Toshio Shibata, author of Japanscapes, tells us the story behind five of his favourite images from the project.
#11, C-2742 Totsukawa Village, Nara Prefecture 2015
Water is one of the subjects I am interested in.
The rain sharpens the surface of the earth. Water is essential in every aspect of human life, and flood control has been an important responsibility of people who ruled Japan before.
Japan, located in the monsoon zone, is hit by many typhoons every year, as well as a great quantity of rain. Naturally there is a high number of dams in conjunction with the fact that the almost 75% of Japan is covered in mountainous landscapes.
New roads are built as supplementary work of the new dams. Lifestyles became more convenient; and the dams themselves becomes tourist attraction in some places, too.
We enjoy the artificial waterfalls and artificial lakes.
#19, C-2909 Minamiyamashiro Village, Kyoto Prefecture 2016
Green and red are complimentary colours. And this is one of my favourite colour combinations.
The red part in this photograph is part of a bridge, and the green colour on the water surface is the floating algae.
Sometimes you come across such a scene at a reservoir; the floating algae or cyanobacteria covering almost the entire surface of the water.
This is the story of a reservoir in the western region of Japan.
At first, the floating algae covered the entire surface of the reservoir, then the webworm increased and ate up all the weeds. Then, it sank in the water and became fish bait and disappeared.
Such mysterious events provoke us to think about the balance of nature.
#9, C-2833 Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture 2016
This tunnel was built in 2009 to reach the Iwado dam in the deep mountains of northeast Japan. It is just one of the many large and small tunnels all over the country.
It seemed that they imagined this tunnel, and the dam it leads to, as new tourist attractions for the nearby town. I walked for twenty minutes in this tunnel to make my photography, but nobody appeared.
#3, C-2627 Nanyo City, Yamagata Prefecture 2015
This district where this photo was taken, Yamagata, is one of my favorite places in Japan.
Not only is it one of Japan’s foremost grounds for rice production, but it is also famous for its fruit. This neighbourhood is a densely built-up area, with grapevine trellis for winemaking; an industry that began in 1939.
In this whole area, twinkling plastic greenhouses sparkles everywhere on the face of the mountains, creating irregular shapes that rouse the imagination as a result.
#2, C-2409 Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture 2014
Thinking of Izumo City, us Japanese immediately think of the “Izumo Taisha Shrine”, an anecdote of gods and its special ancient building that is in the same city.
Apart from such a spiritual world like this, this dam is supporting everyday life practically, by controlling the water as well as generating electricity.
I live and work in Tokyo.
After many misfortunes, Tokyo became a big city that is like a concrete jungle at a glance, but on the other hand, a number of historic places and buildings are still to be found there.
Many new monuments are also erected these days; it provokes the imagination easily to think of the past.
Along with economic growth and a stable lifestyle, the idea that we should inherit our own culture is proceeding steadily.
In the outer provinces, it is easier to see a juxtaposition between the old and the new, and also between structures and nature, such as this dam.
Toshio Shibata was born in Japan in 1949. He studied painting at the University of Arts in Tokyo, before later deciding to continue his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium. While in Ghent, he turned his attention from painting to photography for the first time.
Shibata’s work is included in the permanent collections of museums around the world, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.