View Osaka - Rivers

The Japanese photographer Tomatsu Shiro offers in a series of 3 photo books - The Dome, Rivers en Houses - a unique look into the public space and architecture in Osaka, Japan.

The phrase 'Water Capital' evokes a metropolis in which rivers and streets intersect, with a picturesque urban landscape of many riverbanks and bridges. From the Middle Ages onward, Osaka developed into one of Japan’s great merchant cities, and the countless canals criss-crossing it made this thriving commerce possible and earned it the nickname Water Capital.

Through the Osaka end of the Osaka-Kobe industrial belt, a linchpin of present-day Japanese industry, flow several rivers: the Kizu, the Shirinashi, the Aji, and the Shin-Yodo. Bridges were built over the downstream sections of these rivers during the period following World War II, when demand for land transport was growing. These bridges had to be colossal, 30 to 50 meters high, so as to allow the passage of large ships plying the river between upstream factories and the sea. These titanic bridges were outfitted with pedestrian walkways, but it is a lot of trouble for people on bicycles or on foot to ascend, cross, and descend them. For this reason there are still eight places where small municipal ferries carry people back and forth across the river to this day.

Today, many of the upstream factories that needed the services of those great sea ships have vanished, replaced by residential developments, large shopping malls, golf driving ranges, or simply enormous vacant lots. Fish and seagulls have returned to rivers that were once clogged with sewage and all manner of things, and people can no longer smell the peculiar smell wafting off the 'Muddy River'. Riverbanks throughout Osaka have been cleaned up and turned into places for relaxation, and visiting tourists enjoy the reflections of the city lights shimmering in the water.

A leisurely river soothes and softens the rough edges of life. At the same time, fewer and fewer people in Osaka come in close contact with rivers these days. With flood control infrastructure put in place to prevent reoccurrences of the floods, high tides, and tsunamis of the past, embankments have been repeatedly regraded and made higher and higher, and it is harder and harder to get right to the river’s edge.

Read more on the blog of Tomatsu Shiro.

Sales: Tomato Foto House publishing -

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