Death and Rebirth - Mark Iandolo

The still-dead trees on the left contrast with the blooming cherry blossom tree on the right, creating the perfect story for Osaka Castle – a structure destroyed and rebuilt numerous times over the last four centuries.

My favorite novel of all time is called “Shogun.” Here’s a poetic description of the book on Amazon, which is so perfectly, succinctly written that I needn’t bother trying to write one myself:

“A bold English adventurer. An invincible Japanese warlord. A beautiful woman torn between two ways of life, two ways of love. All brought together in an extraordinary saga of a time and a place aflame with conflict, passion, ambition, lust, and the struggle for power…”

The thousand-page epic, written by James Clavell, explores the impact on East and West of the meeting of these two distinct cultures and civilizations. More importantly to this image, however, the story’s conflict centers around a fictionalized version of Tokugawa Ieyasu and his rise to become the ultimate ruler of Japan – the Shogun.

And at the center of that conflict? Osaka Castle – a lavish structure built by another warlord to surpass every other castle in the country.


One afternoon, I sat nearby the castle and read the novel for a second time. I was just enjoying a cool spring afternoon. Having already shot multiple images of the Castle, I was waiting patiently for the cherry blossoms in the nearby garden to hit peak bloom a few days later. In the mean time, I just enjoyed being around such magnificent history and architecture.

However, I reached a part in the book where the English character sees the Castle for the first time and is blown away by its sheer size and splendor. The way it just seems to impose its will over the surrounding landscape. Succumbing to how “meta” the situation felt – I was reading about Osaka Castle in a 50-year-old book while sitting outside Osaka Castle itself 14 time zones away from my home state of Florida – I looked up and realized just how imposing and regal the castle looked from my seat.

And rays of golden light were hitting the side of it that faced the sun. Instantly the book was in my bag and my camera was out. I quickly set up my composition and began shooting.


As is often the case despite how much planning I like to do, many of my favorite photos end up being happy accidents. Everything came together:

The way the rule of odds is at play here, with three total subjects.

The way the dead trees on the left and the shadowed part of the castle contrast the lighted side of the castle and the blooming tree on the right. Blooming with cherry blossoms, which have historically represented the fragility, beauty and passion of life.

The way these components symbolically tell a greater story about the regal, imposing castle behind them. A castle constructed because of one man’s ambition. Destroyed and rebuilt countless times through war and peace.

The way it’s all topped off by the best late-afternoon sky I saw during my five weeks in Japan. All of these elements brought together in a scene representing conflict, passion, ambition and power. With Osaka Castle right at the center of it all.

Sounds familiar…

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