“European Eyes on Japan / Japan Today” is an initiative of the EU-Japan Fest Committee. Since 1999 each year a couple of European Photographers are invited to photograph the various prefectures of Japan. The work is published and is shown in exhibitions traveling through Europe and Japan. The works are then donated to the prefectures of origin.
My first Japan. The new experience in cognition of time and space was sparked by a Japanese-language map of Akita. It dawned on me that I had encountered a novel, unknown — and thus disquieting — symbol system. During a conversation in the Kakunodate café Yubian I happened to mention which experiences in Akita had thus far enthralled me. This was when my companion, the local Dr Katsuhiro Nishino, encapsulated it all in the form of the Japanese word “ma” (間) /().
What I wished to encompass was indeed the semi-concealed condition which can only be alluded to, covering the blanks in between the so-called important events and things quantifiable in reality — the state of being on the move, betwixt fixed points. The emptiness that allows space to emerge and wherein barely perceptible movement becomes noticeable.
Since even a blank, or a pause — whether it occurs either in space or in time — needs some structure around it in order to transpire, I decided to include in my radius of interest the tantalising “spaces” of Akita.
I began with Kakunodate’s samurai-era houses, and ended up with constructions designed by Seichii Shirai nestled amongst the forests of Yuzava. Although Kosaka’s Korakukan Theatre had gone on a seasonal pause, I still managed to catch a proper show on the last day of the year in the kitchen of a soba restaurant in Odate, where the local master chef prepared soba noodles: a bond connecting the old with the new.
The graphic gates of the Japanese “ma” — 間 — accommodate between them the symbols of the Sun and the Moon, both shining through them at appropriate times. Yet something remains: forever elusive, not directly visible. This is where it seems to me to become similar to the notion of photographic art itself — where, due to the power to convey lifelike visual reproductions, the true meaning of a picture or a piece of art often refers to something not directly seen in the image. The time spent in Akita taught me to forget the obvious — which really is the best outcome an artist could have wished for.