate success for my labour. This has been cluttering my mind for some time now. Is that because of all the overflowing imagery I now see on the Internet every single day? Or is it that everyone and anyone, creative or not has readily available software tools at their disposal? Again, I’m just needlessly ranting to myself as usual.

The Still & The Moving: Video Experiment 1

Footage sequence: 55 seconds. The first video is a combination of conventional footage; train passenger pans and commuters ascending and descending escalators and platform steps. The passenger pans are edited at a conventional 24 frames per second whereas the station commuters are edited at 48 frames per second. I played around with the footage, adding sepia for the passenger pans and threshold film effect for more graphic imagery. The combination didn’t work so I reverted back to the original.  At this early stage, I’m observing the chemistry between stationary and animated footage with the intention to capture intensity and calm simultaneously. Overall, visually, the moving vs the still dynamic is too over-whelming and the narrative is too clearly visual (if that makes any sense!). The passenger pans appear to clash against the pacey speeded footage. However, after playing with the graphical imagery, there are some visually interesting components which can be explored.

 

Fuchu no Mori Park-Tokyo

Was watching an old South Bank Show (1998) last night featuring the novelist/journalist Will Self. The man interests me a lot, I’ve only just started to read his work with more regularity since living back in England (2011). During the program, it was interesting to note what measures he takes when needing that ‘creative fix’ Apparently, Self heads off to the Orkney Islands, it is there he feels isolation and bacause of the presence of large quantities of water, it has a deep impact on his imagination. It got me thinking about my own strategies when searching for utopia for project inspiration . Well, it’s usually a place where I can be both inside and outside and with visual stimulus. I’m yet to find that idyllic spot in the UK. However, in Tokyo, I often go to Fuchu no Mori Park, ‘tooled up’ with sketch book, note book or just a book. You can often spot like-minded people with their sketch books or easels though they are usually pensioners! Apart from the park’s attractions (sports areas, children’s adventure playground, a woodland area, a fountain, a flower promenade and sculptures) , there are many secluded areas and hidden pockets of tranquillity if you search hard. But it gets better, there is also an Art Museum.

Fuchu Art Museum Collage

The Fuchu Art Museum inside Fuchunomori Park was opened in October 2000. Natural materials such as limestone and glass were used for this impressive building in order to create a feeling of unity with the park, which overflows with light and greenery. In addition to planned and permanent exhibition areas, the Noriyuki Ushijima Memorial Hall displays around 60 works from this Western-style artist that were donated by his family. The first floor features a public studio, work room, children’s modeling room, citizens’ gallery, and art library. Anyone can use these facilities for free, allowing them to experience art in an intimate way while appreciating famous masterpieces. There is also a museum shop and tea room where visitors can relax, and the museum has been designed with consideration given to the elderly and physically handicapped persons. These art museum surrounded by greenery is a wonderful place to enrich your spirit while viewing the changing seasons of the natural world.
Information from: gotokyo.org

Fortunately for me, when staying in Tokyo, Fuchu no Mori Park is just a 10-minute bicycle ride from my apartment. Today was a scorcher so I biked it to the park this morning and made this shaky little film just to give you an idea of my ‘heavenly hangout’. Also, I popped into the museum too and found out there is a typography workshop in June; I got my name down and luckily it’s on a Sunday. Apparently, we’re designing our own bag.

A blast from the past! These were taken by me and Torie with Anne & Michelle back in 2001.

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The Golden Gai-Shinjuku

Most of my project material will be gathered either in or near Shinjuku train station. Near Shinjuku train station is a rather unique little area called The Golden Gai. It is situated a few minutes away on foot from the East exit of Shinjuku station. It’s a well-known spot for its buzzing nightlife. Though what fascinates me is how the area is architecturally arranged. The area is made up of a simple network; six alleyways which are connected by even narrower alleyways. Incredibly over 200 bars, clubs and eateries are squeezed together.
For me, it’s a very important part of Tokyo as it provides the viewer with a small glimpse of Modernist Tokyo. Miniature like two-story buildings and narrow alleyways are just a few charismatic features of this remarkable area. In today’s Tokyo, most of the surrounding buildings in the Shinjuku area have been redeveloped, roads have been made wider and the conurbation stretching well into the suburbs. The Golden Gai stands alone surrounded by this concrete post-modernism overload. The buildings practically touch each other and are no more than a few feet wide. Most of the buildings have a simple two-story structure. The structures generally consist of a bar on the ground floor and a flat or another bar on the first floor. A steep staircase separating the stories. Each bar caters for half a dozen in one time at the very most. The buildings are elegantly dilapidated and at night the alleyways are dimly lit, resembling dirty and misty back streets in Victorian London times but not as menacing.  The area is frequented by a bohemian society. Artists, writers, musicians, film-makers, poets and actors descend on its bars. Most of the bars only welcome regular patrons though some bars try to attract ‘Gaijins (foreigners) by adding price lists and menus in English. It’s very quiet during the day and early evening as most of the bars open around 9p.m.  Below are a few snaps I took early one Sunday morning. Very different from images you might expect of Tokyo. No neon, no people, no colour, no gadgets etc.  Sadly there are very few places like this that still exist in Tokyo.

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Nobody Tokyo

I landed in Tokyo in March 1999. Five months later I was heading home via China and Russia on the Trans-Manchurian Express. Why leave so early? The number of people living in one area was just too much for me, too overbearing. I remember suffering from severe headaches every time I ventured outside. I would return though, I always knew that. When I returned to Tokyo, surprisingly the following year, I didn’t seem to be as affected by the crowds, I could commute to work and return home without taking aspirins or other pills (whatever gets you through the night). I suppose it always takes time to get used to change.

While at the Tokyo Museum of Photography in Ebisu, sometime in 2000, I came across a photography book called Nobody Tokyo. I leafed through the book, the images are very sharp and vibrant, I thought; totally different from images you generally see spotlighting Tokyo such as in the Lonely Planet guide books or the National Geographic magazines. Also, there is so much to consider in Masataka Nakano’s (the photographer) work. For instance, the photographs highlight spatial relationships in a city, there is no one in photographed the city yet there is evidence that people exist. Also, his locations are places in Tokyo where we associate a mass of people which gives the viewer an unusual angle. He documents an urban environment with an abundance of concrete, glass, wire and plastic. Interestingly, the project also informs us that Nakano employed extreme patience in order to achieve to his aim. No need for digital tricks. A dying breed?

Taking a leaf out of Nakano’s book , I sat in multi-storey cafes; ones with huge windows, without visual obstruction in busy areas of Shinjuku. The result; a set of of drawings depicting urban realism yet people would not be evident only evidence of mankind. As a result, the triptych appears eerie, apocalyptic or even abstract expressionist. Next time, how about a deserted, empty Tokyo Underground?

 

 

Sink (1999) – Satoshi Tomioka

Satoshi Tomioka was born in Nagoya in Japan in 1972. At graduate school, Tomioka studied hydrodynamics at Tokyo University. He became interested in computer graphics while working part-time for a graphics company. After graduating he worked for Dream Pictures Studios until the studio closed down in 1999. He now works at his own studio Kanaban Graphics which received success for the series Usavich, a series of animated short films for MTV’s Japanese mobile service ‘Flux’.

Sink (1999) was Tomioka’s first film which is based on his own experiences commuting on the Tokyo underground. In the film, Tomioka depicts his subjects (businessmen) in an underwater world. Poking fun at them as they ogle at pornographic imagery. Tomioka’s imagery of the Tokyo metropolis is an extremely vivid and colourful one. Toy-like trains glide through illuminated tunnels. There are some captivating angles taken from inside the train. For example, at 0.54 the scene features the intensity of a packed commuter train so packed, train seats are not evident. Another angle focuses on views of the surrounding cityscape, skyscrapers bearing down on the inhabitants and the ubiquitous advertising hoardings completely mapping vertical structures. Sink portrays aspects typical of Japanese social realism in the 90s. Tomioka’s interpretation of Tokyo commuters is played with tongue and cheek; a society dictated and ruled by businessmen with sexually repressive characteristics living a monotonous existence. Having researched on Tomioka, there are suggestions that the shy and reclusive filmmaker is depicting himself in this manner. There are aspects of the animation I can clearly identify with and I would imagine my project will feature similar viewpoints of Japanese society.

Sink (1999)  

The Tokyo Underground: Preparatory Notes

Below is an excerpt from my Project Proposal back in March 2014. The intended project was to be a site-specific piece of art using the Tokyo Underground for the location. Currently, I am in the process of making preparatory notes for the project Don’t Have Nightmares 0.2: The Tokyo Underground , documenting an aspect of Japanese social realism.  The Tokyo Underground. Provisionally speaking, the focus will be predominantly on confined spaces and the intensity of the rush hour.

AREAS OF RESEARCH

Site-specific art (artists/locations/mediums/exhibitions)

Tokyo Underground (history/maps/public signs & symbols/train designs/train times/statistical data/ /terrorist attacks)/train staff, uniforms,actions/graffiti/public services)

Japanese Social Realism- The Underground (commuters, actions, etiquette & train customs/Japanese subcultures/semiotics/suicides/ the rush hour)

 

March, 2014

Presently, I have one major project in mind which I am considering, it involves being site-specific and is a microcosm of Japanese society. I intend to use the Tokyo Underground as a work space. In the mid-90s, while an undergraduate at Bristol University, I was very inspired by a photographic exhibition titled ‘Workers’, by the Social Documentary photographer Sebastiao Salgado. His images reveal the kinds of extremities people have to endure in their daily working lives. Using the Tokyo Underground as the stage for my for my context, I intend to film at Shinjuku station and capture the everyday intensity that occurs each day during the rush hours.
Shinjuku station alone disgorges 900,000 passengers each morning, sucking them in again in the evening, some of the men (and they are mostly men) by now inebriated, before dumping them in their distant bedroom towns. Indeed, the commuting salaryman—the selfless company drone, one among a sea of dark suits pushed on to their morning train by white-gloved platform attendants—has as much claim to be Tokyo’s iconic figure as Christ the Redeemer has for Rio de Janeiro. The Economist, 2011
As an American journalist commented on CNN recently, “It’s just bodies squished as tightly as you can be into a small space. You can see people whose feet aren’t touching the ground sometimes because they are wedged in so tightly,” For my project, I hope to film sequences in the underground that exhibit the intense congestion within a small space (i.e. the train carriage). The rushes (footage) can then be animated using the rotoscope technique. As well as filming in the underground, I will also record visuals with a series of pencil sketches and photographs. The visuals will be included in the journal as part of the experimentation process.

 

The Ome Shack

This weekend I stayed with my in-laws (or ‘The Out-laws’ as I sometimes cheekily refer to them!) in Ome. Ome (Translation: Japanese apricot) is in the Kanto region of Japan; a beautiful, scenic area about an hour away by express train from central Tokyo. Unfortunately, my father-in-law hasn’t been very well in recent years so every now and again, when my mother-in-law needs assistance, I go up and help out.

Their bungalow is deep in the Ome countryside. A 25 minute walk or a 5 minute bus ride from Ome train station. Depending on weather conditions, I usually opt for the walk. It’s a pleasurable stroll through the old town, snapping ancient shop fronts and stunning decaying structures along the way then across the bridge and into the Hatanaka area. Whenever I’m in this part of the world, it’s a welcome relief to get away from Tokyo’s overbearing concreted metropolis and find myself engulfed in the natural surroundings.

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Their bungalow was built in the mid-60s and it still retains a lot of its original features though in a serious state of decay now. I’ve always been fascinated by the higgledy-piggledy interiors. Dated British sitcoms spring to mind; Steptoe & Son and Only Fools and Horses. In photographic terms, to some degree, I can see characteristics of Richard Billingham’s photobook, Ray’s a Laugh. Due to my mother-in-law’s reluctance to throw things away, the bungalow has become a cross between a bric-a-brac shop and a history museum.

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Each room is filled with objet d’ art and lost ephemera can be found everywhere. National and local newspapers stacked up high in the corners of each room. Collections of Badminton journals, books on botany, wildlife, cookery, judo etc dating back from the 70s and 80s.

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My mother-in-law’s shodo (Japanese calligraphy) proudly decorates some of the walls in the living room. The crème coloured washi paper now orangey brown. The sliding doors that no longer slide, nicotine stained walls, cat claw marks, crumpled boxes of vegetables, trays of dried fruits and chili peppers drying out, broken draws, cassettes, telephones, fax machines, empty boxes, greasy surfaces,  hole-ridden curtains, dead plants, turtles, the list is endless. Such a colourful visual spectacle!

Daniel Rozen’s The Wooden Mirror/’Kirishin’ Exhibition-Nobuyoshi Araki

After scanning the Tokyo Metropolis Arts and Entertainment guide last Thursday evening, I didn’t see much in the way of exhibitions which caught my attention. Then, I noticed that I had just missed an exhibition at the Bunkamura in Shibuya which featured a piece of work (The Wooden Mirror) by Daniel Rozen. I had noted him at The Digital Revolution for his innovative piece called Mirror Number 10. The Wooden Mirror follows similar themes to Mirror Number 10. See below:

Anyway, I decided that as I had not been a photography exhibition for a while, that would be my aim. Finally, I came across an exhibition by the photographer and contemporary artist, Nobuyoshi Araki. I’m familiar with his work which to some is considered extreme and disturbing, I suppose it depends on how you interpret his work. He’s collaborated with quite a few famous artists over the years. I recall a collaboration with the musician, Bjork back in the 90s. His current exhibition is called ‘Kirishin’. There isn’t a direct translation for this word but the nearest is something like cutting photos with sentimentality. Basically, a play on words but as I later found out, the artist had been recently diagnosed with retinal artery occlusion that has caused the loss of his right eye. This explained the title of his last exhibition, ‘Sagan No Koi’ (Love in the left eye) and connections to his current exhibition. The 30 photographs printed from slide film and then cut and pasted together. Most of the images depict urban areas, daily life and humour. The awkwardly cut images suggest his state of mind from the loss of his eye. I wasn’t awestruck by this work but what I did get out of it was how the emotional narrative was clearly evident in Araki’s work and the methods he used to convey his state of mind.

Image from Kirishin exhibition by Nobuyoshi Araki

‘Unexpected item in the bagging area’

While strolling down the Peckham Road earlier this week with a few students on my course, an ambulance with a screaming siren screeched past us interrupting our conversation. As a result, a conversation ensued about how loud emergency service sirens have become in recent years. Why is that? A thought occurred. Well, it is possible that as we now live in a ‘wired’ society, wearing headphones/ earphones and being preoccupied with our devices have blunted our street awareness and our peripheral vision. Just a thought. Anyway, back to sounds in the suburbs. We continued talking about annoying, familiar sounds you hear in shops especially supermarkets. The repetitive voices from the self-service check-out machines have seemed to replace background music. And for those of you that love a bit of trivia, a former well-known actor from the British TV soap Eastenders is one of the voices used on the self-service check-out. Check it out (excuse the pun).

Earlier Last year I made sound study while walking through a shop in Tokyo. The shop in question, Village Vanguard is regarded as Tokyo kitsch. The products are usually a mix of low-brow style with mass-produced art or design using popular Japanese or Western icons. The products can be quite pricey yet very popular among Japanese and foreigners. As I’m interested in retro industrial design, it’s a great place to kill time for a few hours. I’ve always been intrigued by the assortment of sounds that can be heard in these shops. Even though the sound quality in my film isn’t exactly high-tech (filmed with a basic Nikon digital point and shoot camera), you can get a general feeling of character and atmosphere inside the shop. Hopefully, I can follow this study up again but next time using an audio recorder.

TEST: First, try watching the film with your eyes closed. Imagine the visuals from the audio. Then, watch the film normally. Were your initial preconceptions similar or different?  Oh, and make sure to crank up the sound before listening!