Nihon (日本 - Japan) With only a handful of Japanese phrases, a camera, some cash in my wallet, and minimal planning, what you’re holding now is a product of 17 rolls of film, 7 days of exploration and introversion in a foreign country. The different series in this zine is somewhat of a concise journal of my experience. My mere attempt to document a minute portion of a rich little banana shaped country called Japan. Enjoy,
Sendai (仙台市) Home to about 1 million people, Sendai was the first stop on my trip. My main interest here was largely driven for a search to see if there were any remnants of the 2011 earthquake/tsunami after two years having past. As I walked along the coast line there was a certain vibe that I couldn’t put my finger on. It seemed dead and neglected and was far beyond me to fathom what crashed into Sendai. I was struck with a uncomfortable feeling as I started to see what was still left unattended to from the event. However, unbeknownst to me, my camera was playing up for most of my stay here. My eyes saw most of the aftermath, and not my camera. The following is what I managed to salvage (ironically).
Public transport in Japan, rail in particular, is unlike any in the world. The first rail way was built between Tokyo and Yokohama (just shy of 32km) in 1872. From its humble beginnings over 140 years ago, Japan now boasts 27,268 km of rail (enough to go around the world at least twice if laid out straight). Ranging from trams, monorails, to the speedy bullet train, the efficiency and practicality of Japan’s whole rail operation is boggling to say the least. Trains are never a minute early or late, and on the odd occasion that they are out of sync, you’ll know about it (I’ve heard apologies over 2 minute delays). Here is what I documented whilst moving from A to B.
Tokyo (東京) With a population well over 13 million people, Tokyo has the largest metropolitan area in the world. Seen from above, Tokyo looks like concrete and steel spew that covers an endless expanse. With many places to go I was overwhelmed and ended up shooting arbitrary shots where I went. For me, Tokyo is an infinite city that seems impossible to exhaust, it wasn’t a matter of where to begin shooting, I just needed to shoot wherever I happened to be.
Tsukiji Fish Market (築地市場) Located in Tokyo, Tsukiji Market is the largest fish and seafood market in the world. In 2010 the market had an estimate of 60,000 to 65,000 registered employees. Tsukiji pumps out over 700,000 tonnes of seafood a year, which is roughly 2000 tonnes daily; to give you a sense of scale, the Sydney Fish Market trades about 14,500 tonnes a year, or approximately 50 tonnes daily. Tsukiji’s offerings range from seaweed in different shapes and forms, little sardines, poncy caviar, 300kg tunas, to the all too controvertial whale. Tsukiji is not designed to support or be a tourist destination, nor by any means is it tourist friendly. Before 9 am the place is so busy that it is closed off to the general public to avoid disrupting daily proceedings. I myself went at 11am and walked around for a couple of hours and was still met with a bustling and industrious market. I wondered aimlessly as I dodged cars, bikes and people. I could smell the fish in the air and feel bad vibes from workers who could all spot a tourist a mile away.
Itsukushima (厳島) Famous for its shrine (cover photo), many people often visit to make the pilgrimage from around the world, all year round. Around 2000 people make up the island’s population. With no traffic lights, deers roaming freely and the calm demeanor of the locals are just a few of the things that simply make Itsukushima beautiful. It left me feeling refreshed and invigorated, but it could never connect with me on a spiritual level as an atheist. I was simply there to observe another facet of Japanese culture, hence why this was the ‘paltry’ pilgrimage.
Nothing more than a glimpse of ‘what never was’.
By blood, I am Japanese. Having grown up in Australia, my Japanese heritage has become detached. This very detachment simultaneously gave me sentience to who I am now as a person. Having been over to Japan on the odd occasion growing up, I was able to compare both worlds to a degree, offering me a mix of cultural values and perspectives. This was my first time really venturing outside of Osaka, the city where I normally bunkered down with my grandparents when I went to visit. I feel as if I saw a miniscule portion of a grand scale, and exposed my naivety towards this ‘foreign’ place. This self portrait, summarizes the meaning of 日本 to me, and in some ways my 7 days.