Photographer Atom is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this photo essay. From the series  ‘JAPONISM & MINIMALISM’.  To see Atom’s body of work, click on any image.


The series consists of three sections:

HINOMARU is an alias name of the Japanese flag.

KIMONO is a Japanese traditional costume.

TORII is a gate commonly found at the shrine.


In the photos, I use the Japanese flag, traditional costume and shrine to symbolize money (economic power), declining birthrate and dilution of community. The colors of red and white represent Japan’s national color. For some, they may seem to represent Japanese religion (Buddhism, Christianity, and Shinto). For others, they may associate the “red circle” with harmony, coins (money), countries or peace; the “red kimono” with their lover, health or cross (religion); the “red torii” with home or relationship with their family.

This minimalistic photography series raises questions to the modern society, makes the viewer face and think about the present age as well as imagine the future. In the present times, we have too much information. This is an era when we can get everything we wish to have. In exchange, however, there are things we have lost: health, appreciation for things we are given, time to spend with our families, time to think and question ourselves, the definition of happiness…


Get promoted. Be rich. Become famous.

Are you not bound by these stereotypes?

How long will you keep pretending to be something you are not, just to gratify your vanity?

What is happiness to you? What does abundance mean to you?

What is it that you really need?


From the age of materialism to the age of mind.

Look at these minimal photos.

How do they look to you?


HINOMARU is an alias name of the Japanese flag. In this series, HINOMARU represents Japan’s national strength, and the different sizes of HINOMARU symbolize Japan’s influence on the world as well as its economic power in each year. The HINOMARU series consists of five photos in total. The four of them represent the past and present. I used HINOMARU to represent Japan’s economy as an example, but please try replacing the “red circle” with harmony, coins (money), your country or harmony.


In 1952, the San Francisco Peace Treaty was concluded and Japan became a sovereign state. This marks the birth of contemporary Japan.



In 1989, with the rise of land and stock prices, Japan’s bubble economy reached its peak. We even heard such phrases as “Japan as Number One” and “learn from Japan” from the Western society. This economic prosperity can also be symbolized by events such as Sony’s acquisition of Columbia Pictures Industries for 4.8 billion dollars, and Mitsubishi Estate’s buyout of Rockefeller Center for approximately 220 billion yen.



In 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake attacked the Tohoku region (northeastern Japan), accompanied by tsunami and a nuclear power plant accident. The incident brought about an enormous economic loss.



2019 Present



The last photo reflects the future that you imagine.

20XX Future

Please imagine.

How does the future look to you?




KIMONO is a traditional Japanese costume. In this series, KIMONO represents the problem of declining birth rates, and the different sizes of KIMONO symbolize problem of declining birth rates in each year. Declining birthrates is a common problem shared among developed countries. The KIMONO series consists of five photos in total. The four of them represent the past and present. I used KIMONO to represent Japan’s declining birthrates as an example, but please try replacing the“red kimono”with your lover, a healthy body or the distance to your religion or belief (cross).


1949 When the soldiers returned from the war after the end of the Second World War and people relieved at the conclusion of the war made children, a primary baby boom occurred.



In 1966, there was a superstition that the women born in the year grow up to be highly emotional and shorten their husbands’ life duration. The media reported this heavily, and the birth rate of this year fell by 25% compared with the previous year.



1973 marked the peak of the second baby boom, which occurred due to the first baby boomers getting married and having babies.



2019 Present



The last photo reflects the future that you imagine.

20XX Future

Please imagine.

How does the future look to you?




TORII is a gate at the Japanese shrine. In this series, TORII and the tree represent the dilution of community (depopulation of local cities), and the different sizes of TORII and the tree symbolize dilution of community (depopulation of local cities) in each year. “Depopulation in regional cities” and “population concentration in urban areas” are the common problems shared among developed countries. The TORII series consists of five photos in total. The four of them represent the past and present. I used TORII to represent depopulation in Japan’s regional cities as an example, but please try replacing the “red TORII and tree” with your home, family, local society or community.


In the 1970s, many of today’s major mail-order companies were established. Commercial broadcasters launched TV shopping, and Yamato Transport (Japan’s largest delivery company) started their delivery service. Later on, the media and infrastructure of mail order went on to diversify.

1971 marked the first launch of TV shopping.



In the late 1990s, the Internet comes to have a large influence on Japan’s culture and commerce. In 1995, Windows 95 was released, and in the following year, Yahoo! Japan was established. In 2000, launched its first online retailing service in Japan, allowing people to buy things easily from home instead of in-store.



In 2008, Facebook was introduced in Japan. Twitter was also introduced in Japan in the same year.



2019 Present



The last photo reflects the future that you imagine.

20XX Future

Please imagine.

How does the future look to you?






I chose Japanese paper “WASHI” to express the texture of snow. “Washi” is slightly rougher on the surface than other types of paper.

In modern times, the use of copy paper and cardboard (for online shopping) is thriving, with recycled paper overflowing. To raise questions for this mass consumption society, I stick to the use of one of a kind “WASHI” paper. The great thing about “WASHI” is that each and every sheet is unique and different.

This “WASHI” was specially made by Iwano Ichibei, the ninth generation of national treasure.

I explained the concept of this work to Iwano Ichibei and talked about washi suitable for this work.

He made it specially for this work.


Echizen Kizuki Bousho

Washi craftsman Ichibei Iwano the 10th, is 85 years old and has been making washi since he was only 10. Designated a national treasure, he continues to make the finest quality washi paper named “Echizen Kizuki Bousho”.



The highest grade material, Nasukouzo is grown in Ibaraki Prefecture. Neri (bond) is made by blending Tororoaoi, grown in Gunma Prefecture, and Neriutsugi, grown in Hokkaido Prefecture. These materials are handled with utmost attention and the highest skills.


How WASHI is made

The washi making process involves simmering, dusting, dissolving, shaping, pressing and drying. Adhering to the traditional method, which includes pressing the material and drying on a board of ginkgo, he completes the entire process by hand.



Dating back to the Kamakura period (1200s), when it was recognized as the official document paper of the samurai society, until the end of the Edo shogunate (1860s), Echizen Kizuki Bousho maintained its steady reputation as the best Japanese paper, under the patronage of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, who were the highest authorities at the time. In 1987, Echizen Kizuki Bousho was used for Katsushika Hokusai woodcut prints at the Boston Museum of American Art, USA. In 2000, Ichibei Iwano was certified as an important intangible cultural property holder (national treasure).In 2003, he received the Order of the Rising Sun.

Echizen Kizuki Bousho is currently used for woodblock printing, such as ukiyoe.

The paper maintains its strength, even if it gets stretched or contracted.

In addition, the colors remain vivid over time.


All images and text © Atom



See also:

Wild Penguins

By Atom