This frenetic, superlative Ur-City is the place I have made my home for the last 16 years – a three-year overseas adventure which has become a way of life (sorry, Ma!).
As a writer and especially as a photographer, I find the constant (over-) stimulation a daily source of inspiration. Even after all these years, I start my commute each morning with the thrilling sense of a new adventure about to begin.
Whenever I get a little burned out on daily life here in this overcrowded, hyperactive, workaholic city, all I need do is turn some random corner, preferably with camera in hand, to discover some fresh new angle or view, or to uncover another ugly or delicious *omoshiroi mono* “interesting object” among the everyday, the overlooked, the quotidian.
An open-air “living museum” of traditional farmhouses deep in Japan’s countryside
Steep-sloped thatched rooftops reach for the sky like hands raised in prayer. Narrow, fast-flowing drainage ditches alive with carp and trout knit the rice paddies and the hulking, three- and four-story farmhouses together into the village of Ogimachi, the main attraction of the Shirakawago region in a remote, pine-covered mountain valley in Gifu prefecture. The total effect is like something out of a Japanese folktale perhaps: Momotaro Peach Boy, or a whimsical Ghibli Studios anime such as My Neighbor Totoro.
By some measures, Japan is the snowiest place on earth, and winter in areas such as the Tohoku region north of Tokyo add to that rep. The Zaosan (蔵王山) mountains, on the border between Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures, for example, gets around 12 metres dumped on its forested slopes each season. That’s a far cry from the 40-metre (120-plus feet) epic blanket that smothers the Japanese Alps around Nagano each year (there’s a reason houses in the countryside traditionally have a second front door, upstairs), but still more than enough to transform this range of stratovolcanoes, crater lakes, and subalpine fir trees into a magical fantastical winter wonderland each year…