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Ever since ancient times, the Japanese worshiped Animism – the belief that “kami” or gods exist within nature. Thus, nature was not something to be conquered, but was instead highly regarded as something that coexists with mankind. However, in modern times, such thoughts have since deteriorated and people consistently seek to conquer nature.
I was born and raised in Yonezawa-shi, Yamagata, a city roughly 400 kilometers north of Tokyo, Japan. In the summer, temperatures become intolerably hot, but in the winter, the snow falls heavily and piles up enough to bury a man. I am 52 years old now and currently live in Tokyo after having left Yonezawa. Even today, I still recall my childhood; back in the 60s we held festivals, filled with seasonal rituals to celebrate spring, and to prepare for the coming of winter. These rituals have since been forgotten, lost to the will of modernization in this computerized age. However, the feeling of nostalgia and the awe for nature that I had felt in my young mind still lingers deeply within myself.
As a matter of fact, I hadn’t noticed this feeling until I started photographing the land where I was born and raised. It was by accident that I began to photograph Yonezawa. From Tokyo, I went to Yonezawa every month to visit my mother who still lived there by herself. As I spent time with my mother, I recalled my childhood days and started to take pictures of Yonezawa. Every time I took a photo and looked at the prints, I reflected on how I viewed my hometown, the nature that surrounded it, and my former way of life.
30 years have passed since I started living in Tokyo, but the local dialect pops out when I return to Yonezawa. I recognize the sound of footsteps on the snow covered ground, the sensation of icy snow melting on my warm cheeks, the stifling scent of grass at the cornfield in the summer, and the rice fields glowing in gold are still here with me. I realize that nothing has changed between nature, society and myself since my pre-school days.
I named my photo book, “da.gasita”. It stands for, “Oh, I see…” in the Yonezawa dialect and is used frequently in everyday conversation. It is used as a casual nod of acknowledgement, even though you may not wholeheartedly agree with someone. It is indeed a word that connotes how the people of Yonezawa perceive nature.
I selected these particular photographs from my stock of negatives collected these past eight years. I used the theme of what I felt embodied “da. dashita” as the criteria to select these photographs. This is neither more nor less of how I dealt with nature in my childhood.
People today are beginning to realize that we cannot continue to live by conquering nature. Through this series of works, I contemplate the reason behind the ancient Japanese people’s animistic view of nature.