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Mitsuhiko Imamori

As photographer, he travels around Japan to explore traditional Japanese rural environments called Satoyama; a place where people live in harmony with the nature.

January 26, 2016 (Tue)

Signs of Spring

Once again winter has come. When I open the windows of my studio, a view of desolate wintry fields spreads out before me. In the past, this season in which all living things appear to be dead or in hiding was not for me. However, I seem to enjoy it more and more with each passing year. There are a number of reasons. One of them is that I have learned to feel the potential energy of the oncoming spring.

As soon as the New Year begins, so too does the tilling of the terraced fields on the banks of Lake Biwa. You might think, “What? They’re already making preparations for planting? There must be some impatient people living there.” But in truth the work of the farmer always begins midwinter.

Newly ploughed rice paddies in winter.
Newly ploughed rice paddies in winter. The suns rays help to create its beauty.

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December 16, 2015 (Wed)

The Budding Kingdom

In this season a cold wind blows down from the mountains. All the leaves have fallen and the sun’s light shines brilliantly, bathing the denuded forest in light. Many forest dwellers have settled in for the long winter, and the absence of activity creates a sense of loneliness. But nothing can take away from the joy of spending time in such a bright open space. This is the gift of early winter.

It’s around this time that there’s some important work to be done. Specifically, felling and pruning and the other chores of forest management. Without it, spring is sure to be a disappointment.

Forest management in The Budding Kingdom.
Forest management in "The Budding Kingdom." When the trunks are about as big around as your thigh, the trees are harvested.

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November 09, 2015 (Mon)

A Natural Relationship

The woods near my studio.
The woods near my studio. Good forestry is what makes the autumn leaves so spectacular.

In November the whole of satoyama seems brighter; as though it's somehow been set ablaze. The eye-popping colors of the autumn foliage in the surrounding forest are invigorating. And the crisp, dry air feels good on the skin, creating a relaxed mood that calls you to stay a while and enjoy the view.

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October 09, 2015 (Fri)

Persimmons in the Paddy Fields

Around the time when the rice harvest is over, the fruit of the persimmon trees suddenly changes its hue. Autumn has finally begun in earnest. The ripening fruit’s appearance also heralds the turning of the leaves.

A Japanese persimmon in full fruit among the rice fields.
A Japanese persimmon in full fruit among the rice fields.

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September 07, 2015 (Mon)

The Golden Landscape

September is when the satoyama landscape shines brightest. Everywhere you look it seems you see the brilliant gold of the rice paddies. Cool breezes and clear weather bring wonder and excitement, inspiring you to take walks as often as time permits. It could also be the charm of distant mountains, which somehow seem closer, drawing you in. Such a landscape simply shouldn’t be missed. On a particularly fine day, climb a certain path through the terraced fields and at the top you’ll find one of my favorite spots with a clear view of Mt. Hira.

A view of Mt. Hira
A view of Mt. Hira from the terraced rice fields of Ogi in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture.

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August 17, 2015 (Mon)

The Spring-Water Town: A Heritage of Water Management

As the sweltering heat of summer continues, it's at times like these that we most yearn for cold water.

In my case, when I want to cool off, I've made it a habit to visit a certain special place. It's a spring-water town that's about thirty minutes by car from my studio. This quiet spot is not too far from the shores of Lake Biwa in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture. There a waterway runs alongside a line of grey-tiled roofs that look as though huddled together. Examine them more closely, and around every house you can see many small channels that look like drains. Surprisingly, however, the water that flows through them is very clear and cold.

Eelgrass growing in a waterway
Eelgrass (Vallisneria asiatica) growing in a waterway. In summer, it's vivid green is especially beautiful.

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July 14, 2015 (Tue)

Summer Comes to Mini-Satoyama!

When July comes around, the garden around my studio suddenly brightens. It's all thanks to the synchronous blooming of summer flowers like the Japanese butterfly bush (Buddleja japonica) and the eastern purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Echinacea purpurea
A swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon) lands atop an eastern purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) blossom. Their larvae like to eat the leaves of carrots and parsley.

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June 17, 2015 (Wed)

Ancestral Wisdom: The "Shishigaki"

The trees are thick with leaves, and the mountains have turned a deep green. These days you’re never sure about the weather and the umbrella mark is a common sight on the daily forecast. There’s no greater joy then when a break in the clouds gives you a glimpse of blue sky and sunshine.

Recently, on a day when the weather suddenly cleared, I took a stroll around the area west of Lake Biwa; there I found something quite unusual. Upon asking a local resident, I was told that it was a shishigaki, a low stone wall that was built to prevent the incursion of marauding wild boars.

Shishigaki in Takashima City, Shiga Prefecture. You can see the boundary between the forest and the rice fields, and, in the distance, Lake Biwa.

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May 08, 2015 (Fri)

The Japanese Thistle Takes Center Stage

In May the embankments around the rice paddies are at their most beautiful. The lesser spring flowers have already faded and the pace of vegetal growth has intensified. It is perhaps the energy of this struggle for life itself that makes the season’s flowers so vibrant in color.
Among these early summer blossoms, one in particular is worthy of note, the Japanese thistle (Cirsium japonicaum). Whether in bright sunlight or the gray of a rainy day, its beguiling red-purple hues never fail to captivate the audience.

Japanese thistle (Cirsium japonicaum)

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April 02, 2015 (Thu)

The Season When the Rice Fields Comet Back to Life

It’s now full spring. On the sunny banks [of Lake Biwa] the temperature has risen significantly, allowing myriad flowers to burst forth energetically in full bloom.
Nearby the lake, in the area around my studio, this is the season when they begin to flood the rice paddies. The dry ground was plowed during the long winter and now the cracks in the earth thirstily soak up the water. I guess you could say this is the earth is coming back to life. Throughout the countryside, the soil’s rich aroma hangs in air; it smells like the breath of life itself.

A Newly flooded paddy field in spring. Rural landscape in Ogi, Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture.
A Newly flooded paddy field in spring. Rural landscape in Ogi, Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture.

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