Technologically advanced, with a reputation as a world leader in consumer electronics, robotics and the automotive industry, Japan is also a nation steeped in centuries of tradition and a rich cultural heritage. Here, on this chain of islands, in the country I have called home for the last six years, signs of the past and layers of history are evident not only in the physical environment but in the language, traditions and everyday behaviour of the Japanese people. As a sympathetic gaijin (foreigner), I’m interested in how Japan, with one foot in the past and one in the future, confronts the ongoing challenge of Westernization while preserving its unique cultural traditions, and what that process looks like.
The images shown here represent the starting point for a long-term photographic body of work exploring Japanese culture and identity, which aims to describe with imagination, sensitivity and humour the observable consonance and dissonance between the traditional and the modern, the native and the foreign, the strange and the familiar, the uchi and the soto, and the importance of wa (group harmony, consensus decision-making and social conformity) in contemporary Japanese society. This project, which is still in its infancy, won’t be a conventional travelogue of Japan. It will instead be an idiosyncratic visual exploration of Japan and Japanese culture made by an outsider.
All images copyright © Thaddeus Pope. All rights reserved.