When people ask, what’s Japan like? It can almost be frustrating to articulate a message which does the islands justice. However in an ironic sort of way that in itself speaks volumes, as it’s not for lack of academic prowess but for the sheer beautiful complexity of the country which leaves one lost for words.
In every sense Japan epitomises the saying “the land of extremes”. Whether it’s the food, people, landscape, traditions/unwritten rules, architecture or technology – the list indefinitely goes on.
Just walking down the street can be an enlightening experience. From the omnipresent uber polite people who graciously bow to acknowledge your presence, the gargantuan skyscrapers which put your existence into perspective, the reverent shrines and 400 year old bridges you cross, the surreal site of a sumo wrestler wearing a pair of geta or even the overbearing sounds of the Pachinko which flood the street everytime someone enters an arcade.
They all combine to turn something as ordinary as ‘popping to the shops’ – extraordinary.
Throughout the following months, I will share with you my experiences and take you on a photographic journey through the land of the rising sun*.
Starting right at the beginning here’s a little story of the journey into the mainland…
Flying into Japan
On the penultimate day of leaving for Japan I finished the book devil at my heels (a heroic olympians astonishing story of survival as a Japanese POW in WW2). Fast forward a few days (with this story still fresh in my mind) – I’m on the final plane and after a quick check of the monitor, I can see we’re 10 minutes away from the mainland.
Suddenly, the vivid accounts I had read of flying a B-29 bomber into Japanese territory felt more real than ever. My imagination ran wild as I pressed my face up against the window to check all angles for any signs of land.
We were ploughing through thick cloud and the little bit of turbulence made it all a smidgen more exciting. A few minutes later the clouds broke and I could spot the fresh green pasture of the fields below. My first thoughts were of nostalgia for Vietnam as the landscape was very similar. This was soon cut short though as the clouds once again enveloped the plane and it was another few minutes till they opened to reveal the incredible Hida Mountain range (below).
It was upon this site that I realised two things: 1) this was no ordinary country 2) this was going to be a special trip!
*If you’re in China — Japan is to the east which is the same direction that the sun rises (this fact also has a large influence on the Japanese Flag).