Asia

Eternal Spring – Colliding Worlds in Japan

Reading time: 3 minutes

Written by Jonathon Collins

The wave washes delicately; folding in layers of black and white. Suits, navigating through silver skyscrapers before seeping into the underground. The wave pauses, adrift at numbered platforms, before the doors open and it washes into a network of complex tunnels. There is no stopping, no sleeping, no resting. The wave is a routine force. It is not aggressive nor invasive. It is controlled, almost gentle in its pace. On a balmy morning of endless blue skies, the labyrinth of Tokyo comes to life.

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At first glance, Tokyo appears to be set so far in the future. Almost like a set from a sci-fi movie; a metropolis of buildings covered in flashing screens that project the latest beauty or fast fashion products. Automatic garages stack and arrange miniature automobiles into tiny gaps. Trains move in near silence at rapid speeds. Restaurants with no waiters, but instead, a vending machine at the entrance which sends meal tickets directly to the kitchen. Most people barely glance up for more than a second, engrossed in pocket screens.

A legacy of the 1960’s; when innovation, domestic investment and widespread export drove the fastest economic and technological growth in the country over several decades. In a post World War II climate, the economy of Japan became one of the largest international players, and urban hubs like Tokyo grew faster than any urban planner could anticipate.

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Staring out across the sprawl of the inner metropolis and its fringes from Tokyo’s tallest tower, I found myself overwhelmed by the scale of a city that truly exhibits life in a way that no other city does. Zones, wards, villages and towns, dissipate into a blur of rigid blocks known as Tokyo; the ‘Eastern Capital’. A city of just one million, a century ago.

The beauty of Tokyo is that its initial face value hides a story that is far more complex. At the next turn, an alleyway will expose a hidden shrine or a row of dilapidated single storey houses. Windowsills adorned with small terracotta pots and plants. Under the tracks of a railway, miniature restaurants still equipped with tatami rice straw mats to kneel, and sliding bamboo shōji room dividers hosting no more than three or four tables. Tokyo is truly a city built upon tradition; a characteristic embedded in the everyday, despite the countless futuristic embraces.

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A marriage of two worlds; one expanding and contemporary, and another, a traditional artform. While infrastructure modernised, a society would not.

In the subtle bow of a waitress, vendor or train conductor when exiting a room. The quiet etiquette of every transaction; whether a purchase or exchange of gifts. The pristine and immaculate care to every uniform, and the sheer elegance of traditional garments. It is a distinguished sense of grace like no other in the world.

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Japanese culture is like an eternal and infinite Spring. It is not cold and abrasive like the Winter; or unforgiving and relentless like the Summer. It is delicate and precise, like an emerging bud of the sakura flower, now richly symbolic of Spring all over the world.

Like the sakura blossom, it is a culture that transcends as a symbol of beauty and grace; even in the most modern of cities. It is this culture that has prospered a deeply ingrained respect for past, present, and future, always.

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Images captured with the Olympus PEN-F, 12-40mm f2.8, 25mm f1.8 and 75mm f1.8 lenses.

Jonathon Collins is a Freelance Photographer, Writer and Environmental Scientist based in Sydney, Australia. Visit his website or follow him on Instagram.

“As an environmental scientist, I understand the importance of conserving a moment in time through photography and writing. The aim of my work is to showcase that every corner of the world has a story to tell. For every portrait there is a novel. For every landscape there is a memory. In every work there is truth. In a rapidly changing world; these places, faces and moments can be shared forever.”


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TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.

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