I visit Japan every few years in connection with my work at the Royal College of Art.

We are trying to understand in depth what the rapid growth of older people across the world means for the design of buildings, transport systems, town centres, products, services, packaging and information. Japan is the 'oldest' nation in the world and so it is not surprising that the strongest interest in this challenge is seen in Japan.

I love the politeness and consideration for others that you find in Japan. And although the Japanese are renowned for their formality, that is only one side of a people who are also playful, generous, charmingly wacky and very humorous.

I admire their ability to value traditional crafts and skills alongside the modern, and to effortlessly mix tradition and technology. When I am there I try to capture just a little of this incongruity.

The photos are of the old capital of Kyoto, the heart of traditional Japan, and Hamamatsu, an industrial town on the coast south of Tokyo, both thankfully spared by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.