There’s a Harry Chapin song that goes, “All my life’s a circle / Sunrise and sundown.”  And there’s a folk hymn made famous by the Carter Family, among others, that asks, “Will the circle be unbroken…” Dead or Alive described how “You spin me right round, baby / right round like a record, baby / Right round round round.” Blood, Sweat & Tears told us about the Spinning Wheel (that’s got to go round), and Tommy Roe’s head got all Dizzy (and it’s you, girl, making it spin),  and the Lion King reassured us all about the Circle of Life (which, of course, keeps great and small on the endless round). So many songs about circles.

Well, enough of that. If it’s not obvious by now, I’m obsessing a little bit about circles. Last time, I wrote about a recent trip to Japan, and I’m still thinking about that trip, for a number of reasons. So while I was looking at my photos from the Great Japanese Adventure, it occurred to me that there were a lot of, well, round things.  An unusual number of photos that featured circles, or circular objects.

Now admittedly, my compositions often tend toward the geometric, whether or not they’re abstract. I’ve frequently caught myself carefully cropping in the viewfinder, trying to split an image precisely between, say, wall and sky, or to catch just the exactly right angular perspective on part of a structure.

(I like cropping in the viewfinder, by the way. It’s helpful, at least to me, to think about what the final image will look like as a photo (photo qua photo, as one might have said back in graduate school, when one was pretty much utterly unbearably smug and self-important, as opposed to what one is now, which is–well, never mind that). That is, I may be looking at reality, but the viewfinder helps me think about the art I’m finding in the reality. But more on that some other time. For now, it’s all about circles.

And of course, I’m not opposed to circles on principle.  I have been known, from time to time, to capture circular compositions over the years.

But this many circles in a one-day photoshoot—that’s something sort of new and unexpected for me.

Now, it may be that there are just more circular things in Fukuoka than anyplace else, although that seems unlikely. It may be that in my cultural and linguistic panic (described previously), I sought the homey, snuggly, psychological comfort of round objects more than hard-edged angularity. Or it may just be utterly random, one of those little happy chances that sometimes occur without need for elaborate explanation. That’s probably the most likely explanation, but where’s the fun in that?

In any case, it is—to me at least—an interesting bit of kismet that for whatever reason my eye gravitated toward round stuff in Japan. Oh, I took my share of hard-angled geometric shots, of course, but the raw ratio of round to angular in this collection is…surprising. I’m open to suggestions regarding why this happened. A general bored disinterest is also, of course, always welcome.

Anyway, make of it what you will, here are Some Round Things, fresh from Japan:

Decoration on the gate to a Buddhist cemetery

Manhole cover in an alley. Fukuoka, Japan.

Clock on the facade of the Hakata rail station

Incense urn at Tochoji Temple

Roof of Jotenji Temple