4 minute read
Work Vs. Leisure
September 14, 2017
This fourteen-part series is based on our journey to Japan and Indonesia, beginning September 13, 2017. In each post we use our presence in Asia as a broader background to the usual exploration of how we fit into this world. Welcome to our private life.
We slept on roll-out bedding over tatami in a room with a paper shade and the morning was bright. Waking up for the first time in Tokyo was disorienting. My boss was just asking me incomprehensible questions in a dream I was having, and I wasn’t expecting to see an austere Japanese room when I opened my eyes. After the dream it felt more like I had been working at home for a week than sleeping overnight here in Tokyo on our first full day overseas.
Unfortunately the disenchantment from my jet-lagged awakening lingered while we explored the city, and my mood was clearly affecting the group as we walked around kanda. Seeing my emotions affecting everyone made me feel selfish for even caring about work – how annoying that I would realize just how much I work while trying to enjoy myself in Japan. And the snafu that cut me off entirely from work email just made things worse.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. How else would we have bough tickets to come here? And yes, it’s given me irreplaceable experiences, but I often wonder if that’s enough to pay for the diffusion of work into my family life. Are we settling for the convenience of my profession? Maybe. Probably. But it’s hard to justify shifting the momentum of our lives just so that walking through the streets of Tokyo isn’t a bittersweet experience ruined by collecting emails.
East Gardens Of Imperial Palace, Chiyoda
Tokyo was more humid than we expected. I don’t know what we were thinking, after all, Japan is an archipelago in the north pacific (there are 6,852 islands, to be exact). Yet the tourists were in shorts, around shibuya most Japanese wore full business suits even though the weather really wasn’t that much different than Houston’s.
“I have a burning desire to see what things look like photographed by me.” sometimes I think of Winogrand quotes when I’m shooting. He didn’t care about an audience, and now that we both shoot mostly for ourselves, we appreciate the freedom he described.
It took time to digest the environment before I understand how much the Japanese culture is embedded in every detail, right down to the vending machines on nearly every street corner. These things are everywhere, and they sell anything from drinks to cigarettes to ramen. Despite the convenience, we never saw rubbish on the streets.
When I’m on the street with a camera I’m not making images of people, although I do occasionally shoot them. My preference is for graphic elements because the intentionality is more challenging than the volume needed for capturing momentary facial expressions. I have a lot of respect for the masters who didn’t have modern options available.
Toshogu Shrine, Ueno Park
Ueno park was around the corner from our flat, so we walked there the first morning. That was before we adjusted to the new time zone so we were up too early to find breakfast, nothing is open until about 8am. Discovering the Toshogu shrine provided an opportunity while we looked for food to see how old and new are woven together in Japan. And still no trash, anywhere.
National Museum Of Modern Art Tokyo
For about ¥500, the national Museum of Art is a bargain. The momat collection photography exhibit is in room nine, part of the series the afternoon by akihide tamura is there. But go to the third floor, room ten, and see the Japanese style painting because it’s an impressive assemblage. Our favorite pieces are there.
In the end, maybe the correct language would be how the fact of putting four edges around a collection of information or facts transforms it. A photograph is not what was photographed, it’s something else.
Jet-lagged and tired, we stumbled into mitouya for our first ramen late in the day after we landed. This isn’t their door. Anyway, if you’re ever in Ueno, go there and get the ramen with 2 porks, it will change your life. By the way, we read a lot about how expensive it is to eat in Tokyo, and most of that information was wrong.