“Tunnel” iPad App Explores Subterranean Japan, And A New Era Of Coffee Table Book

This iPad app features some of the most dazzling shots of underground engineering that you’ve ever seen.

If I let my id have its way, I’d be typing this with Cheetos-stained fingers. I’d also have no functional coffee table. It would be buried under a sizable library of beautiful books full of curated objects and photography. (Those books would, naturally, be covered in my orange thumbprints.)


Tunnel for iPad, by software studio 108United, is a $10 coffee table book designed for your tablet. It’s a simple collection of 56 photos that represents two decades of work by photographer Hoichi Nishiyama, exploring the gargantuan tunnel systems beneath Japan.

“23 or 24 years ago, a Japanese civil engineering magazine asked me to take photos of Kan-Etsu tunnel which was under construction at that time. I was interested in bridges or dams, but knew a little about tunnels,” Nishiyama writes us. “At the site, I was astonished by how big they were. The Kan-Etsu tunnel was a really huge tunnel. I learned how the tunnels were dug, then I started to shoot tunnels.”

The app itself is entirely unglamorous. You can either flick through the images or set them to a slideshow with music. But this basic presentation allows Nishiyama’s photography to take center stage. His images capture the massive scope of projects that many of us never see, along with the men burrowed in these empty spaces with little more than a few colleagues and countless tons of alien machinery to keep them company. The photos are inspiring and haunting for just as many reasons as I can list as I can’t. And the wet surfaces of rock just shimmer on an LCD screen. “We are fascinated by the light of iPad,” writes Nishiyama. “Sometimes the same photo seems to be different in paper book and the display of an iPad or PC.”

While $10 is a lot to spend for an app, it’s a bargain in comparison to a printed book. Plus, Nishiyama isn’t exaggerating; these photos shine more (and more accurately, in the small pockets of blowouts) on the screen than they would on paper. If the coffee tablet book is the future of the photography, the future of the coffee table book looks, quite literally, bright.

Buy the app here.

[Hat tip: Frameweb]


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.