Yasuhiro Ogawa’s new photobook Into the Silence captures the rugged yet timeless beauty of Japan’s northern region as he follows in the footsteps of the 17th Century poet Matsuo Bashō.
The story of Matsuo Bashō's journey through the northern provinces of Japan in the 17th century, is recounted in his travelogue "The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” ("Oku no Hosomichi”). In the summer of 1689, Bashō set out on his journey with his traveling companion Sora. They traveled on foot, carrying only minimal provisions and staying in humble lodgings along the way. Bashō was seeking inspiration for his poetry, and he found it in the natural beauty and cultural richness of the places he visited.
Like Bashō before him, Ogawa set out on a journey through the Tōhoku region, unlike Bashō, who traveled on foot with pen in hand, Ogawa preferred to move by train with camera in hand. His photographs capture the rugged beauty of the landscape, from snow-covered mountains to misty forests and along deserted roads with glimpses of wild oceans, often shot through foggy windows on a train in motion. Through his lens, Ogawa reveals a world that is both remote and timeless, a world in stillness and motion.
Despite the passage of centuries, the challenges faced by Bashō on his journey are still evident in Ogawa’s photographs. The loneliness and isolation of the road are palpable in the shots of empty trains, lone tracks or roads and desolate hotel interiors. So are the physical challenges of traversing rough terrain and inclement weather documented in his muted photographs. There is a marked contrast between the beauty and tranquility of the landscape and the harsh realities of life in this remote region. From plain coastal towns to empty streets, Ogawa’s images reveal the toll that economic decline and depopulation have taken on the area. Yet there remains a sense of hope and resilience.
Copies of Into The Silence, with a signed print are available here.