EMILY SHUR ON HER FASCINATION WITH JAPAN
“I immediately felt a connection to Japan (the place) and Japanese culture upon my first visit in 2004. Since then, I’ve gone back at least once or twice a year, ever year, until the pandemic made it impossible in 2020. This most recent trip was my first since 2019. My husband had some work-related opportunities come up across a couple weekends in February—one event in Tokyo and one in a smaller city called Maebashi—so we decided to go for two weeks and planned our trip around these two events.
When I started planning, it was more stressful than it should’ve been. I was putting too much pressure on myself and on the trip itself. We’d waited for what felt like so long to be back in Japan, and the anticipation had built up too much in my mind. I remembered some truths. That just being there is the fun part. That it never matters where we go specifically, how long we spend anywhere, or whether we check everything or nothing off of some self-imposed to-do list. Every trip to Japan winds up being a different type of travel experience, even to places we’ve been many times before."
"I’ve tried to put my photographic connection to Japan in writing before, and it’s tough. My pictures from there are not about Japan specifically as a place. I’m not interested in making some sort of travel guide or pretend like I’m any kind of authority on Japanese culture. Instead, I’d like to think that my pictures are relatable beyond the specifics of the ‘where.’ They’re illustrating a state of mind—one of exploration and appreciation."
"On this trip, we started in Tokyo, then on to Okayama and Takamatsu. From there, we went for a few days to Maebashi, where I wound up spending a couple of afternoons in nearby Takasaki, then one night in Kusatsu Onsen, and finally back to Tokyo for a couple of days. While we’ve spent a lot of time in Tokyo over the years, it was our first time in most of these cities. After so many years away, Tokyo felt ‘normal,’ for lack of a better word. It was lively, beautiful, weird, and fun. The other places we went had more of a palpable emptiness… Possibly lingering effects of the pandemic, possibly Japan’s aging population crisis on display, probably a combination of both. What came out of that is a lot of quiet photographs, but I see a lot of beauty in that silence. A quiet place can also quiet the mind, which is such a gift when it comes to seeing the world around me.”