EXHIBITION October 2023: Japan Stories

Japan Stories: An Exhibition of Photographs by John Barr, Peter M Cook and Jérémie Souteyrat

11 October to 18 November 2023
Hosted by RIBA - First floor gallery: 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD

Exhibition Info: For over 150 years, since the Meiji Restoration of 1868, when it re-opened to the world after a long period of self-imposed isolation, commentators have been seeking to interpret Japan for the West. Most of them have viewed it through the twin lenses of exoticism and orientalism. As the Japanese philosopher and critic Kojin Karatani observed, they have presented Japan as a place that could and should offer only something aesthetic, whilst ignoring the more pedestrian concerns of everyday life there. The three photographers featured in this exhibition are part of a new breed, who did not go to Japan on a mission to define Japanese culture but to live ordinary lives and do everyday jobs. Their work reflects different aspects of a nuanced and multi-faceted society through images of its architecture.


John Barr is an architect who has worked in Japan for over 30 years and is the author of 20th Century Japan in 20 Buildings which was published by Lund Humphries in 2022.


This book argues that Japanese modern architecture emerged from identifiable events: political, social, economic, historical events, and is as susceptible as any other architecture to analysis and criticism in these terms. Episodic rather than encyclopaedic, it does not describe every twist and turn in the development of modern Japanese architecture, but rather, it examines twenty buildings spanning the 20th century and places them in the context of the political, social and economic, as well as the historical and cultural factors that shaped both them and modern Japan. Each building has been chosen because it reflects a major event in the development of modern Japan and its architecture.

[image courtesy and copyright of John Barr]