From September to December 2009 I travelled around Japan under the SOAS / Thomson Reuters Foundation Hagio Prize to document the country's food culture. It wasn't just sushi and tempura I had in mind - Japan has a beautifully rich and diverse culinary heritage which no one seems to know about outside of Japan, and I wanted, if I could, to show even just a little bit of that to the rest of the world.
Anyway. I'd started with a list of foods I wanted to target - but then there's a plan, and then there's what actually happened. In this case it went vaguely along the lines of:
"Ooh, this city is pretty!"
"This place might be pretty too!"
The fact is, there are only so many hours you can spend eating in a day, and so the rest of the time I spent shooting in the small cities and towns my assignments led me to, which I found were often unique, beautiful and, a lot of the time, virtually unknown. And somewhere along the line it became more about the place than the food - I wanted everyone to see what I was seeing, to realise that an epic adventure all by yourself, in Japan, is very much possible.
With various things intervening I'm only writing about it now after eight months, so if anything's wrong, it's probably (most definitely) my fault. Undoubtedly the chefs and restaurateurs I spent hours talking to will be a little exasperated... sorry! But I hope that if nothing else, I hope I can at least get my message across, and have been of a little help to their cause, at least: that Japan is, even more than I imagined, a beautiful place; that its people are all wonderful; that the food is delicious, and steeped in both taste and history. Go visit.
I went through several, largely as a very unintended consequence of leaving various parts behind in pretty much every part of the country. But largely I used a prehistoric Nikon D70 / Tamron 28-75mm where I could, and where that was in for repairs, a Canon 1000D / 18-200mm IS as a backup.
Comments? Questions? Ad queries? Scathing criticism? (Please no.)
E-mail: loren [at] foodjapan.net
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This trip has been made possible by the grant provided by the SOAS / Thomson Reuters Foundation Hagio Prize for promoting Anglo-Japanese intercultural dialogue and understanding; the views expressed on this site, however, do not in any way represent that of the School of Oriental and African Studies or Thomson Reuters.