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Japan, urban, walking

The Basho walk: starting

June 23, 2024

In late 2023 Suzanne and I spent 3-4 weeks in Japan during their autumn. Autumn is an inbetween time: summer is over and winter near. We had time in Tokyo, Morioka and Osaka as well as doing 2 walks: a Basho walk from Sendai to Yamadera and the Kumano Kodo pilgrim walk from Yuasa to Shingu. The Bashō walking tour,which started in Sendai, took place after we’d spent 5 days in Shinjuku, Tokyo and 3 days in Morioka.

The Bashō walking tour followed part of Matsuo Bashō’s third major journey to the north of Honshu. He sold his house in Fukagawa, Edo (now Tokyo) before he started travelling in 1689 with Kawai Sora, his travel companion for the most part, who also wrote a diary. Bashō and Sora travelled on foot about ten miles a day for about 5 months. The journey was approximately 720 miles and there were some 40 stations and stops on the journey through northern and central Honshu. Bashō returned to Edo in the winter of 1681 to a new house that was built for him. His travel sketch of that journey, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, is a blend of prose and haiku.

Rolleiflex SL66
Sendai, Honshu

Bashō and Sora entered the Tōhoku region of northern Honshu after walking 200 miles and they entered the city of Sendai in May 1689. This was Station 18. They stayed for several days before going to the scenic pine covered Matsushima islands via the town of Shiogama. Whilst in Sendai they were taken on a sightseeing tour of the area by a wood block artist and owner of a bookstore whom Basho identifies as Kaemon.Whereas Basho saw fields of bush clover, hills covered in blooming white rhododendrons, and dark pine woods I saw a large industrial city, the biggest in the Tōhoku region.

It was an overnight stay in Sendai as we arrived in the late afternoon and left the following morning for Matsushima. As my time for any exploratory urban photography was in the late afternoon before the tour briefing and dinner and early in the morning before breakfast I was limited to walking around the area near the hotel.

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Tokyo, urban, walking

The tourist (in Tokyo) as flâneur

December 11, 2023

The assumption underpinning the photography of my two previous posts —namely, In Tokyo and In Japan’s Railway Stations — was my mode of being as an international tourist in a post-3.11 Japan. This is a Japan that had been shaken up by the Great East Japan earthquake and the tsunami that caused the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident that was not supposed to happen. Nuclear technology was assumed to be perfectly safe and infallible. The triple regional disasters resulted in 16-20,000 deaths along the Pacific coast of the Tōhoku region of fishing ports, farms, communities and towns. Picturing the Invisible is an exhibition, which brings together artists working with photography and film in the affected territories, to examine the lingering legacies of  3.11.

The Japanese redevelopment strategy post WW2 war segregated energy production in the rural areas from consumption and development in the metropolitan areas. Nuclear risk was concentrated in aging and poor regions such as Tōhoku, and metropolises such as Tokyo were protected from a distance. The role of the Tōhoku region was to be  the supplier of energy, labor force, industrial resources and food for the benefit of metropolises. It was by design that Fukushima bore the burden of the nuclear calamity whilst life in Tokyo for the most part  continued as if nothing had happened.  Today, the state has been trying to seal off Fukushima’s contaminated and unruly  body while the local residents try to protect their community at the cost of their lives.

Being a tourist in Japan for us did not include dark tourism ie., visiting a radiated Fukushima and the depopulated surrounding areas with their ageing communities. Our only contact was briefly stopping at the railway station in Fukushima when we were on the Shinkansen. My understanding of the figure of the tourist in a postmodern city such as Tokyo is that it has an essential relationship to that of the flâneur in early European modernity (Paris).

The relationship is one of drifting through the city — Tokyo, Morioka, Sendai and Osaka — haphazardly strolling, taking in and photographing the appearance of the city through a chance gaze. I was drawn to things and people that I encountered by chance. The difference is that the figure of the tourist is emblematic of the consumption-based society of late capitalism with its intensive commodification of the tourist spaces.

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Adelaide, architecture, photography, publishing, walking

Walking Adelaide

April 29, 2022

In the light of the recent attacks to, and hacks of, two of my WordPress websites –ie., Thoughtfactory and Mallee Routes — I have been looking at Square Space for the Walking Adelaide project. The project has basically outgrown Posthaven’s  simple  blog format that I have been using up to now. Outgrown in the sense that the Walking Adelaide project  needs galleries, a blog and text in the form of some critical writing about the city, modernity and photography.

The Posthaven blog replaced an early poodlewalks blog on a free WordPress blog –that I used when I was living in Adelaide’s CBD That old WordPress blog was deleted when poodlewalks was upgraded into its own website, after we’d shifted to living in Encounter Bay on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. The poodlewalks in Adelaide’s CBD stopped and they only took place in the Fleurieu Peninsula. Turning to Posthaven plugged the gap.

Sony A7 R111
Sky City Casino

Rather than building another WordPress website to develop the Walking Adelaide project I turned to Square Space.  Turned in the sense of playing around with a demo template to see whether it would be suitable for the project. The upside of Square Space is that they have the responsibility for blocking the hacks, rather than me. The downside is that they charge $16 per month for the template and hosting when I already hosting my own websites.

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