The serene, almost ethereal beauty of traditional Japan, and the contrasting clamour of modern Tokyo.
Gambling is fairly restricted in Japan, but as well as the very popular horses, there is keirin, and, a little more unusually, boat racing (kyotei). Yet despite the latter in particular being the sport of kings pitifully poor relative, on a sunny day it does at least offer a surprisingly pleasant setting.
The novelty of extremely powerful little boats whizzing round an oval course, however, does rather quickly wear off, and pretty soon it just becomes about the winning — of money. No soaking up the sun and enjoying the view. Not even a relaxing time communing with the koi. Just heads down, guide studying gambling.
The boat racing powers that be on the other hand are much more inclined to push the sport’s supposedly sexy side, with ads and promotional posters often painting it in a ludicrously glamorous light. Sometimes even in a futuristic, utterly unfathomable light too. Scenes that are about as far from the reality as it’s possible to get.
With the call to ‘be dynamite’ lost in way more than mere translation.
Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, is quite rightly famous for its beautiful mountains, caldera lakes and rolling hills. Natural splendours that are a huge draw for skiers in winter, and sightseers of all ages in the mercifully more temperate summer.
But that’s not the whole picture. For starters, there’s a fair bit of heavy industry, which offers a decidedly stark contrast to the tourist attracting scenery. Plus the population shift to the big cities that is having a huge impact on Japan as a whole, is arguably even more pronounced in parts of Hokkaido — with previously documented towns like Muroran suffering enormously. And to make matters worse, these factors are further exacerbated by employment limitations and an ageing population, creating a very different side to the region indeed. One that’s much more bleak, than beautiful.
A situation that’s especially true by the sea, resulting in long stretches of coastline that have been battered by both the weather and socioeconomic forces. Leaving an oddly quiet.
Incredibly forlorn looking landscape.
Where the harshness of the region’s bitterly cold winters are all too easy to imagine.
Although despite the obvious hardship, on a very early spring day when these photographs were taken, there were hints of what pleasures summer may bring.
Or if not pleasure, then at least something of a reprieve.