Archives for the month of: January, 2012

The rhythms and facets of Tokyo are seductive; the hyper-metropolis is a beguiling alien world for the tourist; a never-ending grind for the salaryman; an intoxicating shopping bazaar for the well-heeled; an amusement park for the young.

Yet beyond the city’s 23 wards and out past the greater Tokyo area, at all points of the compass, the rhythms are predictably mellower, the seasons more pronounced, and some great experiences are to be had. Here’s a small taste.

Original images copyright : : winter onsen : jake jessop; rinno-ji : jason collin; torii ocean : charles glover; kamakura daibutsu : j-cha-ya

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One of the enduring postcard images of Japan is of a snowcapped Mount Fuji dominating the background, while a sleek, white bullet train cuts through the frame. The shinkansen, as it’s known in its homeland, is not only the sexiest train set out there; its serpentine silhouette cutting a futuristic path through the landscapes it traverses, it is the quintessentially iconic image of Japanese design and engineering ingenuity.

Original images : : copyright fuji train :; bullet : oimax @ flickr.

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Original images copyright – clockwise from top left :: visvim 2011; limi feu 2009; matohu 2009; phenomenon 2011

To the casual observer wandering through Shibuya or Shinjuku, it would appear that Tokyo’s fashion culture comprises the global chain store brands that dominate the area’s landscape: H&M, Forever 21, Bershka, Topshop, Zara and Gap. These, in addition to the country’s own mass-market fast fashion chains, Comme ça du mode, Uniqlo, Muji, and fashion labels like Paul Smith, Takeo Kikuchi and the boutiques of OIOI, seem worlds away from the avant-garde heyday of Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and co.

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Mika Ninagawa’s images are a kaleidoscopic explosion of color and shape that bring to mind early 20th Century art movements and Tokyo’s more excessive neon-lit cityscapes. The photographer/filmmaker is a media savvy, post-modern Matisse; she seamlessly traverses, in the style of Japanese creatives, the worlds of high art, pop culture and commerce to create striking works for photo exhibitions, magazine editorials, advertising campaigns, books and movie theaters. Her online presence extends to e-commerce, a blog and a dedicated mobile website.

Whatever the purpose of her images, she brings an auteur’s eye to her favorite motifs: flowers, exotic fish, cultural iconography and edgy, highly stylized pop portraits that borrow imagery and themes from – and inform – manga, the fashion industry, pop music and traditional theater.

All original images : : copyright Mika Ninagawa.

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