Maps are beautiful and misleading abstractions of a landscape that looks incomparably different when I am physically standing in it. Based on maps and my limited knowledge of Tottori, I had planned to travel along its rivers to experience a sort of reverse evolution, from contemporary architecture and industry at seaside cities, going deeper inland through rice-fields and small villages, where a relaxed traditional lifestyle still exists, and finally reaching the source area of ancient, untouched nature.

Thirty or forty-five kilometres – depending where I start counting – this is the length of the Sendai River. I spent three weeks and 1000 km on a scooter up and down the roads along its riverbank. An endless number of water-courses comprise the canopy of Sendai-gawa. The river rushes through a series of forking branches, faithfully mirrored by narrowing roads running along it, that lose traffic to finally disappear into a tunnel. It is not so easy to follow the Sendai in the maze of such intersections. Impossible to tell which is the main stream I often ended up in a dead end.

My preconceptions failed me. Japan is criss-crossed by lines and tracks of human presence. The long isolation made the island a more or less controlled garden. The coast is inevitably developed, but the other extreme is nowhere to be found. No matter how high I climbed along the creeks, I could not find the desired untouched nature. A concrete dam, a bridge, loose power-lines, or trashed umbrellas always reminded me that this is inhabited land. Even the cedar forests were systematically planted in the Edo age. So I tried to focus on the gardeners, Japanese people who are rarely visible on the maps. Pointing my camera towards any given part of the landscape, someone soon walked into the picture, to perfect Bonsai-land.

When taking the pictures I aimed for this artificial naturalness. My players to whom I owe my thanks, are actors of Bird Theatre in Shikano, and their relatives. They play japanese people, thus themeselves, pleasing me, the foreigner. These fake images - when mixed amidst the ones of original scenery, which were not altered by me - may help to discover the intendedness and meretriciousness of the latter, that seemed so specific of Japan.

European Eyes on Japan, Tottori Prefectural Museum, Tottori, 2011
Bonsai Land, Sanat Limani, Istanbul, 2010

Bonsai Land, Nádor Gallery, Széchenyi Square, Pécs, 2010

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All photographs © Kudász Gábor Arion