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23 Jun 2002

Hi there!

Glad to meet other users of one of my most favorite sites on the net. Thomas and I have been web-pals for a little while now, and I always enjoy exchanging views and ideas with him. Hope to do the same with you.

I have been in Japan since 1982, and will soon celebrate my 20 year anniversary! Feel free to congratulate me. Am planning a small BBQ party, but unfortunately meat and beer don't travel well digitally. Who knows, one day!

I earn my daily rice with writing, shooting (with film, not bullets!), and producing. This lets me travel all over these enchanted isles. I also get to meet lots of amazing people, from hopeless homeless to the comely Kano Sisters.

Some of what I see I try to interpret visually into a photo essay that I put on the web several times a month (officially once a week, but my, is that tough!). Come and visit me if you have time at my site or have a look at the photo essays.

Hope to see you a little more these days. I am often on the road, and a bit shy, but will try to overcome both! 👏

Best to all of you,

Glad you joined, Kjeld! Here's to your first 20 years in Japan:

Shy? Obviously not behind your camera, hehe.
Magical Camera

The camera helps. It transforms me. With it I get within reach of a burning car that may explode any time, and climb skyscraping antenna towers to get a better shot. Without it I marvel why people do stupid things like that.

Sounds like photographers need some sort of predacious instinct too. As you mentioned burning cars etc., are you doing a lot of such "action shots", chasing after events? I'm just curous, what does a ordinary day in the life of a photo journalist look like?
I do no chasing at all, actually. It is not in my character, I am afraid. But I do cover earthquakes when a big one occurs somewhere in Asia. The moment I hear a M7+ quake hits a heavily populated area, I jump on a plane. Being a survivor of the Great Hanshin Quake of 1995, I have a personal connection with large-scale disasters where lots of people suffer. See my photo essay on the role of the Japanese Red Cross after the 2001 quake in India.

In my case taking photographs can be separated into three possible scenarios: as a result of carefully arranged appointments, something I just happen to run into, something I have to wait for. In the last case I may have to wait a whole day or more just to be able to shoot once. Maybe the situation I want to show just doesn't occur, or the light is just not right, or I can't find what I am looking for.

Most of my time I spend collecting information and following leads. It is probably a lot less exciting than portrayed in the movies and TV dramas, but it can sometimes get very exciting. That is a (very long) story for another time.
Hi Debs,

Glad to be here. Hope I will be able to give some valuable and fun input.

Thanks. They passed faster than you think. I have now lived longer in Japan than the country I was born in and raised! Actually I have been here longer than most of the kids who point at me and say 'Gaijin'... I know and understand more about this country than they do, and can get things done that they don't even dream about. Yet, in their eyes I am the outsider. It can be quite helpful sometimes...
I understand your point of veiw kjeld, but its almost like an irish man/woman living in england for 20 years and claiming they are english, its too difficult to get accepted, once an outsider always an outsider, but hay who knows, maybe someday there will be no such thing as an outsider and the old saying that come so easy to us all such as "you know who I mean the Irishman/englishman/japaneseman" ect will be a sentence that will not be spoke again, 🙂

but untill then once we step outside our own birth place we are Giajin, strange as it may seem I prefer Giajin to "Paddy"hehehehe:)

"Japan Forum" e yokoso! kampai from here for your celebrations too. Awesome site... I love your work and totally envy your job :)

Keep up the great work!
Usually I don't mind being the outsider. Most of us are raised and/or born with a strong desire to belong. I had a pretty bad case of it myself, which made living in Japan quite difficult in the beginning. But after living in Japan for this long that feeling has faded largely. I assume it is the same for everyone who lives in a different environment for a long time. You adjust. You probably have a similar experience, Deborah. Some people may experience the opposite. But they will undoubtedly soon return to the 'Ye Olde Country'!

Of course there are times when it is bothersome. When you ask all the questions for example and the answers are given to a native-looking person, whether that person speaks Japanese or not. Especially when you are not even looked at. Or when you ask a question in perfect Japanese and the answer returns in unintelligible English. Fortunately I don't get the "You foreigners can't understand that" anymore.

I once read about the experience of an English woman in England who became a Muslim. When she wore a veil, everybody started speaking kiddy English to her and said stupid things. The human condition is obviously a universal one.

TomAsInfinity, thanks for the kudos on my site. Much appreciated.
Wise words indeed, Kjeld!

The experiences you are describing sound very common to anyone who has spent considerable time living abroad. However, there are also different (stereo)types of foreigners whose cultural adaptability might vary. Two extremes are a.) the "ghetto type" (usually diplomats or persons posted abroad by their company) who only stay among their own kin and avoid contact to "natives" or local culture as much as possible. They don't even bother to acquire foreign languages, and b.) the "sponge type" with a distinct holier-than-thou attitude who'd explain nihongo to Japanese and wear geta & yukata when going out. Well, I'm exaggerating, but you get the picture. What I wanted to say is that feeling accepted also depends on how you approach a foreign environment.
👏 here here thomas!!

indeed how its approached is the key! If you behave like a native then you will be treated as such, learning the language is also a big part of it, "Li yo!!" I think thats right for "way to go " hehe:clap:
Totally agree. Being open and involved is without question very important.

Unfortunately, problems very often stem from looks, not attitude. A white person in Japan is very obviously a Gaijin to the Japanese, an Asian face very obviously a 'foreigner' in most non-Asian countries. Although that person's family may well have lived there for generations.

My own experience is that it takes many people in Japan a long time to 'get over' my face. Thankfully, I am sufficiently rooted to not notice this most of the time. But for newcomers it must be quite difficult (as it was to me 20 years ago).
Originally posted by Kjeld
My own experience is that it takes many people in Japan a long time to 'get over' my face. Thankfully, I am sufficiently rooted to not notice this most of the time.
That's not only restricted to Japan. I've made the very same experience while living abroad. Perhaps people will never get over your face, but you'll soon develop some sort of "protective shield", enabling you to ignore the fact of being singled out wherever you go and whatever you do. Selective perception, hehe.
I wholeheartedly agree with you, Thomas. Like I said, A white person in Japan is very obviously a Gaijin to the Japanese, an Asian face is very obviously a 'foreigner' in most non-Asian countries. But I think you'll agree that in Japan the 'wrapping' so to say carries a lot more weight than in many other countries.

You are also right about a 'protective shield'. That is partly what I meant by 'sufficiently rooted'. If you are rooted in a culture, that shield somehow comes into being.

Wow, this introduction is getting quite serious...
Originally posted by Kjeld
But I think you'll agree that in Japan the 'wrapping' so to say carries a lot more weight than in many other countries.
Wow, this introduction is getting quite serious...
You are absolutely right.

Oh, these introductory threads usually turn out to be the most interesting. I hope you don't mind the "thread-jacking".
thread jacking lolol:D

well we are getting acquanted with each other, and its nice to find someone who is willing to an honest perspective on life as a live in outsider(gaijin) in japan 🙂

At least we have no giajin's here at the forum,
That is good to hear. I was worried I was getting too serious.

Originally posted by Thomas
I hope you don't mind the "thread-jacking".
No, not at all. Don't worry!

If you ever come up to Sapporo give an email, we can go out and get a beer.

nice site by the way!
Thanks, Moyashi. Sounds good! Also thanks for the compliment on my site. It takes a lot of work. So I appreciate the dedication of Thomas on this site.

Let me know when you are in the Kansai.
i'm sorry i'm going to drag everyone off topic here for a sec. I just went to your site and the photo essays are amazing!!! especially the vanishing Japan! i want to do photography myself, as soon as i'm done fish and wildlife i want to do nature photography for national geographics. I really wish that photography had apprenticeships i would love to go under your wing and learn from you. Those shots were just amazing! the colour, the depth of field, the way some of the shots were so simple yet they could still get a message across! WOW! okay i'm getting just a little too excited here 😌
anyway what you did was awsome! ^_^ i'd love to see more
I could'nt even imagion the dedication each of you have for your sights, 🙂 but all good good sites have excellent hosts (sorry I dont know the right title) so congrats is in order:clap:

just to add, if any of you ever visit Nr. Ireland and I dont get the e-mail😭 lolol
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