Ways to See: Totanism

Something that gets our immediate attention when we are on one of our strolls, especially here in Japan, are “totan”.

Before we steam ahead in mad excitement about this “way to see”, we should tell you that “totan” is the Japanese word for corrugated galvanised iron or steel sheeting. Stick an “ism” at the end of that, and you have a made up word that implies the admiration of totan.

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トタニズム

If there is one thing that we’ve learned about our many observational fixations is that you can bet that there are others out there who are also attracted to the same sight, be it traffic cones, fences or corrugated galvanised metal sheeting. So when we came across this book, (which is now out of print). we were less surprised than determined to have it on our bookshelf.

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Totanism

by Fumiaki Ishiwata published in 2013.

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Super Ordinary Life Totanism 2.jpg

The publication is slim on words but the writing that it does include is certainly inspiring even for people like us who’ve already made quite a pastime of gazing at its subject matter.

By now you might be wondering how this infatuation is actually a way to see?

The answer lies in Ishiwata’s imaginative categorisation of the various forms of Totan he’s encountered. They include groups such as the “barcode”, “graphic equaliser”, “patchwork” and “paranormal”. Although most of our own examples aren’t as clearly defined as the author’s, it’s certainly got us taking a second look and think about the totan we have previously and continue to come across.

The way we see it…….

Patchwork totan. Location: Fish Island, London"

Patchwork totan. Location: Fish Island, London"

Paranormal totan. Location: Kichijoji, Tokyo

Paranormal totan. Location: Kichijoji, Tokyo

Location: Lisbon

Location: Lisbon

Location: Shimokita, Tokyo

Location: Shimokita, Tokyo

Patchwork Totan. Stone Town, Zanzibar

Patchwork Totan. Stone Town, Zanzibar

Location: Matsuzaki, Shizuoka

Location: Matsuzaki, Shizuoka

Patchwork Totan. Location: Shimokita, Tokyo

Patchwork Totan. Location: Shimokita, Tokyo

Graphic equaliser Totan. Location: Daizawa, Tokyo

Graphic equaliser Totan. Location: Daizawa, Tokyo

Location: Shimoda, Izu

Location: Shimoda, Izu

patchwork totan. Location: Shimoda, Izu

patchwork totan. Location: Shimoda, Izu

Patchwork totan. Location: Shimokita, Tokyo

Patchwork totan. Location: Shimokita, Tokyo

Patchwork totan. Location: Shimokita, Tokyo

Patchwork totan. Location: Shimokita, Tokyo

Location: Higashi Kitazawa, Tokyo

Location: Higashi Kitazawa, Tokyo

Location: Daizawa, Tokyo

Location: Daizawa, Tokyo

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...each panel is quite unique, like accidental art. it just speaks to our hearts.

Corrugated galvanised metal sheeting is to us, strikingly beautiful. We get that it may not cater to everyone’s picturesque ideal but trust us, there’s something poetic about the robust, rough and ready material. From the way it ages to the way it is used in informal and industrial structures. it has to be one of the fastest and most versatile way to put up a wall or roof! Aside from the practicalities, totan is loaded with tactile sentiment and visual interest. We are enamoured by way the panels weather, rust, warp, peel and react to their specific environment, use and social context. The consequence is that each panel is quite unique, like accidental art. it just speaks to our hearts.


Totan from our friends...

We always feel so happy when people send us their photos with permission to not only share them on this blog but to also add them to our growing archive of observations. We could not, not ask style blogger JOHN JARRET for a few pictures for this first of our Totanism edition posts. He features such lovely examples in his work that it would have been rude not to get him involved somehow. We also received some observations of totan in Kyoto from the very talented and keen eye of JOE KEATING

Credit: Joe Keating.  Location: Kyoto

Credit: Joe Keating.

Location: Kyoto

Credit: Joe Keating.  Location: Kyoto

Credit: Joe Keating.

Location: Kyoto

 
Credit: John Jarrett  Location: Japan

Credit: John Jarrett

Location: Japan


If you would like to explore the hashtag in Japanese on Instagram, here it is ready for you to copy and paste: #トタニズム

Totanism is a subject we are already looking forward to revisiting with future blog posts, so if you do have any pics or words that you would like to share there are a few ways that you can get involved :

Instagram

#super_ordinarylife on Instagram. We’d love it if you shared your captures there. We will always credit and link back to you when we use your pics both here or on Instagram.

Email

Send your pictures and friendly words to : Yasumi @ superordinarylife (.) com