I stayed in Mexico for 5 months from September 2015. An invitation had been extended to me, more than 10 years before, from an acquaintance of mine in Mexico City. “Please come to Mexico.” Yet I could never find the right time. Nor could I imagine what types of activities I could do there. In spring of the same year, however, the same acquaintance told me, “We are planning to hold a symposium in September to mark the 30th anniversary of the Mexico Earthquake 1985. We would like to invite you as a guest speaker, but we are in trouble financially.” It was just around that time that a plan began to gather momentum to dispatch me overseas as one of the Japan Cultural Envoys under the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Why shouldn’t I attend the symposium in Mexico as part of the Envoy’s activities? I made up my mind to visit Mexico.
The Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 reminds me of losing my family member and destroying my parents’ home. Since then, I have been taking photos of my hometown, Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture with mixed feelings. Disasters will occur anywhere in the world. In Mexico, too. The great earthquake occurred in September 1985 and a lot of people passed away by the earthquake. I believe disasters deepen our discussion when we convey what we have witnessed in our own personal words in addition to media reports on them. In this context, I came to conclude that sharing my own experience and thoughts with people in Mexico would be a case of “cultural exchange.”
I arrived in Mexico early in September 2015. First of all, I joined a dialogue with Marco Antonio Cruz, a well-known photographer of the Mexico Earthquake in 1985, at the National Museum of Mexican Art in the capital city. In the following month, after having a meeting at the Photography Center in Oaxaca, I visited India at the invitation of the Japan Foundation, New Delhi to take part in the Delhi Photo Festival. In November, I extended my trip to France to attend a literature conference in Paris. Then I returned to Mexico and carried on my activity there to present my works and thoughts, respectively for the pre- and post-March 2011 earthquake days. I started it with the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Faculty of Arts and Design. I visited and gave lectures at art centers in Campeche, Mérida in the Yucatan Peninsula and the State University of Morelos in Cuernavaca in January 2016, and the University of Monterrey and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Monterrey in February. When time permitted on these occasions, I had discussion sessions with the audience.
During my lectures, I took photos of landscapes mainly in around Mexico City. I was not familiar with this country and not be able to speak Spanish, so I hired an assistant who could speak English and drive a car for me. Photography does not accompany live performance like music, theatrical art and the like. Therefore, it does not produce instantaneous “exchange.” Recently I had an opportunity to present some of my photography achievement at the Shiseido Gallery in downtown Tokyo. However, I need a little more time to put my achievements together into a total, organized picture. In that sense, I think the latter part of my “cultural exchange” will start from this point forward.