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Light Research @ MMU

Night-time Factory Tourism in Japan

I wondered how long the tour would take that night. An hour, perhaps two I guessed. I was in Japan researching a phenomenon called Kojo Moe (factory love), a trend that had emerged after the publication in 2007 of a photo book, Kojo Moe-F Background Reference Book, on heavy industry. The book has a guide to viewing different types of factories, from chemical plants to steel works, cement works and gantry cranes. The tour that evening began, like others I had been on, at the city port. Night time factory viewing (Kojo Yakei) is usually done from the decks of a boat. Kojo Yakei forms a growing aspect of Japanese tourism, and private tour operators and city municipalities have developed a number of organised bus and boat tours to meet demand. Data compiled in 2014 by the Department of Civil Engineering at Kinki University in Osaka detailed 31 factory tours operating in 17 cities. The densest concentration of tours is, unsurprisingly, in the Kanto region that encompasses the heavily industrialized coastal zones of Yokohama and Kawasaki. The tours can sell out for months in advance. When I had enquired at JNTOs (Japan National Tourism Organizations) in Tokyo City about visiting industrial sites, I was given a list of museums of technology and industry. As a foreigner, I am not the target audience for these tours. Kojo Yakei is marketed at Japanese city-dwellers and participants are mainly groups of young Japanese women and then some older men.

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Kojo Yakei is promoted as a social experience, a night-out, and not as an educational or informational tour.  Some cruises provide buffet dinners, others cocktails. What they all offer is a spectacle. An alternate son et lumière to the neon and electric cityscape.  At night security lights, office lights, portacabin lights and perimeter lights illuminate industrial megastructures on a Blade Runner scale. Smoke rising from chimney stacks adds to the effect. On one boat tour in March it snowed but we still stood out on the deck trying to take as many photos as possible. Kojo Yakei offers what we in the West call the industrial sublime and on these nights I am factory struck (not love struck or star struck).

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The boats tend to slow down and stop opposite particularly well-lit structures (sometimes accompanied by clapping and cheering) before bypassing dark factories for another illuminated colossus. It is difficult to take good photographs from a rocking, moving boat in low light. I spent much time on the first few tours experimenting with different camera settings and these sets of photos are mostly light strobed images or blurry shots. Very few take serious camera kit on these tours, but the boats slow down to enable participants to take photos, as best they can, with their smart phones, or to capture a factory selfie. The photography is an important element of the social experience of the tour. I plan to take photographs from the shore of the Kojo Yakei boats going past, lit up by the cabin light and the flickers of light from smartphones.

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Most boat tours take an hour. However, a boat and bus tour around Himeji city was four hours long. The bus pulled up opposite a spectacular chemical plant and we spent around 20 minutes taking photographs through the wire fencing. The plant next door was in darkness and no one was paying it any attention. I strolled down the road the short distance to take a look at it. The bus driver must have noticed my interest for when I returned to the group he said to me ‘we have asked them to put their lights on for us.’ An examination of the relationship between the factories and the tour operators forms part of my future research plans.

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Hilary Orange, UCL Institute of Archaeology, h.orange@ucl.ac.uk

January 23rd, 2015 - 13:30pm

Urban Lighting, Light Pollution and Society

urban lighting, light pollution and societyA recently published book, Urban Lighting, Light Pollution and Society, has been edited by Josiane Meier, Ute Hasenöhrl, Katharina Krause and Merle Pottharst. All four were members of the interdisciplinary Loss of the Night research collaboration, and are based at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the Technical University of Berlin and at the Leibniz-Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning in Erkner. This fabulous volume focuses upon urban lighting and light pollution from a social sciences and humanities perspective. It highlights current debates, among them ways in which light pollution might be defined and may be alleviated by emergent technologies and policies. Highly recommended.

January 16th, 2015 - 16:37pm

Celebrating the Lights of Christmas 2014

This site has always warmed to the efforts of professional and amateur light designers that put on a  Yuletide show. Christmas is the time of year when in accordance with ancient rhythms, the gloomy months are transformed by the deployment of bright lights to exterior and interior spaces. In many parts of the world, the holiday season continues to herald an ever-growing display of festive illuminations that include a variety of arrangements: indoor lights with which we garland Christmas trees and interior spaces, the festoons of strings of animated bulbs and illuminated figures that adorn house exteriors, and the large spectacles that festoon the streets and squares of city centre districts in endeavouring to attract shoppers and tourists to part with their money. This year has seen a particularly striking effusion of Christmas lighting, as exemplified by four extraordinary examples from different parts of the world. Let’s celebrate them!

First, and exemplifying how Christmas is a time of magnificent excess, is the amazing choreographed sequences that are synchronised with selective pieces of festive music. Devised by Jeff Maxey at Yucaipa, California, the display incorporates 16 houses in creating an incredible son et lumière show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yvBtccWnp4

Second, the lights of Tokyo offer a different aesthetic to the multi-coloured effects of other cities but the quantity utilised produced whole landscapes that are saturated with festive spirit.

tokyo christmas lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third, the growing emergence of digital mapping at Christmas is exemplified at Trieste, where a 12 minute, festive themed projection sequence plays across the façade of the Municipal Centre in Piazza Unità: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=SVnQb7nob_k

Finally, in Derby at a suburban house at which a larger than life Santa inside greets onlookers from outside. Slightly spooky but fun http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-derbyshire-30489508

santa in Derby

 

December 16th, 2014 - 16:38pm

Experimenting with light in Copenhagen – and the dangers of responsive lighting

Here’s a link to a fascinating piece on experimentation with smart lighting technologies in Copenhagen. Tellingly, the author also comments on the potential for such technologies to be deployed to intensifty surveillance and impose strict regimes of  law and order. This is a salient reminder that the rolling out of smart lighting promises much in improving the quality of the aesthetics and sustainability of urban illumination but the dangers need to be acknowledged as well!  http://bldgblog.blogspot.de/2014/08/right-to-light.html

October 31st, 2014 - 10:26am

Radiant Lines in Melbourne

British architect Asif Khan (www.asif-khan.com) has devised a spellbinding sculpture that sits at the heart of the Melbourne’s Federation Square as part of the city’s Light in Winter Programme. The cylindrical piece, with a height of 5 meteres and a 15 metre diameter, is composed out of 40 rings of aluminium. As darkness descends, hundreds of white LED lights pulse along the rings in both directions, and the sculpture is activated by invisible triggers that produce vertical bands of light whenever anybody steps across its threshold.radiant lines 1

The more people move in and out of its interior, the brighter and more dynamic the sculpture becomes, the vertical segments of light then dispersing by orbiting the structure. This vibrancy draws in yet more participants as well as onlookers who watch the pleasingly multiple patterns, honouring and recording everybody’s presence. Yet the work is best experienced without distraction when the traffic dies down, the other activities in the square diminish, the lights dim and a few visitors move between its interior and exterior. Khan reckons that the work mimics the natural phenomenon of the light emitted by bioluminescent organisms, but whatever the symbolism behind it, the shapely work charges this architecturally diverse plaza with an energy and other-worldliness that testifies to the potency of light to transform the habitual nocturnal space of the city. Photos by Shanti Sumartojoradiant lines 4

June 20th, 2014 - 06:31am

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