The Color Red in Japanese Culture

by Ben Mckechnie November. 05, 2016 1861 views


Red, or aka in Japanese, represents wealth, authority, and vitality in traditional Japanese culture. It's also the prominent color of the native Shinto religion. 

Below are four images I took during a year of living in Japan. Captions provided for extra context. I hope you enjoy them!

Unmasked samurai in the grounds of Kumamoto Castle

Japanese castles, once ancient training grounds for battle, are now quintessential training grounds for photographers. This samurai made it his mission to ensure that I didn’t leave Kumamoto Castle without at least one striking image. He didn’t bat an eyelid when I lay flat on my back to seek out a unique angle.

Bearded man wearing two odd shoes stands reading in front of a rack of free fashion & beauty magazines -- Shibuya, Tokyo

‘Please help yourself to a free fashion & beauty magazine’. A bearded man wearing a robe and two odd sneakers stands reading a book in front of a rack of free fashion magazines with the word ‘Beauty’ repeated again and again. I was walking through Shibuya district in Tokyo and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this. The only problem was that it was rush hour and it was seemingly impossible to get the frame free of commuters. I waited.

Young Japanese girl wearing a kimono stands on the steps of a Shinto shrine -- Tokyo

I shot this image at Tokyo's Meiji Shrine on the weekend proceeding Shichi-go-san day (Seven-five-three day), a rite of passage and festival day in November, celebrating the good health of kids growing up. Parents take their children to shrines to pray if they are three, five, or seven years old. 

A fox statue decorated with red fabric at a Japanese Shinto shrine.

I found this statue of a fox at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine on the island of Kyushu. Fox spirits (kitsune) feature heavily in Japanese folklore. They are said to be able to change shape to look like anyone. Legend has it that this power manifests when they are one hundred years old. With every hundred years, they acquire a new tail as a sign of their age and power. They are often said to be malevolent. Many a man in Japanese folklore was tricked into marrying a fox disguised as a woman.

Swaying lanterns frozen by a fast shutter at a temple in Osaka, Japan.

On an icy evening in January, I took myself on a midnight photowalk around the backstreets of downtown Osaka. My favorite moment was when I stumbled by chance upon Hozenji temple. Black and red gates stood illuminated by long paper lanterns. I felt an acute realization that I was completely alone. A sudden gust of wind caused the lanterns to flick and flay as though they were dancing just for me. 


...


Thank you for reading. If you liked it, let me know in the comments below.


Join the conversation
19
There are 19 comments , add yours!
Aniket Pant 3 years, 3 months ago

LOVE #2!!

Fantastic composition and colour scheme.

3 years, 3 months ago Edited
Glo B 3 years, 4 months ago

Incredible shots that look so full of interesting stories! I must say the first shot reminds me of the video that goes to the song "Walking on a Dream" by Empire of the Sun... :)

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Aleshia Fiolleau 3 years, 4 months ago

Composition on point!
Love this post, def. following back. Post more!! :)

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Aleshia Fiolleau 3 years, 4 months ago

Thanks Aleshia, much appreciated!

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Daris Pro 3 years, 4 months ago

Wow! Such a good images and gives ideas.

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Daris Pro 3 years, 4 months ago

Thanks Dario!

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Julie Domingo 3 years, 4 months ago

beautiful collection! love the 1st one. hope to have one so willing samurai to photograph too ;)

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Julie Domingo 3 years, 4 months ago

Thanks! Most castles have a resident warrior. The masked samurai are a sight to behold!

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Giancarlo Fosci 3 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for sharing, all beautiful!

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Giancarlo Fosci 3 years, 4 months ago

Thanks a lot.

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Adrianshot 3 years, 4 months ago

Beautiful images, love #1!

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Adrianshot 3 years, 4 months ago

Thanks Adrian, I appreciate it.

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Jay Boggess 3 years, 4 months ago

Fascinating images & descriptions/information! Bravo!

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Jay Boggess 3 years, 4 months ago

Thank you, Jay! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Jay Boggess Replied to Ben Mckechnie 3 years, 4 months ago

Thank YOU, for sharing!

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Antonio Gil 3 years, 4 months ago

#2 goes straight to my favs. Love the contrast. Great work Ben

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Antonio Gil 3 years, 4 months ago

Thanks very much Antonio.

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Moira 3 years, 4 months ago

Glad the samurai had a fan instead of a sword!!!
Great set and interesting to hear of the Japanese culture.

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Ben Mckechnie Replied to Moira 3 years, 4 months ago

Haha, me too. Thanks Moira!

3 years, 4 months ago Edited
Up
Copyright @Photoblog.com