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    • Spring
      • Eating Wild in Japan

        Eating Wild in Japan

        Winifred Bird's latest book is an introduction to the world of sansai (mountain vegetables) and foraging in Japan.
        Niseko flying Hokkaido

        Bird’s Eye View of Hokkaido

        Get a bird's eye view of Hokkaido with Ben Kerr, a Niseko-based pilot.

        Northern Tohoku’s Top 5 Spring Hikes

        Chase the cherry blossoms north and enjoy five of Tohoku’s best hikes this spring.

        Spring Escapes: Outdoor Activities in Japan

        Check out these spring escapes this season and enjoy outdoor activities throughout Japan.

        Haga Farm Spring Glamping in Tochigi

        Haga Farm and Glamping in Tochigi opened in August 2020, and it has quickly become a popular escape for Tokyoites.
    • Summer
      • Climbing Mt. Fuji Outdoor Japan

        Peaking in 2021: Climbing Mt. Fuji

        Thinking of climbing Mt. Fuji this summer? We talk to Mt. Fuji guides on best practices for scaling Japan's highest mountain.

        Japan Camping Guide

        Check out our picks all the way from Hokkaido to the Okinawa Islands and then plot your perfect Japan camping adventure.
        Japan's Digital Nomads Van Life in Japan

        Japan’s Digital Nomads

        Adventure couple Ruth Aisling and Bappa Shota explores Japan by van.
        Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endangered Wildcats

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
        Outdoor Japan Organic Market Online

        Market Watch: Summer Organics Delivered

        Go online shopping for organic vegetables and support local farmers throughout Japan.
    • Autumn
      • video

        Shikoku Road Trip: Kochi by Camper Van

        Mountainous forests and coastal towns dominate most of the prefecture, where visitors will find enterprising locals and nature guides working to revitalize their communities. Shikoku’s winding roads are best explored by car.
    • Winter
    • Near Tokyo
    • Near Kyoto
    • All Regions
    • Article Map
    • Ocean and Beach
      • Outdoor Japan Shimoda

        Blue Waves and Black Ships in Shimoda

        Shimoda may be famous for its white sandy beaches and surfing, but it also played a major role in shaping the Japan we know today.
        Iriomote Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote Activity Guide

        A guide to Iriomote's outdoors, hiking, diving, cultural experiences and accommodation.

        Spring Escapes: Outdoor Activities in Japan

        Check out these spring escapes this season and enjoy outdoor activities throughout Japan.

        Pacific Solo

        Preacher-tu...
    • River and Lake
      • Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endanger...

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
        Iriomote Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote Activity Guide

        A guide to Iriomote's outdoors, hiking, diving, cultural experiences and accommodation.
        Niseko flying Hokkaido

        Bird’s Eye View of Hokkai...

        Get a bird's eye view of Hokkaido with Ben Kerr, a Niseko-based pilot.

        Spring Escapes: Outdoor A...

        Check out these spring escapes this season and enjoy outdoor activities throughout Japan.
        video

        Shikoku Road Trip: Kochi ...

        Mountainous forests and coastal towns dominate most of the prefecture, where visitors will find enterprising locals and nature guides working to revitalize their communities. Shikoku’s winding roads are best explored by car.
    • Mountain and Land
    • Sky
    • Snow and Ice
      • hiroshima skiing osorakan snow parkvideo

        Hiroshima Skiing at Osorakan Snow Park

        Enjoy skiing and snowboarding just an hour from Hiroshima at Osorakan Snow Park. Every winter, people from Kansai and Kyushu flock to one of the region’s most popular ski resorts for winter fun.
    • Travel
      • Japan's Digital Nomads Van Life in Japan

        Japan’s Digital Nomads

        Adventure couple Ruth Aisling and Bappa Shota explores Japan by van.
        Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endangered Wildcats

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
        Eating Wild in Japan

        Eating Wild in Japan

        Winifred Bird's latest book is an introduction to the world of sansai (mountain vegetables) and foraging in Japan.
        Outdoor Japan Organic Market Online

        Market Watch: Summer Organics Delivered

        Go online shopping for organic vegetables and support local farmers throughout Japan.
        Outdoor Japan Kodo Bee Farm

        Honey Business in Tokushima

        Honeybees at Kodo Bee Farm thrive in Tokushima's rich nature and contribute to the local ecosystem while producing delicious honey.
    • Food and Drinks
      • Japan's Digital Nomads Van Life in Japan

        Japan’s Digital Nomads

        Adventure couple Ruth Aisling and Bappa Shota explores Japan by van.
        Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endangered Wildcats

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
        Eating Wild in Japan

        Eating Wild in Japan

        Winifred Bird's latest book is an introduction to the world of sansai (mountain vegetables) and foraging in Japan.
        Outdoor Japan Organic Market Online

        Market Watch: Summer Organics Delivered

        Go online shopping for organic vegetables and support local farmers throughout Japan.
        Outdoor Japan Kodo Bee Farm

        Honey Business in Tokushima

        Honeybees at Kodo Bee Farm thrive in Tokushima's rich nature and contribute to the local ecosystem while producing delicious honey.
    • Races and Events
      • Photo by Noriteru Ino

        2021 Summer Music Festivals in Japan

        Camp and listen to great music in the outdoors at these summer music festivals across Japan.
        Summer Events Fireworks Festivals in Japan

        2021 Fireworks Festivals in Japan

        Enjoy these fireworks festivals held throughout Japan this summer and autumn.
        Summer Festivals in Japan

        2021 Summer Festivals in Japan

        Enjoy these traditional matsuri festivals throughout Japan this summer.
        summer events omm lite and bike hakuba

        2021 Summer Events and Races in Japan

        Check out upcoming events and races held throughout Japan this summer and early fall.

The Camera Looks Both Ways

As outdoor enthusiasts, we rarely go a day without being exposed to high-action photographs of climbers summiting peaks or stunning landscapes of dramatic coastlines and tranquil lakes. You’ll see these pictures everywhere, from the front page of NatGeo to your Facebook newsfeed. It’s easy to forget that behind every one of those pictures is a (human) photographer with a surprisingly personal and creative process—a process that also exists for you.

The photograph above of my friend rowing his handmade boat has the key elements of a high-impact picture. There’s dynamic tension between the paddle and the water, an expansive negative space contrasted by the sharp grainy details of the boat, and a handsome human face (or rather part of one) in the corner for context. What you don’t see however is my face, which at the time, was admittedly a confusing mashup of ear-to-ear grinning and teary eyes from intense nostalgia of a soon-to-be-long-gone summer of marvelous adventuring. It’s this subconscious creative and personal process that gives our outdoor photographs their meaning.

Later when I began documenting my family’s hometown, the beautiful city of Naruto in Tokushima prefecture, I focused my time and energy capturing the uniqueness of this area’s natural and cultural landscape: its famed whirlpools, Awa-odori dance festivals, art museums and temple pilgrimages.

More than half a year of cumulative shooting has passed since, and I’ve begun to see a trend in the subjects I photographed. Instead of iconic locations like the O-Naruto Bridge (pictured above), which connects Shikoku to Awaji Island, my favorite shots are of scenes completely detached from the stereotypes of this city.

Without realizing it, I had drifted closer to home. My pictures revealed the overlooked beauty of the Okazaki Kaigan, the mossy stone steps at Mt. Myoken and castle complex and the cracked cycling road that runs from my house all the way to Tokushima City, thirty-two kilometers away. You might think that as a photographer, I deliberately chose these locations and frames for their outdoor beauty, but that was a trivial consideration. The common bond that ties together these photos below is their significance to my subjective experience as someone who calls Naruto City home.

Looking at these photos now, I have a deeper appreciation of the old adage, “the camera looks both ways.” Each time we look through a camera’s viewfinder, we take a picture of ourselves along with the subject. In this case, my photos reveal my attitudes towards this city—one based heavily on shared experiences with family and friends.

During the age of coronavirus where most of us are facing a seemingly endless detention at home, we have few opportunities to venture outdoors. Instead of wallowing in our collective deprivation of vitamin D, we have a chance to relive every trip we’ve had in the outdoors because chances are, there’s a photo (or several hundred) from your past adventure.

I suggest looking back at those albums and trying to remember how you felt while taking those pictures. Of course, there will be the basic thoughts like “I was so hungry, I could’ve eaten ten bags of Cheetos” or “This was the best damn wall I’ve climbed.” But string those individual shots together and you may find something surprising about yourself while reflecting on those happy, dirty, muddy, tired, sunbaked, fulfilling and most of all, cherished memories of a life outdoors.

Jay Horita is a second-generation Japanese-American photographer who grew up in Los Angeles. After working as a park ranger and trip leader in Oregon and Washington for several years, he found himself in Tokushima, Japan where he had spent many childhood summers visiting his grandparents. He had originally planned to stay for a few months to help his grandparents run their minshuku but ended up extending his stay after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Making the best of the situation, Jay is currently photographing and exploring what Tokushima has to offer. See more of his work at OchawithJay.com.

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