Sometimes they come back

Hey you bastards, I’m still here! — Papillon

Yes, yes… I know, I have already used this quote once!

But nothing would fit better here now, after so long.

As a matter of fact I have almost decided it is about time to put a stop to the rotting process of this solitary and abandoned blog. Not really because my life has finally reached a destination or my activities got so rich and rewarding to deserve boasting and the awe of a public. Quite rather for the opposite reason… Yes, having time in my hands and having been spending previously quite some time doing things and littering other social networks with posts, comments and data collections about those things – and now I am sort of loosing track of them all – I figured it would be a good a-posteriori archive for them. Therefore, from now on, I am going to track down, re-edit (where necessary), and re-post here the most interesting of those materials.

Nothing really relevant or unheard of, mostly photography stuff and lens reviews, with sample pictures. But, since I have widely taken advantage so far of on-line data and personal experiences and remarks of other, finding them quite useful despite their ‘aged’ nature sometime, I once more realized that leaving behind me my own, could in turn bring help to others. After all, we survives to ourselves only through what we do and the memory we leave of it. And in all of us there is a peacock of some size striving for a highlight under which showing off its colorful tail…

So stay tuned.

 

 

Strange architectures

“The architecture we remember is that which never consoles or comforts us.” – Peter Eisenman

Takao Mikoromo Reido, Hachihoji, Tokyo. Michele Marcolin ©

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As you may remeber from a post of about one year ago, I had an interest toward this building since a while, being very well visible from the train station of change for Mt. Takao where I head from time to timefor my hiking trips. Looking way too fancy for a traditional jinja, a tera or even an indian-like stupa, I even though it might have been the main building of one of the several rich religious sects for which Japan is so famous. As a matter of fact, you can hardly find any detail about it on interenet, except for a few pictures by turists like me going to Takao and left with their perplexities. Therefore, as anticipated back then, I went paying a visit to it two days ago, right before the first ascent of the year.

It is called Takao Mikoromo Reido 高尾みころも霊堂 and it is a religious building dedicated to the commemoration of more than 250.000 souls of people who perished during work as a result of accidents since the end of WW2. Erected by initiative of the Japan Organization of Occupational Health and Safety, it was completed and opened by June 1972. It is an 11 stories 65 m. high building of not really exagerated artistic design, made of steel and concrete, and it is dedicated to the memory of 248.148 souls, while housing the ashes of 4273 people. The building can be visited upon payment of a 200 yen ticket. However not much is there to be seen inside: on the top floor the sancta sanctorum has its apex right under the central pinnacle in a small building-like urn symbolizing the collective burial. At its back two statuatues and some paintings can be seen. On the other floors, spaces for meetings, prayers, altars and burial structures for the ashes of the people buried there. The garden, instead, is fairly large, well kept, with a pond of water filled up with carps and turtles, and it can make a good spot for relaxing, walking or enjoying the chill during hot summer days. It is said to be the one and only building of this kind in Japan.

While I can not really suggest investing your time/money to go checking it out on purpose, the building itself is pretty singular and it makes quite a interesting architectural landmark, placed as it is in the middle of the woods of a mountain, therefore you may prefer go taking a look at it, if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

Images & commentary details: Michele Marcolin ©

Homepage: http://www.sajiho.or.jp/index.html

 

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The eye of the storm

“When you are in the eye of the storm, you are often not aware of the whiplash around you” — Hugh Bonneville

Mori Tower, Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan. Michele Marcolin ©

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Mori Bldg. into the storm, from the only relatively mayhem-free, dry and wind covered spot. This is by far one of the worst architectural complexes I have seen, when it comes to bad weather. Supposedly there are covered passages and architecturally implicit dry spaces; nonetheless water runs everywhere and, being on a shallow hill, the structure conspire in powering up wind around it. Never a day I went there (not in summer) that you could stay without guard against a cold or worst because of the wind gushes. Better bring your bathrobe and an inflatable boat in bad weather. lol

Showakan

“They say stay in the lines, but there’s always something better on the other side” — John Mayer

National Showa Memorial Museum. Kudanshita, Tokyo, Japan. Michele Marcolin ©

E-M1 + Lumix 14 mm F2.5 | Art (Drama) ƒ7.1 1/500 ISO 640

E-M1 + Lumix 14 mm F2.5 | Art (Drama) ƒ7.1 1/500 ISO 640

Designed by Kikutake Kiyonori, National Showa Memorial Museum was completed in 1999 and it is commonly referred to as the “Showakan”. It is a national museum and it primarily displays items illustrating the lifestyles of the Japanese people, especially by the families of the war victims, during and after World War II (the Shōwa period in the Japanese calendar), providing younger people with an opportunity to learn about this era in Japans history. Apparently the museum is a sort of response to strong lobbying by the Japan War-Bereaved Families Association, whose headquarters are in the adjacent Kudan Hall. The museum was completely renovated in 2013. The first section – one entire floor – is devoted to life during wartime, with sections covering conscription, life under government control, food rationing, changes in the education system, and preparations for urban air raids.  On the second floor the post-war period is the focus, with an eye on economic hardship followed by gradual recovery. Rice cookers, washing machines, radios and black-and-white TV sets hint at Japan’s future as a manufacturing power later in the century.

E-M1 + Lumix 14 mm F2.5 | Art (Drama) ƒ7.1 1/500 ISO 640

E-M1 + Lumix 14 mm F2.5 | Art (Drama) ƒ7.1 1/500 ISO 640

E-M1 + Lumix 14 mm F2.5 | Art (Drama) ƒ7.1 1/500 ISO 640

E-M1 + Lumix 14 mm F2.5 | Art (Drama) ƒ7.1 1/500 ISO 640

E-M1 + Lumix 14 mm F2.5 | Art (Drama) ƒ7.1 1/500 ISO 640

E-M1 + Lumix 14 mm F2.5 | Art (Drama) ƒ7.1 1/500 ISO 640

E-M1 + Lumix 14 mm F2.5 | Art (Drama) ƒ7.1 1/500 ISO 640

E-M1 + Lumix 14 mm F2.5 | Art (Drama) ƒ7.1 1/500 ISO 640

Cocoon tower

A structure becomes architectural, and not sculptural, when its elements no longer have their justification in nature — Guillaume Apollinaire

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Michele Marcolin ©

Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan. Michele Marcolin ©

E-M1 + Lumix 14 mm F2.5 | Art (Drama) ƒ4 1/200 ISO 640

Designed by Tange Associates Architects and completed in 2008, Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower is a 204-metre 50-story educational facility that houses three schools with approximately 10,000 students. The building’s elliptic shape, wrapped in a criss-cross web of diagonal lines, embodies the “cocoon” concept. Unlike typical horizontally laid out school campuses, the limited size of the site challenged architects to develop a new typology of educational architecture. Three rectangular classroom areas rotate 120 degrees around the inner core. From the 1st to the 50th floor, these rectangular classroom areas are arranged in a curvilinear form. The inner core consists of an elevator, staircase and shaft. The elliptic shape permits more ground space to be dedicated to landscaping at the building’ s narrow base, while the narrow top portion of the tower allows unobstructed views of the sky.

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Odaiba

“The Metropolis should have been aborted long before it became New York, London or Tokyo” — John Kenneth Galbraith
18 frs. panorama of Tokyo from Odaiba. Tokyo, Japan. Michele Marcolin ©
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E-M1 + Olympus M.12-40mm F2.8 | A ƒ7.1 1/125 ISO 320

It has almost become my new masterpiece, both for composition and quality. But my previous 29 frs. pano from Yokohama Marine Tower still remain unmatched, in my opinion. The day was clearer and the vintage point was better. But I fell in love with those stones on the shore paired by the two towers on the right! You can check it on Flickr for better detail (https://www.flickr.com/photos/liveactionhero/19759792089/), if interested. I had to shrink down the file as the original is more than 6 meter wide on native format.
I have taken this picture last week during an improvised exit to Odaiba, the newly (not so much anymore) built island in front of Tokyo. It is quite an impressive place for architecture and modernity lovers. But personally it gives me rather strange feelings: mismanagement of space, desire to emulate other and far better realized modern international architectural spaces, a touristic-commercial attraction with not much or original to offer. Honestly speaking, I really have the feeling of being in Tokyo Disney over there: everything is so artificial and fake, with the only really grotesque difference lying in the fact that to Tokyo Disney I can have fun because I know it is fake and imperfection, incoherence, absurdity is part of it; in Odaiba it is for real! Fake international restaurants, fake lungomare walks, fake attractions, foreign music… Imagine to be in a recreated Kyoto on the shore of Muscle Beach in L.A. Something like that. But there are no kakuremicky to search for in intersections of tiles or decorative patterns, and no daily night fireworks show, as in Disney Sea. lol
Only one thing it is unquestionable: it makes an outstanding point to get a view on the Tokyo metropolis from outside. And what a glance! A ride down there in late afternoon is a must if you are in Tokyo and you have some bills to invest in a fancy dinner on a terrace restaurant. But watch out for your shoe when you rush back before midnight, when trains stop and leave you in the middle of the bay… lol
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Rainbow Bridge by night 2

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A gateway... very long... to another dimension. A photocomposition, of course! ;-)

“Every dollar spent on nuclear is one less dollar spent on clean renewable energy and one more dollar spent on making the world a comparatively dirtier and a more dangerous place, because nuclear power and nuclear weapons go hand in hand.” —Mark Z. Jacobson

Kyshtym 57’s accident memoral. Kystym, Chelyabinsk, Russia. Marcolin Michele ©

Nikon D3S + Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 DI VC USD | ƒ/5.6  1/200  ISO 400

Nikon D3S + Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 DI VC USD | ƒ/5.6 1/200 ISO 400

When you type Kyshtym or Kyshtym disaster in Google a whole lot of sites, blogs, anti-nuclearist & ecologist pages come up together with the Wikipedia lemma, which is actually the only thing you should be required to read: most of the others, with just a very few exceptions – that can be counted on the fingers of a handless person – are just rephrased junk piles  with stolen or vaguely modified graphics. Why I can say this? Because me and my colleagues have addressed it as main subject of our first episode of the documentaries series we are working on on world pollution. So, we not only have detailed information about how little is known about it, but we also have first hand testimony from the survivors and people involved in what happened to be the first ever known nuclear accident in history. An event that former Soviet Union tried to hide for as long as possible, and also USA did not do much to help in disclosing it: they knew about it since one or two years after it. They just preferred keeping it silent since they had the same problem: a lot of nuclear waste which was stored in an analogous manner and a lot of plutonium production, which generated it and that the country was claiming it was just a pice of cake, if it ever mentioned it at all. Regrettably for the area hit by what was later known as the catastrophe of Kyshtym ’57 it was just the beginning: the first of a long series of very absurd and grave accidents that doomed the area and the population that inhabited (and still do) it and that was used as guinea pigs for years.

The image in question was taken on October 2013 on the occasion of the interview of one of the witness and survivor of the explosion, that we decided to do right in front of the monument.

We just happened to win the Ekotopfilm film festival with one of our documentary about it, Living Toxic, not yet available in its definitive version.

I give you here also the trailer of the other documentary we just completed Behind the Urals: the Nightmare before Chernobyl, which differently from the previous one – which addresses also other forms of pollution in that area – it deals solely with the nuclear issue (cf. previous post).

You are just fine with Wikipedia for now about it. But here below I just summarize briefly the happening.

On the 29th September 1957 the cooling systems of one of the waste storage tanks of Mayak’s secret plutonium producing nuclear compound failed and the temperature began to rise triggering a chemical explosion within the tank at around 16:30. The explosion resulted in the ejection of radioactive material into the surrounding environment and an aerosol plume that caused a dry fallout over an area some 30-50 km in width and some 300 km in length to the north-north east of the Mayak facility (later caller EURT: the East Ural Radioactive trace). Approximately 90% of the 740 PBq of mixed fission products released were deposited as particulate material within 5 km of the tank whilst the remaining 74 PBq of radioactive material was deposited by the plume fall-out. At least 22 villages where exposed to radiation from the disaster with a total population of around 10,000 were evacuated. Some were evacuated after a week but it took almost 2 years for evacuations to occur at other sites.
The maximum contamination density was found to be close to the site of the explosion itself and attained levels of 150 MBq/m2 90Sr. In the early phase of the accident aftermath, the external dose to humans from gamma radiation was greater than the dose received internally from ingested radioactivity. Some 270 days after the accident, the external and internal doses had equalised and thereafter the external dose began to decrease relatively to the internal. After 9-12 days, cases of acute radiation disease were observed in farm animals with a subsequent lethal outcome. One year after the accident, surface contamination levels had decreased due to radioactive decay but resuspension of contaminated soil particles by wind and rain was observed resulting in the continued contamination of vegetation and agricultural products. In time a decline in levels of radioactivity within the EURT occurred as short lived isotopes decayed away. Within two years, isotopes such as 95Zr, 95Nb and 144Ce had ceased to constitute a significant proportion of the contaminant load and the main isotope of concern was 90Sr due to its 28.8 years half-life time. Further utilisation of the area was temporarily banned but in 1961 reclamation of the area was initiated. As of today, some 180 km2 near the site of the explosion are still officially off-limits.

Misplaced robots

“I am definitely not a fucking toaster.” ― Jim Chaseley

Gundam art on a shop. Kamiigusa, Tokyo, Japan. Michele Marcolin ©

E-M1 + Olympus ED 40-150 F3.5-4.5 | ƒ/3.5  1/320  ISO 400

E-M1 + Olympus ED 40-150 F3.5-4.5 | ƒ/3.5 1/320 ISO 400

Calling a taxi out of the station. Kamiigusa, Tokyo, Japan. Michele Marcolin ©

E-M1 + Olympus ED 40-150 F3.5-4.5 | ƒ/3.5  1/500  ISO 400

E-M1 + Olympus ED 40-150 F3.5-4.5 | ƒ/3.5 1/500 ISO 400

Talking about Gundam,  I am pretty sure that everybody, or almost, concerned with it, are aware of the whereabouts of the giant statue in Odaiba: a sort of touristic landmark… quite big and impressive (I never ventured down there to see it so far, I have only seen many vids and pictures), but fundamentally quite misplaced. It is simply there because a lot of young people gather or visit there and the place is so large it had to be filled with something huge.

Most of the times, however, you stumble on testimonials of what really made the history of Japan and its productions in the least expected places, in any sort of fashion: small, much ignored by many, but therefore much more cherished by the few acquainted with them, they really pop up from behind a corner; outside a station or on the roller-door of a shop.  Sunrise Inc. studios, who gave birth to the first series of Gundam, lies not in bombastic Odaiba, but here in twilight-zone Kami-igusa, where today I went shopping for groceries by bicycle from my station. Recalling the interest of my Italian friends in the past, I finally decided to take a couple of shots, despite the unappealing weather. The large image is a 3 frames photo merge panorama. I expected to shot trains or people mostly, so I went out with a 40-150 mm zoom, which did not have enough width to fit the large shop entrance.

Behind the Urals

“For 50 years, nuclear power stations have produced three products which only a lunatic could want: bomb-explosive plutonium, lethal radioactive waste and electricity so dear it has to be heavily subsidised. They leave to future generations the task, and most of the cost, of making safe sites that have been polluted half-way to eternity” — James Buchan

Behind the Urals. The nightmare before Chernobyl. Documentary poster.

Behind the Ural. The Nightmare before Chernobil. Mondo in Cammino Production © 2015

Behind the Ural. The Nightmare before Chernobil. Mondo in Cammino Production © 2015

Did you think that Chernobyl was the first, right? Well, think again!

This is going to be the official poster of our last documentary. A real journey into a forgotten and little known past, that the catastrophe of Chernobyl – with all the mayhem it has brought – helped revealing. We went tracking the places and the survivors of the three worst hidden nuclear incidents that happened in former Soviet Union, in the area of Chelyabinsk, between 1949 and 196, way before Chernobyl. Over 500.000 people involved; more than 20 time worse than Chernobyl; thousands of people used as guinea pigs; hundred of thousand liters of untreated and highly radioactive waste dumped directly into rivers used by the population for decades.

This is just one chapter of the work we are doing. Hopefully the others of a series we like to call Living Toxic will follow in the future, time and money permitting. I will tell you more about this thing later on, as it is serious stuff and it needs time and attention for the relative data. Ah… who’s the we? Me, photographer Pierpaolo Mittica and director Alessandro Tesei.

Documentary trailer: here!

Water and faith

“Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams – they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do – they all contain truths” — Muhammad Ali

4 fr. panorama of Biwa waterfall and temple. Mt. Takao, Kanagawa, Japan. Michele Marcolin ©

E-M1 + Olympus M.12-40mm F2.8 | ƒ/2.8 1/100  ISO 400 | In-camera drama eff.

E-M1 + Olympus M.12-40mm F2.8 | ƒ/2.8 1/100 ISO 400 | In-camera drama eff.

All around the world water has played vital or important roles in religions and faith’s rituals, most likely for its close connection with life and cleansing, virtually omnipresent in them (even in Buddhism that has no concern for the real world, aspiring as it does to the enlightenment and the metaphysical). More than ever in Shinto. Suijin is the Shinto god of water. The term seems to refer to the heavenly and earthly manifestations of the benevolent Shinto divinity of water and also it refers to a wide variety mythological and magical creatures found in lakes, ponds, springs, and wells, including serpents, eels, fishes, etc. All of them very highly regarded in Japan from a spiritual point of view or simply apotropaically or superstitiously. Biwa waterfall is located on the way up (or back) to Mt. Takao, on one of the shortest, but most water-related and wild (therefore interesting) trails available. The location is lovely and it has a bit of Indi Jones atmosphere, as well as the shrine does… if you manage to ignore some very evident manifestations of ugliness provided buy modern functional architecture, surrounding it (I managed to cut them out of the image here, except for that treacherous warning plate on the gate…). A further example of the on-off attitude of Japanese toward harmony and beauty: too much or less than nothing…! lol