Where to wander?
For this newsletter, the news is not personal, but it’s big and worth writing about. As you may have heard, Japan is finally—finally!—ending its border restrictions. Beginning in one week, on October 11, visitors can come and travel freely without the need for visas.
And what a time to visit Japan. The Japanese yen is at a level not seen since 1990. In comparison to just three years ago, a U.S. dollar is now worth 30% more. Even then, Japan was not an expensive country to visit, but prices now will be absurdly low for many foreign visitors.
Certainly, Japan’s businesses need tourists again. Especially the small shops; many have been barely managing to hang on for the past two-and-a-half years, and they will be grateful for your visit. (To maintain that goodwill, do follow the Japanese government’s guidance regarding the wearing of masks.)
So, come if you can! Visit Tokyo and, if you like, go ahead and take a few photos of Shibuya crossing (I did when I first visited twenty years ago). But then, forget about what everyone else is doing and spend a while wandering the side streets and backstreets; they are every bit as glorious as the places on the top ten lists. If you need help or recommendations, let me know.
After that, if you have the time, head out of Tokyo. If it were me, I might take the train south to Atami, visit the astounding Enoura Observatory, and spend a long, long time with Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes; the original prints of these are as spiritual as any photographs I know. Perhaps I’d make it a weekend, staying at small hot springs hotel overlooking the Bay of Atami.
Or, if I was in a mood for solitude, I’d head north for Tsugaru to see for myself the snow blanketed landscapes so beautifully photographed by its local photographers, Ichiro Kojima and Sho Shibata.
Even hardened Tokyo photographers experience travel to less heralded parts of Japan with a sense of wonder. I’m thinking currently about Daido Moriyama (Northern), Issei Suda (The Journey to Osorezan), Kazuo Kitai (To the Villages) Hiromi Tsuchida (Zokushin), and Koji Onaka (Slow Boat). But that’s only scratching the surface.
Among photographers who were not born in Japan but who photograph here, perhaps the one who most leans into a feeling of amazement is Sean Lotman. Sean has been living in Japan for more than 15 years. His book Sunlanders is comprised of photos taken all over the country with color film and processed in his own darkroom. And it’s not the Japan of stereotypes and cliches, but rather an extremely personal vision of his adopted home.
If you’re visiting Japan, and Kyoto is on the itinerary, Sean runs a design space guesthouse. I think it would certainly be a more enjoyable experience than a typical tourist hotel. Do get in touch with him to find out more.
Before I close, I’d like to recognize that a number of you shared my last newsletter with others. Thank you!
If someone has forwarded this newsletter to you (or if you are otherwise reading it for the first time) I’d be very happy to have you subscribe. It’s completely free.
I look forward to writing again in a month or so. Until then, whether you might be traveling physically or through the magic of photographs, may your journeys be amazing.