Observing traffic lights and basic road safety would seem to be the best option when it comes to avoiding accidents, but if nothing else, a Shinto blessing in the middle of a crossing is way better when it comes to urban visuals.
The great thing about summer in Tokyo is the festivals. The not so great thing about summer in Tokyo is that it’s summer.
On a similar, summer-related note, later this week I shall be leaving the intense heat and humidity of Japan and travelling for a month, meaning the usual three posts a week will be temporarily reduced to a much more manageable one. So, starting from today, there’ll only be a new photo each Monday. From August 21st, however, the usual Monday, Wednesday and Friday updates will resume as normal.
Recently, when putting together a set of traditional Japan images, I went back to the photograph of this intense looking Shinto priest from December 2012. A portrait that at the time seemed much better suited to black and white.
Now, however, I’m not nearly so convinced. In fact, if pushed to pick one or the other, I’d probably opt for colour.
This one-room little workshop in an old part of Tokyo was founded just over 90 years ago. Producing handmade tatami (traditional Japanese flooring mats), it’s both a business and a part of the local community — opening, as it does, onto the area’s little shopping street.
Going back to those early years, tatami was ubiquitous in Japanese homes, so presumably it would have been a decent money earner. The situation would also have been very similar when the original owner passed it on to his grandson, the man in the photo below.
Now, however, tatami is nowhere near as common as it once was. Neither, it has to be said, are such traditional little businesses. Younger generations simply aren’t interested in running them. So when the grandson, who is now himself a grandad, finally calls it a day, the shutters will come down on another part of Tokyo’s past.
Regardless of whether it’s hot or cold, fine or otherwise, this old Buddhist monk is almost always stood in the same spot. A display of patience and commitment that is nothing short of incredible. He diligently prays. Rarely seems to receive offerings. And when unintentionally provoked by an impolite foreigner, the displeasure he showed was characteristically fleeting.
Old and meticulously cared for bonsai are incredibly beautiful things. In our fast-moving, increasingly chaotic world, they are also objects of quiet, almost ethereal calm. Creations that elegantly take a stand against the prevailing desire for quick results or regular reinvention.
Nurtured and cared for over centuries, the trees’ anonymous and often long gone custodians neither craved for, or were rewarded with, any kind of recognition whatsoever. Instead, they were simply temporary guardians. Skilled practitioners granted the pleasure of such works of art, but at the same time given the far more important task of preserving their beauty for future generations.