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“BUS STOP in Japan” 1999-2009
Many years ago, while I was driving across five prefectures in north eastern part of Japan as a sales representative, a bus stop caught my eye. At first the shape of it intrigued me. On closer look, I was fascinated by the contrasting facial expressions and postures of the people waiting in line, and the intentional equidistance between these passengers. I also found it interesting that the bus riders were primarily elderly people and students; there were no men wearing business attire.
In 1999, I began taking photos of bus stops, and the people waiting for buses, in various cities across the greater Tokyo region. My photo work trips gradually extended to the rural areas. I discovered that there are very few people living in the countryside, depopulation is much greater and growing more rapidly, than I had expected. I learned that while the population is becoming more concentrated in the major cities such as the prefecture capitals, the suburban cities are struggling to sustain the outlying rural villages.
I have long been attracted by disappearing or vanishing scenery or objects. Traditional privately owned shops, as a gadget store or a toy shop or a Tofu maker shop, are some examples, because they are now facing going “extinct” due to lower population in rural area.
My affection for bus stops grew out of my reading about “feudal lords” written by a Japanese famous historic novelist; Ryotaro Shiba. I found the beauty in the rises and falls of the lives of Japanese old warrior which is to me, like the ones of cherry blossoms. They fall their petals while still at the height of their beauty. I believe bus stops are as beautiful as cherry blossoms. They persevere and work hard even in their final months of existence. I have found myself spiritually interacting with these bus stops while taking their photos in solitude.
Finally a number of areas I had taken photos have devastated by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. Current landscapes of Iwaki City, Fukushima pref., Kesennuma City, Miyagi pref. and Rikuzentakada City, Iwate pref., for example, have dramatically changed from the ones I knew. I also happened to have been taking photos in the neighborhood of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima pref. over the last ten years. Bus stops there, photographic subjects of mine, clearly show how their surroundings have deformed.
I sincerely hope and pray for Japan’s earliest recovery, and pledge myself to keep taking photos of these disaster-hit areas as a record for the next generation to see. I also try to keep on taking photos of rural areas’ bus stops, which might be disappeared within a few decades.