Forty years ago, when 21-year old Fulbright scholarship recipient Yoshiyasu Suzuka was asked with whom he would like to study photography, the young art student said that he didn't know who to ask for. "Ok, then," said the American advisor. "We will assign you to Mr. Adams." Mr. Adams turned out to be Ansel Adams. Now, 40 years later, Suzuka-san teaches at Kyoto University of Art and Design and a major photographer in Japan, working in several areas including pinhole photograhy. He also uses a unique process to print some of his pinhole work on handmade washi paper. The above image is from a series of hands photographed on Shikoku Island's 1200-year old Buddhist pilgrimage route.
Suzuka-san is a partitioner of Sencha-kai–a Chinese inspired "Way of Tea" using leaf tea and has origins in the late 1700's. The forms and implements for Sencha-kai, sometimes referred to in English as the "Leaf Tea Ceremony" are very different from those used in Chanoyu, which focusses on whisked, powdered tea. Suzuka-san served me tea in the cermonial style of Sencha-kai.
After tea, we went photographing cherry blossoms, which were at there peak today.
Suzuka-san lives in Shizuhara, about 15 minutes by bicycle from my house. This town is one of my favorite places, since it retains both the architecture and small-scale agriculture of a rural Japanese country town, yet it is conveniently located on the edge of Kyoto. Unlike the popular tourist town of Ohara, its next door neighbor, Shizuhara attracts no tourists at all. There are no famous temples or gardens there. Just a beautiful, rural neigborhood to stroll through.
The photo below is of Suzuka-san photographing blossoms.
Lunch at Cafe Millet, an organic, vegetarian cafe restaurant run by Juri-san, Suzuka-san's second daughter. Most of the ingredients for our lunch came from within 5 minutes walk of the cafe.
Joining us for lunch was an architect (in the middle) who is designing and building a tree house for Juri-san and her husband. He showed me the plans for the two room house to be built in a Zelkova tree on the Suzuka property.
I pinched myself a lot as I rode my bicycle home, partly under a canopy of cherry blossoms and thought about the magical town of Shizuhara, a brilliant photographer, his creative family, the organic vegetarian restaurant and the tree house in the making. Susuka-san, his wife and I made a date to take a bicycle ride up a nearby forested river canyon next month, to have a picnic at Kumogahata, yet another village gem in the hills of Kyoto.
- Ohanami–annual cherry blossom viewing parties.
- Never discard a piece cloth that is at least large enough to wrap 3 beans