Chiji Shin – Finding Purpose and Meaning after Fukushima

August 5, 2018

The tsunami that hit Japan with such brutality on 11 March, 2011, changed the country in more ways than one. The entire archipelago in the Pacific where I grew up was shifted five metres eastward by the 9.0-magnitude quake that set the great wave rolling. It also had a lasting impact on everything from Japanese business practices to everyday behaviour and social trends. The Japanese are known to work long hours and have very little holiday. There is even a word for death by overwork — karou-shi 「過労死」. Unlike Europe, the division between personal and working life is very blurred, and as a result modern life in Japan can be very stressful.

Last summer, I returned to Japan to capture various aspects of modern life. A follow-up to 2016’s Kodawari series,  I wanted to dig a little deeper into how the tsunami might have changed the way people were living. On my agenda were media entrepreneurs, a family-run businesses, clothing designers, young families, and a Buddhist monk as well as workers in a pottery kiln in the porcelain town of Arita.

With over 20 shoots booked in Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo and Kyushu, the aim was to photograph a variety of emotions and trends representative of life in Japan today.

I wanted to steer clear of the more superficial imagery available to the visiting Western photographer – a bullet train racing past Mount Fuji, or crowds of pedestrians waiting to cross Shibuya junction in Tokyo. Instead, I want to shoot below the surface, to capture something of the essence of the Japanese and their culture, as they live it today.

This project is an ongoing collaboration with the U.K and U.S based stock photo library Mint Images. Images will be available on Getty Images, Offset Images and many other stock and commercial photography sites. The project was also featured on the Adobe Creative Cloud.