A man praying near a winter bonfire at the local shrine

New Year and The Local Shrine

For the past few years I have been going to the local shrine at new year to photograph and build a body of work. Unsurprisingly this year was unlike previous ones. On the steps leading up to the shrine were signs informing visitors of social distancing and mask necessities, and 5 p.m. closures — reminders of the danger that 2020 posed to us all. 

Looking back at last year’s photos and trying to rekindle the excitement I had for 2020 now seems naive. I had a number of hiking trips planned, an annual trip to the U.K., a summer trip to Australia, as well as a winter photography trip to Hokkaido, all of which had to be abandoned.

Things that were taken for granted never happened. It was a troubling year for us all and one that many wish to see the back of. Things changed, but things always change. I’m stating the obvious when I say that predicting the future is futile, so all we can do is try and make today better than yesterday and move forward.

I consider myself an optimistic pessimist, happy to live this moment and plan for the future but fully aware that life is short and nothing goes according to plan. I find comfort in that, though. It’s motivating. Try and get it — whatever it is — done today.

Each shrine visit resets the compass and puts things back into perspective. It’s a marker, a tool that forces us to reflect on the past and discard unnecessary clutter, so that we can move forward. 

I have plans for 2021 but I doubt any of them will turn out as intended.

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Based in Japan since 2001 I spend free days adventuring into the mountainous regions of central Honshu and occasionally Hokkaido. In 2021, I plan to slow down and talk to more people. Feel free to email me.