On the path of a meaningful life

Texts, photographs and videos by Claire B.

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20 May 2016

Six months in Japan

Six months in Japan. Six months of familiarity and strangeness. Misunderstanding and wonder. Contrasts.
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
GALLERY

Familiarity and strangeness. Technology and traditions. Misunderstanding and wonder. Japan is a country of contrasts. A mad country, extraordinary, annoying, amazing. I spent six months, from November 2014 to April 2015. At the time, during my trip, I had a little trouble adapting to the strange feeling that accompanied me constantly. The strange impression of walking on a wire. This mixture of familiarity and difference attracted me and pushed me away. The mixture of American-European culture and Japanese ancestral traditions, absolute kindness and coldness, beauty and ugliness was destabilizing. But that is what made the trip so interesting. And I have only one desire: to return to immerse myself body and soul.

Asakusa in Tokyo, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Traditional masks - Tokyo
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Ueno in Tokyo, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Yanaka in Tokyo, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Ema - Toshô-gû Temple - Tokyo
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kôchi, Shikoku, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Nara, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kôchi, Shikoku, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Jizô statues - Shikoku
Koya-san, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Shimabara, Kyûshû, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Asakusa in Tokyo, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Taitô in Tokyo, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Taitô in Tokyo - Honshu
Minami, Shikoku, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Hiwasa - Shikoku
Iya valley, Shikoku, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kazurabashi bridge - Shikoku
Iya valley, Shikoku, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Itsukushima shrine, Miyajima, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Itsukushima sanctuary - Miyajima
Yufuin, Kyûshû, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Yufuin - Kyushu
Mount Aso, Kyûshû, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Mount Aso - Kyushu
Naha, Okinawa, Ryukyu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Shuri castle of Naha - Okinawa
Shirakawa-gô, Gokayama, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Gasshō-zukuri of Shiragawa-gô - Honshu
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Arashiyama bamboo forest - Kyoto
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Takayama, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Festival Takayama Matsuri - Honshu
Near Goka farm, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Mount Fuji - Honshu
Iya valley, Shikoku, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Yakisakana, fish skewer - Shikoku
Iya valley, Shikoku, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Traditional breakfast - Iya valley - Shikoku

The old lady of the inn poses in front of me the breakfast dishes: rice, fried fish, seaweed, miso soup, meat in small pieces dipped in a sauce, pumpkin wedges, slices of lotus flowers, some fruit quarters and matcha (Japanese green tea). It is 7am. A thought runs through my mind: but where are the bread and Nutella? It took me a little while to enjoy the typical Japanese meals. Generally presented in traditional inns and restaurants, they are marvels of aesthetics and nutritional benefits. French taste buds have a hard time accepting the very subtle or very strong taste of certain foods. But once accustomed, it is a delight.

Yakushima, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Garden fruits and cactus flesh - Yakushima
Guesthouse Kawai Diving, Aka island, Ryukyu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Breakfast - Aka-jima
Ainokura, Gokayama, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Traditionnel lunch - Gokayama
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Little octopus - Kyoto
Nara, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Grilled Dangos with soy sauce - Nara
Goka farm, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Bamboos - Goka Farm
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Takayama, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Takayama, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Takayama, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Takayama, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Koya-san, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Osaka, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

What struck and impressed me the most in Japan was the beauty of the aesthetics of the traditions: the kimonos and costumes, the lanterns in the streets, the cherry blossom season, the temples architecture and decorations, the presentation of street stands, the festivals … There, lies for me the ancestral soul of Japan. In the details, in the use of colors, in the search for aesthetics.

Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Fushimi Inari Taisha sanctuary - Kyoto
Asakusa in Tokyo, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Asakusa temple roofing - Tokyo
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld
Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

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Chapter I. Japanese walkabouts

Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Six months in Japan

Six months in Japan. Six months of familiarity and strangeness. Misunderstanding and wonder. Contrasts.

Mitaka, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Last days in Japan

My stay in Japan is coming to an end and I take this opportunity to stroll around Tokyo and visit the Ghibli museum.

Osaka, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Across the Kansai

Discovery of Osaka and Nara then weekend on Mount Koya-san before returning to TYK to celebrate hanami.

Takayama, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Takayama matsuri

Stars in my eyes at the superb Takayama Matsuri dedicated to the celebration of spring and good harvests.

Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

The art of Kimono

I walk in Kyoto, my eyes dazzled by explosions of colors and varied patterns wandering in front of me. The Kimonos are out.

Kyoto, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Glimpse of Kyoto

For my last day of work at TYK, I was treated to an organized day trip to Kyoto.

Kachigawa, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

In company of Polina

Meet Polina and her family, a young Russian woman working at TYK whom I met a fortnight before the end of my stay in Tajimi.

Tajimi, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Touches of Spring in Tajimi

Second month of work in Tajimi more pleasant than the first and return of the buds and flowers in the trees.

TYK, Tajimi, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Portraits of TYK

Portraits of some of the people I met during my two months of work at TYK.

TYK, Tajimi, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Another vision of TYK

Through twenty photographs, a stroll to discover the factory and its graphic aspect.

Tajimi, Honshu, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Tajimi and ceramics

Tajimi, an industrial city located in the prefecture of Gifu is renowned for its ceramics. I am working here since the beginning of February.

Yufuin, Kyûshû, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Wwoofing in Yufuin

A month of volunteering in the middle of the onsen smokes in the small Youth Hostel Country Road.

Yufuin, Kyûshû, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Arrival on Kyûshû

Arrival on Kyûshû, cradle of Japanese civilization, where I will spend the month of December.

Minami, Shikoku, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

Minami, facing the sea

On the south coast of Shikoku, the small town of Minami exudes tranquility and a maritime atmosphere.

Tokushima, Shikoku, Japan © Claire Blumenfeld

First steps on Shikoku

Arrival in Tokushima on the island of Shikoku, the smallest of the four big islands of Japan.

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