This is an old post that I deleted by accident when I transferred my blog from zuco.org to blog.zuco.co Many people asked me about this post, it seems that many of them linked it in their sites getting a broken link. Sorry for that! I decided to put it back and update it a little bit. Also the redirection is fixed so old links will point to the right place. Here we go:
I was always interested in photography, but it was in Tokyo where I really got myself into it. Tokyo is a special city and Japan, in general, is an amazing country. Not the amazingness that you can expect from a merely touristic point of view. Japan is special in so many ways: culture, architecture, language, food, design… The list can run endlessly.
I matured my photography mainly in Tokyo, using the environment, the streets, the night. I did this so many times per week during so many years. I trained my mind to dig into the landscape in front of me and find those particular details that inspired me to take a picture and tell a story.
After spending a couple of months in Europe I realized that I’m not trained, I’m quite lost. My brain searches using a pattern that doesn’t work in EU. Why? Well, the only conclusion I came out with is that I matured my skills and experience in photography in an environment that is unique. I didn’t start photography traveling, working on assignments or for money. I just started doing it as a hobby and it became a passion.
Why Japan is so special for photography:
- Security!! This is the most unique characteristic. It’s safe to go everywhere, at any time. It doesn’t matter if the streets are dark, empty or crowded. People don’t bother you, everybody ignores everybody in the streets. Even if you are surrounded by people, you can feel perfectly alone.
Security let me total freedom carrying the equipment I wanted. I could go beyond what I really needed. It is very important to learn what you really need and what you really use. I moved from carrying a huge bag to just a couple of selected lenses. I didn’t have to hide my equipment, I didn’t have to cover the camera maker or serial number to avoid calling attention. I didn’t have to choose a bag that is hard to be stolen. I could choose a bag thinking in my convenience first.
- You can find 24h convenience stores or drink selling machines in every corner, which makes it so easy to eat or take a refreshment in a photowalk. I didn’t have to bring any food or bottle with me
- It’s so easy to buy any kind of photo gear ever made on earth. Second hand shops are amazing and electronic department stores let you play with every new camera. It’s possible to experiment with almost everything!
- Architecture in Tokyo is so disruptive at every corner. You can find a huge modern building followed by an old wooden one. There is no architecture order which I find fascinating, specially for an European point of view. We are so used to “normalization”, that the architecture landscape in Europe looks the same at every corner. There is no freedom to build whatever the heck you want, everything has to “conform” with that cylon-like-“perfect”-architectural design that, sooner or later, becomes tremendously boring. I find architecture in Tokyo amazing, like many other mayor cities in Japan, and it shows the difference between Japanese gardens and European ones. In Europe we have beautiful gardens but they are obviously fake. I mean, everyone can understand that the garden didn’t grow in that way naturally. Everything is perfectly shaped, ordered and geometrical. Japanese gardens, on the other hand, express their beauty while keeping a natural design. The line between artificial and natural is so blur. The same happens with architecture. Even if many Japanese friends of mine say that Tokyo is an ugly city, I find it fascinating because the concrete jungle evolves as a living being, with disruptions, discrepancies, and lack of order and geometry, typical of natural environments.
- I can find a lot of old things which are not ancient ones. There are ancient constructions that survived the pass of time, but they are few and located in specific areas. Cities renew themselves very quickly, so you won’t find a stone building from the XIV century still in use. Anyway, in Europe you can not really travel in time. You can realize that an ancient building is from another era, but just that building, not the whole atmosphere around. In Japan people wait until something really breaks before trashing it out. So it’s very easy to find places frozen in the 50’s or 70’s. That contrast gives a lot of opportunities to get interesting photographs. You can literally travel in time. Some restaurants or some areas in old train stations, didn’t change during the last 30 or 40 years while others are just ahead in the future.
- The night in Tokyo is magic. The lights, colors, specially after the rain, are awesome. The lights reflected in the streets, or those that appear through those transparent umbrellas, or the taxis, or the small ambulant shops selling ramen… or the infinite other fantastic places that inspire you out to take a picture, those are Tokyo’s magic.
- Districts in Tokyo change so much in terms of atmosphere, people, ages, style. It’s totally different walking in Shimokitazawa or in Shinjuku, Shibuya or Shinbashi. Each zone has its own different urban culture.
These are the main reasons I think enjoying photography in Japan is so different and unique respect other countries. Security and a strong civic sense are the main ones by the way.
Beautiful time-lapse video of Tokyo. I specially like the different approach from other timelapses that I saw until now. The mirror effect, the different cameras used and the non conventional view points. It’s really amazing, ++++
Created for the Tommy Hilfiger store gallery wall 2012. Shot on Nikon D700, Canon 5DMII, GoPro HD Hero 1 and 2, Ricoh Digital GRIII.
Created by Remo Camerota, Edited by Hisako Emura, Music By The Rapid Ear Movement (Remo Camerota)
If you cannot see the video, check here direct link.
The term flyjin has been created in the twitter world of foreigners and expats living in Japan.
It’s a kind of a derivative joke from the word “gaijin” which in some context is a pejorative term of the formal “gaikokujin” meaning “foreigner”. Basically “flyjin” means, the man/woman that flies away.
This term was born due to the huge number of foreigners leaving Japan and flying away after the great Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Crisis
Everyone has his/her own reasons to take that decision, specially people with kids fearing a possible nuclear contamination or strong aftershocks. Anyway, all this “flyjin phenomenon” has been also criticized, mainly by some Japanese individuals and companies. For some people, this behavior was considered as a betrayal to Japan by many foreigners.
I didn’t leave the country, I didn’t get in panic so I’m not a flyjin, but I want to explain the reasons that justified the behavior of so many people. It’s perfectly understandable and human considering the information and the reality of foreigners in Japan.
Many Japanese don’t know how was this crisis from a foreigner perspective. So, if you are a Japanese reader or not, this is what a “gaikokujin” experienced:
- Earthquakes are not a common thing! Japan is maybe the most ready and better informed country in the world about earthquakes. Japanese learn since primary school how to protect themselves, what an earthquake is, and what it could feel like. It’s something you learn since you are a kid. I’m not saying that Japanese are used to earthquakes, but they have a better understanding of them. This is not the same for other countries. Even countries which historically suffered earthquakes, are not ready as Japan is. So the normal and natural reaction is fear, doubt and for some people, panic.
- Many embassies called directly to their nationals saying “would you like to come back? we have a free-ticket flight for you!”. Some embassies even told to their nationals: “You should consider to leave the country!”. So what is the common reaction, when you live in a foreign country and your embassy calls you telling that you should leave and that they have free-flights for you? It’s quite normal and human, specially for people with kids, to leave! Personally I don’t believe in any government or embassy or media, but the common behavior is to believe in your own government.
- Foreign media over reacted and manipulated the information, providing sensationalistic news of what was going on here. Families living abroad, started to believe what media said and called their relatives in Japan saying to please leave, go away, radiations will kill you! That’s also natural and human. People tend to believe in TV and they don’t think. That’s a problem of Media Literacy, and it happens everywhere.
Of course we cannot deny that the situation was critical, thousands of people died due to the tsunami and the danger and fear of the evolution of the nuclear crisis, which kept everyone of us, Japanese and foreigners, in constant tension. But that’s not a justification for the manipulation and sensationalism made by many foreign media.
As an example of what foreign media said about this crisis, here you have some images of Spanish newspapers. This kind of news were almost a clone of all other newspapers around Europe. So just imagine, if you are in a foreign country and you see your own newspapers saying this, and your family read this, what are you going to do?
Translating from the left:
“Japan a country of phantoms…”, “Exodus in Tokyo”, “Nuclear Leak in Japan”
“Fukushima is out of control”, “Leak without control”
“Nuclear Panic”, “Japan looses control and UE says: Nuclear Apocalypse”, “Apocalypse Now?”
This is the reality from the (gaikokujin) foreigner perspective. Embassies recommending to evacuate and alerting of an imminent nuclear disaster or destructive aftershocks. News going crazy spreading out the panic and running in sensationalism. Families begging to come back home. Under those circumstances, it’s normal and human to take the decision to leave and protect your own family.
Why I didn’t become a flyjin? Well, basically I don’t believe in any government. Neither the Japanese, neither Europeans, Americans or whatever other country. I didn’t believe the media in this crisis. I just tried to apply common sense, reading as many different sources as possible, reading articles from physics and scientists. Remember what is going on now in the reactor is science, it’s physics and those laws cannot be changed by politicians, journalists or any ecologist group.
Sources: The pictures of the Spanish newspapers are from “los ojos de ella“.