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High Tide

By Mitsuharu Kume

Lasting Impressions


The day I decided to go, I exited the station and walked down the road alongside the tracks. Just past a yakitori-ya was a tonkatsu restaurant and a across the street from there was the sign for my destination. I walked in the building and entered a world I hadn’t known before. I hurried up the stairs.

As I dragged myself up toward the top of the building, it felt as if I was in a roller coaster just beginning to move. As I neared the summit of my climb, right in front of me was a poster of a big-wave surfer in Hawaii. I opened the door across from the poster and called out, “Excuse me. Any chance you’re looking for part-time help?”

Not long after, I was the one hanging the “Open” sign outside the bar and taking it in when we closed. I was in my late teens, and this is how I entered the world of surfing. The owner was the senior local surfer in the Kawaguchi area.

The bar played Motown and black contemporary music, and it was a laid-back place with just a counter and a few seats. The only thing about surfing in the place was the poster outside, but even that made a big impression on me.

It reminds me of a drama I heard on the radio that started with a conversation between a hotel front desk clerk and a guest who had received a mysterious post card with the picture of the beautiful hotel in a natural setting.

The person inevitably wanted to go and stay at the hotel after receiving the post card, even though there was no name or address, so they never know who had sent it. After they visited the hotel, they too sent a post card to a stranger, so the mystery continued and new guests would find themselves drawn to the wonderful place.

While the world of photography is a visual one, I was astounded how the story came to life through the sounds and voices on the radio. It made a big impact on me and, after that, I began to make post cards using my photographs.

Buying a stamp was like buying wings to transmit feelings and photographs that would be flying all over the world. And, as in the radio drama, the scenery in my photographs may inspire people to visit the places captured there as well.

I worked at the bar for about three years before I finally left the area. As I was leaving, the owner said to me, “You can take that poster with you.” I thought to myself, “Ageshio ja! Ageshio ja!” (“It’s a rising tide! It’s a rising tide!”), an old phrase meaning everything is going your way,

Within five years I had my sights set on becoming an underwater photographer. In the 20 years since, I’ve often moved my home, but that poster, now battered and torn, has always been with me and has helped illuminate my dreams. To this day, I have no idea who the photographer is.

So, like the post card and the poster, my hope is to leave photos all over the world that will create similar stories for people whose lives they touch.