Clearly, my fellow photographer Michael Kenna and I each see different worlds. This was evident when Michael first showed me a number of his prints of Hokkaido. I felt something that went beyond surprise, a kind of shock of freshness, to the extent in which the method of his approach to Hokkaido differed from mine. The impression I got from many of Michael’s images was of divergence that, at first glance, made me wonder if they weren’t made by a man from another planet who photographed them in an alien land. From a different point of view, the land of Hokkaido as Michael responds to it, with a perspective foreign to us Japanese, appears entirely new. In this sense, the landscapes he has captured suggest the vistas that the aboriginal Ainu people might have seen around them when Hokkaido was their heaven and earth, in the distant past before mainland Japanese settled there to colonize the island.
Hokkaido is a precious treasure. I have found it to be highly intriguing, gently seductive, dangerously wild and hopelessly romantic. Hokkaido has shared with me an immense amount of spectacular subject matter, for which I am highly appreciative and hugely indebted. I especially love Hokkaido in the winter months, when the landscape becomes transformed by layers of ice and snow into a stark, white canvas, a graphic sumi-e painting, a visual haiku. The reduction of sensory distractions – leafless trees, absence of color, and eerie silences, demands a concentrated and attentive focus – a perfect recipe for serious creative photography. Add hot onsens, cold sake, fresh hoke, and lively karaoke bars – the resulting mixture is absolutely irresistible.