Yesterday a designer friend of mine showed me a photo book he’d bought over the Net from someone he knows but has never met in person. They know each other on flickr, and the book was put together from flickr photos and printed through blurb. If he hadn’t told it came out of blurb, and if there hadn’t been a huge blurb logo inside, I wouldn’t have known. The printing quality was as good as some photobooks in the store and the content better.
I looked at the software and it’s good, but chances are the service won’t catch on here: It doesn’t feel Japanese enough, and anyway big makers have already staked out the market. Camera makers and printer makers — which are one and the same — enlist buyers into online clubs where they can store data, make prints and print books. Thirty-minute and 45-minute print labs have also retooled, offering book-printing services right in your neighborhood.
Still, the blurb bookstore is an excellent place to find amazing images of Japan, as these titles show, that most Japanese will probably never get to see.
A couple of weeks ago I strolled through Ueno Park, took a look at the pram-pushing couples there and then posted here that “there’s an air all around of parenthood reluctant or rushed” to them. It was just something I felt.
But it seems to be an impression shared by lots. Professional pundit Atsushi Miura (who I mentioned a few days ago here because of his new photobook) uses data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to show there’s actually something going on.
The ministry looks at cases of birth where the “pregnancy term is longer than the length of marriage.” In 1980 there were 83,000 of them, but at last count in 2000, the number was up to 150,000. Sticking to the 2000 figures, 67,000 of the mothers involved were between 20 and 24; 52,000 of them were between 25 and 29; and 10,000 were between 30 and 34. The rest were teenagers.
There are people who say that young people nowadays don’t get married except “shotgun style” (which is what dekichatta kekkon means), and these figures back up that up,” says Miura, whose mind finds interesting ways to interpret numbers. If there are just slightly less than 1.2 million births a year in Japan (and there are), he reasons, and 569,000 of those are firstborn, then the 150,000 cases where the “pregnancy term is longer than the length of marriage” account for 26% of all marriages. Capiche?
That means that one in four nuptial unions are unplanned or unintended. Go figure.
Original text follows: