Riverside campsites with small cabins aren’t uncommon at all in the Japanese countryside. This place, however, is different. For starters it has clearly been abandoned for decades, but what makes it truly special are the one-time lodgings and their accompanying shower huts. Compact and decidedly basic accommodation that must have looked quite novel back in the day, but now, all overgrown and slowly disintegrating, they are what I can only describe as rather gloriously grim.
Traditional shotengai (shopping streets) are everywhere in Tokyo. Areas both big and small that are always interesting due to their independent little stores and eateries. For me personally, however, it’s the older and decidedly rundown ones that are the most appealing, and due to the people in particular, they are places well worth regular re-visits. An approach that allows for a more accurate and thorough document of both the streets and their structures.
That desire to return again and again was something I felt keenly when in Osaka recently, as the dated shotengai there are truly fascinating. Long, criss-crossing and mostly covered streets that while similar to those in the capital, also feel quite different. Routes that I walked back and forth for days. A period of time that was both fulfilling and, it has to be said, slightly frustrating, as the more I saw, the more I wanted to return. Unfortunately that won’t be anytime soon, so until I do, here is a small taste of what I witnessed.
There’s nothing at all remarkable about this small and sleepy coastal town. Like so many places outside Japan’s major hubs, its better days are long gone, with signs of that slow decline visible almost everywhere. And yet in many ways that makes it as fascinating as it is faded. A real mixture of the now and then, the before and after. All of which create scenes that are completely mundane and yet at the same time quietly compelling.
Before the photos, just a quick note to say I’ll be leaving Japan’s shores for the summer this week, so from today, new posts will be reduced to one every Tuesday. Then, from September 5th, the usual Tuesday and Friday updates will resume.
There’s invariably a lot of coverage detailing Japan’s cutting edge technology and Tokyo’s futuristic looks, but an awful lot of that modernity is little more than a thin veneer over what is in many ways a dated and ageing society. That said, it is changing — at least appearance wise anyway, with a lot of history being unceremoniously erased. And yet so much remains. Little vignettes of the past that still sit firmly in the present. These old shops then are examples of that. All of which were photographed during the last month in Osaka, Hyogo and Tokyo.
Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the benefit of re-visiting various streets, areas and locations. Primarily it’s because the people are always different, plus in a city that changes as fast as Tokyo, it’s not uncommon for the buildings to be completely different too.
The photos below are an example of both those elements, although somewhat unusually, the structure’s appearance gradually changes over the seasons. Also, there was the unexpected benefit of a new vantage point. A view I hoped would be worth the effort, but getting up there had always remained elusive. Until the other week that is. So here it is. The first frame in the series. An image that further emphasises how this long-term hotel for some of Tokyo’s poorest residents has been almost completely consumed by nature. Along with that shot are the other photos I’ve taken over the years — minus of course the many I’ve wanted, but have never got, on more visits than I care to recall.
Japan has plenty of old and dated coffee shops. Establishments that look and feel like they belong in a completely different era. At the same time, it’s a spell that can easily be broken by a TV playing in the corner, or even something minor like a modern appliance or menu.
This almost 80 year old establishment, on the other hand, has no such distractions. Everything from the dust and grime to the ageing proprietor takes you back to an earlier time. A business that has been in the owner’s family since its inception, and with coffee only costing ¥160 a cup, it’s very clearly love rather than money that keeps him going. For how much longer it’s impossible to say, but until the day it finally closes, it’ll remain a place that is truly like no other.