Using a Ricoh GRD III and a Nikon DSLR to photograph streets, people, architecture and anything else that catches my eye.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Japan that survived the war

As we all know, Japan was at war with the rest of the world around seventy years ago.  It was a war that would change Japan forever. Thankfully, they have since become an incredibly peaceful nation, an economic power house, and are a most important nation of wonderful people.  One of the effects of the war on Japan itself was the heavy damage to the majority of their cities, especially as much of their architecture was of timber construction.  Japan has since re-built and re-built, using concrete as most modern cities around the world.

I have spent quite a lot of time in Japan, and one of the things that always strikes me about their architecture is the general squareness and somewhat drabness of the design.  For example, Tokyo and Osaka both have modern and quite interesting skyscrapers at their centres; but then there is a massive urban sprawl which extends for twenty or thirty miles in all directions. Most of these buildings are not exactly pleasant on the eye.  This is counterbalanced by the colour and vibrance of the amazing streets in and around city and town centres.  It really is like another world of future-tastic weirdness; automated and electronic, confusing and exciting all at the same time. Amongst all this modernity are little pockets of surviving antiquity, in the form of shrines, temples and the odd castle.

The one city which was spared a lot of damage during the war was Kyoto.  There are hundreds of surviving wooden buildings in kyoto, full of cutlural history and important reminders of how Japan once looked.  Of course Kyoto is as modern as any other Japanese city, but retains many of its historical architecture in the very centre and in the surrounding hill sides.

I spent quite a while wandering around the older parts of Japan. I found these places quite beautiful in their simplicity. These are not designed with the size and grandeur of European historical buildings. There are no massive cathedrals with statues of stone, coloured stained glass  windows, huge painted ceilings in the michaelangelo style. Most of the historical places of culture in Japan are of a simple style, conveying endless calm and meditation.  Beauty is drawn from nature itself through the design of gardens and ponds.  Stone and timber are formed for practicality and engineered for purpose. 

Here are a few images of Japan's cutural surviors taken with my old Olympus C8080 WZ.  These shots are generally straight out of the camera, with a little cropping and straightening.

 Kyoto                                                                           Miyajima

Himeji                                                                           Himeji

Japan of course is also under constant attack from mother nature. Situated in one of the most active earthquake proned zones, the islands of Japan also contain a string of volcanoes (mostly dormant nowadays); together with a summer season of  dangerous typhoons which batter most cities along the Pacific coast.  So many of the historical wonders of Japan have infact been restored or re-built throughout it's history.

Kyoto                                                                          Matsuyama

Miyajima                                                                       Miyajima

Next post will show the chaotic electro cityscape of modern Japan.  A far cry from these images.


Michael Gatton said...

These are beautiful - the subject matter, composition, color, Very nice. I particularly like the ones with some detail in the foreground, like the post and the lantern, but they all work together as a collection. And straight out of the camera? Even more impressive.

Anonymous said...

It is nice to be on your Japanese photography tour :)
"Next post will show the chaotic electro cityscape of modern Japan"
I like this sentence and expecting more goodies!
Thank you :)

Gerry's Blog said...

Bill the photos are beautiful, from the colors to the composition and subject matter. How long were you in Kyoto?

Bill Wellham said...

Cheers all!

Gerry... My wife is from Osaka, which is only about 40 minutes away from Kyoto by local train. So although I have not lived there for a proper amount of time, I have visited many times. Kyoto is probably my favourite city in Japan.

btw.. the above photos are not all Kyoto. I have added place name captions. These were just the best images of old Japan taken with that camera. I will show more images taken with my Nikon eventually.