Fireflies

日本語

Nikon D810A + AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

Nikon D810A + AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

On the 11th June, I visited the Pola Museum of Art. This museum was opened in 2002 but I hadn’t known its existence until a couple of months ago. Tsuneshi Suzuki had been the former president of the Pola Corporation, one of the Japanese cosmetics giants. He passed away in year 2000, and the museum inherited his collection of art and antiques.

The museum’s collection was impressive. I mean, it couldn’t be compared to the collections of the Metropolitan or the Louvre. But it was a very impressive collection for a private art museum in Japan. The museum had a good number of Western modern paintings such as Renoir and Monet and French Art Nouveau glassworks and oriental ceramics. I really liked the works by Emile Gallé and Daum Brothers.

I visited the museum on Saturday. Surprisingly enough, the place wasn’t too crowded. The most famous piece of art work housed in this museum is probably Girl in a Lace Hat by Renoir. Thankfully, I could ‘monopolise’ it for several minutes without being bothered or interfered by anyone. I personally prefer to keep some distance from a painting to see it as a whole but that simply wasn’t possible in crowded museums because someone would surely get in the way.

Jakuchu Ito is my favourite traditional Japanese painter. A big exhibition had been held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Ueno to commemorate his 300th birthday. It began on 22nd April, which happened to be my mum’s death anniversary.  After visiting my parents’ grave in Kawaguchi in the afternoon, I called at the museum on my way back to the foothill of Mt. Fuji. It was Friday and, when I got there, it was still 4:00 p.m.: office clerks were supposed to to be still working. But the museum was ridiculously crowded. It was simply impossible to appreciate art works under such circumstances. And later I came to know that it was the least crowded day in the exhibition period – people had had to wait for hours to enter the museum after that day. I had a similar experience in Kyoto when I visited the Kyoto National Museum to see their special exhibition for traditional paintings by the Kano-School painters in the early Edo period.  From those experiences, I came to a conclusion that, in Japan, you should avoid special exhibitions held in big cities because they are always extensively advertised and, as an inevitable result, are terribly crowded. Instead, look up the collections of each museum on their websites in advance and visit them for their regular displays.

Nikon D800E + AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Nikon D800E + AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

On my way home from the Pola Museum in Hakone, I stopped by at Gotenba to shoot fireflies with Mt. Fuji. We were in the midst of the rainy season. As it had been raining or overcast for a week, I had wondered if I wouldn’t have any chance to take photos of Fuji with fireflies this year. Luckily, I could capture this image before the clouds blocked out the summit.

This place had been known only by a small number of people. I came to know it through a local photographer a couple of years ago. When I arrived there, there had already been four photographers waiting for the sunset, and I thought it was rather crowded. But, to my surprise, more and more photographers came along as time went by and the place was swarming with a couple of dozens of photographers at the end of the day.

This is why I’m reluctant to tell you the exact locations for my photographs when I’m asked. There are simply too many people in Japan, and it is part of the Japanese mentality that everyone wants to take the same photos. Nowadays, some websites provide users with locations for uploaded landscape photographs in the form of GPS data and everyone uploads photos on social media such as Twitter and Instagram: even a place like this can attract too many photographers.

There was a novice photographer who tried to capture fireflies by firing the flash, which was a rather typical mishap under such conditions and was of course utterly nonsensical – you cannot capture their lights using the strobe. He devastated photographs taken by the rest of us. So I had to yell out before anyone else got furious:  ‘Could you please stop firing the flash? You are messing up our photos.’ My voice was loud but I tried to keep the tone calm. In my opinion, it is important to use polite language in such a case.  If you cry out something like ‘What the fuck are you doing?  Stop firing the flash you idiot!’ it will very likely to end up in a furious row. I’ve witnessed some photographers (often old male photographers) uttering something like that and causing commotions.

Mt. Fuji with the Chureito pagoda in spring

Mt. Fuji with the Chureito pagoda in spring

As Japan is rapidly ageing, there’re a way too many pensioners who are not working any more. In the good old days, I had been able to exercise my privilege as a freelance and enjoy beautiful landscapes without being bothered by other people. Not anymore. But as I said, everyone wants to shoot at the same place at the same time such as Diamond Fuji from Lake Tanuki or Mt. Fuji with cherry blossoms and the Chureito five-story pagoda in spring. Many of my acquaintances take photos of Mt. Fuji and my stream on Facebook is flooded with the same scenes taken by different people. To put it the other way round, it is still possible to take beautiful photos of Mt. Fuji without being jostled about, if you avoid such popular places at the most attractive time. Alternatively, you can go to remote places that require hours of hiking to access such as the Southern Alps.

Mt. Fuji over the Kofu basin taken from Mt. Houou in the Southern Alps.

Mt. Fuji over the Kofu basin taken from Mt. Houou in the Southern Alps.

The ageing population of Japan, combined with the declining birth rate, is supposed to be a fatal issue. But do we really need more people in this small archipelago? 127 million people are living in a country smaller than California. The population of Japan exceeded 100 million in 1966—50 years ago. Until then, it had never exceeded 100 million. In fact it hadn’t exceeded 35 million until the Meiji Restoration in the 19th century. The country is overpopulated, and too much population is destroying the country’s nature. Many people assume continuous economical growth is necessary. But what will be waiting for the entire human race after more years of continuous growth? Destruction of nature, famine, expanded economic discrepancy leading to aristocracy or fascism. To me, it does look like a balloon being inflated until it bursts. I can only imagine dystopian futures as long as the human race continues this.

Apart from the declining population, of course, the unbalanced demographics are also an issue. One thing I don’t understand is the policy regarding Euthanasia or ‘death with dignity’. Both my parents died of pancreas cancer and both came to know the fact that they had the cancer at stage four, which meant too late to cure. My mum pleaded the doctor to kill her when the pain became unbearable. She knew it was incurable from her experience with my father’s death, and thought it was pointless to just prolong her life in agony knowing that she would never restore acceptable QoL. But, of course, the doctor could not kill her since he would get arrested. The patient wanted to die. Her family also wished peaceful, painless death. The doctor also wished to assist if he could. But we could do nothing. As a result, she lived for a month since she had started to plead for death. What’s the point to add an extra month of agony to the end of her life? The great part of the cost needed for that agonising extra month was paid by the National Health Insurance, for which financially-challenged younger generations have to pay their insurance fees every month. Shortage of physicians is another social issue in Japan in addition to the overwork of nurses, and they’re working hard to extend the life of patients who don’t want to live any longer.

Death is inevitable. It will surely come to me one day. When I’m unable to do anything creative, I’d like to die quietly and calmly.  If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. You don’t have to. But how can you impose your belief on others who don’t share the same belief with you and want to control how their own lives end? Our lives are not yours.

By the way, the day I took those photos was my 45th birthday. Many thanks to those who congratulated me.

御殿場のホタル

Nikon D810A + AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

Nikon D810A + AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

先日箱根にあるポーラ美術館に行ってきました。実はこの美術館の存在を知ったのは割と最近なのですが、2002年にオープンしたそうです。21世紀になってから起こった出来事は「割と最近」という感覚でうけとめてしまいがちですが、よくよく考えてみるともう14年近く経っています。ちかごろは「最近」という感覚がかなりいい加減になってしまいました。どうも自分が30歳になってから起こったことはすべて「最近」の一言で済ませてしまっているような気がします。ひょっとしたらあの頃から精神的にあまり成長していないのが原因かもしれません。

ポーラ美術館、なかなか良かったです。ルノアールやモネなどの西洋絵画が中心のコレクションでしたが、エミール・ガレなどの西洋ガラス工芸や東洋の陶磁器なども印象的でした。

美術館を訪れたのは土曜日でしたが、あまり混雑していませんでした。この美術館で一番有名な絵画はおそらくルノアールの『レース帽子の少女』なのでしょうが、5分ぐらい独占して、近づいたり離れたりして鑑賞できました。個人的にはルノアールはちょっと離れてみた方が良いなと思いましたが、混んでいる美術館では不可能ですからね。

先日、上野の東京都美術館で若冲生誕300年記念展が開催されました。ちょうど母の命日が初日だったので、お墓参りも兼ねて東京(正確に言うとお墓は川口市ですが)に戻ってみたのですが、初日でしかも金曜日だというのにすでに人がいっぱいでじっくりと鑑賞するのはとてもではないけど不可能でした。それでもまだだいぶましな方だったようで、その日以降はほぼ常に入場制限が掛かって入場するまで数時間待たされるようになったようです。京都の国立美術館で狩野派を観たときにも思いましたが、こういう大々的な展覧会で芸術品を鑑賞するのはもう無理ですね。とりあえず本物を観たという満足感以外は得られません。なにしろ少子高齢化が著しい社会ですから、平日の昼間に美術館を訪れても混んでることが多い。これからは各美術館のコレクションを調べて常設展狙いで行こうと思います。

Nikon D800E + AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Nikon D800E + AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

箱根から富士吉田に帰る途中で蛍を撮影して帰ることにしました。ここはマイナーな撮影スポットだと思っていたのですが、驚いたことに次から次へとカメラマンがやってきて最終的には20人ぐらいまで増えていました。お約束のフラッシュをたいて蛍を撮ろうとするような困った人も現れ、なかなか困難な撮影でしたが、この日集まっていたのはわりと平和的な人が多かったので雰囲気は悪くなかったです。だけれどもここで撮影することはもうないかな。きっと来年はさらに増えているでしょう。

富士山撮影というか日本の風景写真の撮影は新時代に突入しているような気がします。有名スポットはもちろんマイナースポットも日に日に混雑していきます。SNSで写真を公開する時代になって、撮影場所はすぐに大勢の人に知られてしまうようになりました。GPSデータ付きで撮影場所を公開するようなウェブサイトまであります。確かにそういうサイトは初心者に便利なんでしょうが、人が集まることによって不可避的にマナーが悪い人も紛れ込んでしまうので、付帯的に発生するゴミの問題や小競り合いなどのトラブルについてもすこし考えてもらいたいものです。そのうち刃傷沙汰が起こるんじゃないの? と本気で心配になることがたまにあります。

Mt. Fuji with the Chureito pagoda in spring

Mt. Fuji with the Chureito pagoda in spring

更に先ほども言ったように少子高齢化が進んでいるので平日に行っても撮影スポットが空いているとは限りません。ただしみんな季節の旬な物(田貫湖のダイヤモンド富士とか忠霊塔の桜とか)を撮りたがるので一カ所に集まる傾向があります。わたしの知人は富士山を撮っている人が多いので、SNSのストリームには同じ日に同じ場所で撮った同じ構図の写真がわんさかとアップロードされてきます。そういう状況でオリジナリティを維持するというのはなかなか大変です。逆に言えば、あえて季節の旬な物に背を向ければ、混雑に悩まされることはなさそうです。あとはそもそも行くのが大変な場所などですね。南アルプスとか。

Mt. Fuji over the Kofu basin taken from Mt. Houou in the Southern Alps.

Mt. Fuji over the Kofu basin taken from Mt. Houou in the Southern Alps.

つくづく思うのは日本は人が多すぎるということ。少子高齢化が叫ばれていますし、実際に急激な人口構成の変化は大事件かもしれません。わたしには子供がいないので少子高齢化の話題になると肩身が狭い思いをするのが常です。たしかに日本経済の将来を中心に据えた価値観では子供を作らないのは悪徳なのかもしれないけれど、グローバルな観点で言えばホモサピエンスの個体数は明らかに多すぎるのだから子供を作らないことはむしろ美徳なんじゃないの? などと自己正当化したくなるときもありますが、たんに子供が欲しくないだけです。ええ。ま、でも日本列島に一億人以上の人間が住むようになったのは1966年以降、長い日本史のなかではほんの一時期に過ぎません。今の半分ぐらいでちょうどいいような気がします。問題は多数の老人を若い世代が支えなければならないということなのでしょうが、無理して支えないでいいんじゃないでしょうか。

尊厳死とか安楽死を真剣に考えた方が良い時期にきていますよね。若い世代に過大な負担を掛けて延命治療の財源を得るなんてばかげている。わたしの母親は膵臓がんで治る見込みがまったくなかったので、辛いから早く殺してくれと何回も懇願していましたが、殺人幇助になってしまうので医師としてもどうしようもありません。激痛に苦しみながら1ヶ月間長生きすることになんの意味があるのだろう? という疑問を振り払うことはできませんでした。私ももう治る見込みがないんだったら楽に死なせて欲しいです。死ぬのは仕方ないけど痛かったり苦しかったりするのは嫌だ、って思いません? 法整備ができている海外に行って死ぬという選択肢もありかもしれませんね。それまでに悔いがないようにやりたいことをすべてやっておきたいです。

ちなみにこの写真を撮影した日(6月11日)はわたしの45回目の誕生日でした。総じて言えばなかなか良い誕生日だったと思います。祝ってくれたみなさんどうもありがとうございます。

2 thoughts on “Fireflies

  1. Mac Hayes

    Your opinions re “The ageing population of Japan” – the quality of life – are exactly in line with mine. I cannot understand those who bemoan the slowing birthrate of Americans compared to the much greater rate of immigration. Those who quote the ability of farmers and other food producers to make enough food to sustain the growing population of Earth don’t seem to understand that there is more to life than getting enough to eat. I am nearing the end of my life (age 80) and the changes in society are approaching unbearable, especially in music which was a major joy to me. I learned classical music, and one of the greatest joys was hearing and seeing a koto ensemble on US TV in the late 1950s, playing both classical Japanese music and contemporary American popular music – no rock & roll, thank God. I can’t bear what has happened to popular music since the mid-1980s; just noise and screaming, or mind-numbing “rap.” A psychic has told me my exact date of death (95% accuracy), in good health up to then, and I am content with knowing that. I refuse to spend my last days in a hospital or nursing home. The idea of the forest in Japan where some stoic individuals go to commit suicide makes a lot of sense to me.

    Reply
  2. Ms. V

    I agree on all points that you’ve raised.

    I follow Tokyo Camera Club over on Facebook, and see those cloned photos every year… which is sad, when Fuji-san has so many subtle moods, to capture only one over and over again.

    I also see photos, though well executed, of metropolitan areas. Please excuse me, I know much hard work went into creating these cities and do not wish to insult, but when I see them, I am filled with horror at the crowding and ecological devastation they represent; changes of weather patterns, pollution, light pollution, loss of plant and animal habitat. I never “like” mark them and usually conceal them from sight on my news feed. I hope that we build a future that becomes more green and eco-friendly.

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