Japan. Cherry blossom, sushi, the bullet train. The usual picture of a geisha, real or a fake. The usual stereotypes.
Since my first time in Japan, almost twenty years have passed. For almost eight years I have been living there. I cannot count how many times italian friends asked me if I was tired of sushi every day.
Of course Japan is not just sushi and these pictures are an attempt to show something different. Or, more likely, are a diary of the years I spent in the country. (read more after the pictures.)
Describing Japan by means of photography is very difficult. It is very easy to end up with stereotyped snapshots indeed. Therefore I tried to select the images that better represent the new world I discovered while living in Japan.
At first I tried to understand Japan but, even after many years, many aspects are not clear yet. We approach Japanese culture on the basis of our own yardstick but here roots are completely different.
History, geography, religion, everything is different and different is their influx on japanese culture, people behaviour, moral and aesthetic.
The more you struggle to understand the more you get confused. Eventually you realize that the solution is in giving up understanding Japan and japanese people; being transported by emotions is the proper way to approach this place.
At the end it is better to stop analyzing and simply observe. People passing by with spirited eyes, unusual gestures, the quiet way to communicate; any effort to understand billboards or signs won’t lead anywhere. It is better to enjoy the feeling of mystery and, sometimes, the ambiguity and promiscuity of some dark and narrow alleys.
The first time in Japan usually leads to a superficial impression of the country. At a first glance it looks as a modern country, and as a matter of fact, Japan is modern, it is perhaps the most technologically advanced country in the world.
But then, slowly, one step at a time, new aspects emerge: a much more complex culture and old traditions are still surviving the modernization of the society. The influx of two coexisting religions, the animistic shinto and the more introspective zen buddhism, the traces of a feudal era that ended only in the late 19th century, played a fundamental role in shaping japanese society.
All these aspects can be a key to try to understand why the same people who travel in the bullet train, believe in spirits and ghosts. Why every year, every spring and fall, people are once again amazed by cherry blossom or maples turning red. Why a person in the middle of a crowd seems to be walking in a different dimension.
As mentioned at the beginning, this set of images is mainly a diary. A collection of the emotions I felt visiting Tohoku, the area devastated by the tsunami in 2011. A testimony of what is the other face of rich Japan: Nishinari, area of Osaka where homeless live separated by the productive world, like real ghosts.
And people I encountered, places I visited.
Many foreigners cannot live in Japan very long because of the cultural differences. Others fall in love with this country. I definitely belong to the latter.