Photographs by Yoshinori Mizutani  Whispers of the Forest, Footsteps of the Seasons

Also known as Ueno Forest, Ueno Park is so dense and spread out that you wouldn't think it's in the city center. Photographer Yoshinori Mizutani, who has gained attention worldwide for his high-contrast photos of birds and nature within the city, claims this place as his very own playground. Mizutani has captured the transition between Ueno's four seasons, engaging all five physical senses.

By Ueno, a Global Capital of Culture

Spring and flowersUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Spring: Murmuring streams, chirping birds, swaying trees

Spring is a time when you sense the arrival of different flowers as they come into bloom. The scent of plum blossoms is first to fill the Ueno Forest, followed by a variety of cherry blossoms, from the Kanzakura to the Yoshino Cherry. Then there's the iris, peonies, and magnolias. The lukewarm water murmurs as it flows into Shinobazu Pond, and the birds sing with verve as they welcome the breeding season. This is the time when the cool light breeze of early summer arrives, with the refreshing sound of the wind rustling the young leaves as it passes through the trees. 

Sakura and kingfisherUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

hydrangeaUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Summer: The sounds of rainfall, cicadas, and lotus flowers blooming

The white flowers of dogwood herald the turn of the season. The hydrangeas peep out along walking trails, their colors growing deeper with each rainfall, and as the rain falls, it drowns out the surrounding hustle and bustle. When the dazzling sunlight shines on the surface of the water, the lotus flowers also bloom, becoming the stars of the show on Shinobazu Pond in summer. Visit early in the morning and you might get to hear the quiet popping sound they make as they open. When you hear the “kana kana kana” of the evening cicada's song, you know it's already dusk. 

Lotus leafUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Lotus flowerUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Lotus that fills Shinobazu PondUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Leaves and windUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Autumn: The sound of insects, the crunching of leaves, the flapping of birds

When you start hearing the sounds of insects coming from the shadows of the undergrowth, the season is autumn. Many of the trees around Ueno Forest turn red, from cherry blossoms and tulip trees to wax trees, Japanese maples, and gingko trees. As the temperature drops, the colors grow even more vivid. Then when the leaves fall, they completely cover the entire area. There's nothing quite like the sensation and the delicate sound of stepping on this dense carpet of fallen leaves. Looking up at the sound of the birds flapping their wings, the sky seems much higher. 

Leaves of the forest in UenoUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Sky and treesUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Birds resting on bare treesUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Winter: The sound of the bitter wind and thin ice absorbed by the snow

When the cold wind blows between the bare trees, winter has arrived. Birds perched on bare branches prepare by fluffing up their warm winter feathers. In the early morning when the temperature drops ever lower, Shinobazu Pond is often covered in thin ice. Sometimes you can hear the faint sound of cracking. Towards the end of winter, it might snow in Tokyo. When the snow builds up, it absorbs all the surrounding sounds, enveloping the park in a rare tranquility. A moment of silence comes to the vast Ueno Forest.

Shinobazu Pond and boatUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Jungle Crow in winterUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Shinobazu Pond with thin iceUeno, a Global Capital of Culture

Credits: Story

Courtesy of Implementation Committee for New Concept "Ueno, a Global Capital of Culture” (Ueno Cultural Park) 

Yoshinori MizutaniBorn in Fukui prefecture in 1987, Mizutani now lives in Tokyo. After graduating from the Nihon University College of Economics, he studied at the Tokyo College of Photography. Winner of the Japan Photo Award in 2013 and Foam Magazine’s 2014 Talent Call. Along with four solo exhibitions at the IMA gallery, Mizutani has held solo exhibitions all over the world, including London (Webber Gallery), Zurich (Christophe Guye Galerie), Antwerp (Ibasho Gallery), Beijing (Aura Gallery), Milan (mc2gallery), and Paris (House of Culture of Japan in Paris). Author of Tokyo Parrots (2014), Colors (2015), Yusurika (2015), Hanon (2016) and HDR_nature (2018), all published by IMA photobooks. His most recent book, SAKURA, was published in spring 2021.

Words: Itoko Suzuki

Shooting & Editing: Daikichi Kawasumi, Tatsuki Wakamiya Production: Hechikan Co., Ltd.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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