For as long as I can recall, I have always had an affection for Japanese culture. In childhood this manifested as a love of Japanese animation that had been prepared for the Western world. Astro Boy, Robotech and of course all things Nintendo. I know a lot of people had similar childhood experiences but for me these things stood out.
So as I entered adult life and became globally aware, I started to take a stronger interest in more and more Japanese pop-culture elements. I started reading Manga (comic novels). A lot of Manga. And started to watch and collect Japanese full length feature animations. Akira, Ghost In The Shell and of course anything published by Studio Ghibli. The likes of Spirited Away, Porco Rosso and Howl’s Moving Castle reshaped my whole perception of creative story telling and animation. My love of Nintendo grew and as I became more financial I began collecting rare and limited Nintendo games, gear and collectables. I took up Origami as a hobby, purchased Japanese homewares and collected books about Japanese architecture and gardens. This appreciation still continues to this day.
So it would be fair to say that an actual first hand experience of traveling to Japan was at the top of my bucket-list. For years I fantasized about travelling to Japan to experience and even live the culture. Having a young family, financial obligations and also being a foster carer limited my capacity to achieve this dream. Too many other priorities and expectations that needed to be met. So I guess I shelved it as a pipe dream. One day I would do it. One day.
In 2013, shortly after the swift death of my wife – who was my best friend and someone whom I beleieved I ould not live without – I took up photography. Just a hobby. A mindful activity that allowed me to peer out through the gloom of my grief. To look upon the world without it being able to look back at me too closely and see just how close to the edge I was. It got me out and about and gave me an outlet from my new role as a single widowed parent to three amazing but heavily impacted children.
To refresh and reset I would take random little long weekend trips around Victoria and Tasmania purely to explore my growing capabilities with photography. Thanks to my amazingly supportive family and friends, I was able to undertake these trips on my own. Both reflective and creative in nature. But something about these trips awakened something within me. I loved to explore my world. Mostly on foot. I photographed everything and anything. People, buildings, landscapes, interiors, nature, animals, etc. It seemed I had a knack for capturing images that told a story. That presented the viewer with questions and discussion. When onto a good thing…
And so my love of photography grew and evolved. I initially purchased a decent Canon set-up. But the weight of all this gear, combined with a niggling back issue, saw me look to lighter options. I discovered Fujifilm thanks to a mate who has become an amazing street photographer. It was light, relatively less expensive than my Canon gear. And of course it was Japanese!
In early 2015, in a moment of clarity, I walked into my local travel agent and stated that I wanted to go to Japan. Specifically Tokyo. At this point I had not worked out any logistics. I had only travelled once overseas in my life before. And that was to stay with friends in New Zealand. Not exactly a huge cultural shift. More like country Victoria. But I booked those tickets there and then. This was my chance to be bold, where I would otherwise have been cautious, and do something that I had wanted to do for over 20 years. I was going to realise my lifelong ambition. Empty that bucket list a little. And begin to see the world.