Hiroshi Harada FOTO

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ZIPANG

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[Statement]

​When I was a little, my parents had taught me that Japan is the country that the sun raises very first in Asia and this is the origin of the country name. I still remember clearly watching how beautiful the sun came up and how my parents looked at it with proud eyes back then. In fact, Japan at that period was the time called high-speed economic growth and GNP of Japan was ranked at the top in the world. The sun raises first in Japan among the Asian countries which made Japanese people feel that we were the best. My parents were no exceptions because of the big economic leap at that time. However Japan’s economy has had many ups and downs. Importing oil caused the prices of products to increase. The Japanese economy flourished from investments in land, but soon it burst. During the bubble economy, we took it for granted and never thought it would be over someday. We should have considered what to do before it collapsed. Then the word ‘The golden country; Zipang’ came up to my mind. Marco Polo referred to our country as this in his book Book of the Marvels world’ written in 13th century. This book is also commonly known as The travelers of Marco Polo. He described Japan like this because Japan had been thought of the country with a lot of gold and there was a palace built with gold. It is true that gold was mined in Tohoku area in old time and there is a temple covered with gold. But I think that the golden country doesn’t mean to be abundance of gold. In the agricultural time, people struggled with cultivating small and bad conditioned lands of Japan. Natural disasters happened very often. But people adored nature and tried to live with it. With the patience, the strength and the strong bond between people deserved as ‘gold’. These sprits are Japanese itself. This is what I call ‘the golden country’, Zipang. We have to be more grateful for the sun rising first. To live with the sprits as living in the golden country is the true picture of Japan. People have lived with an effort and the strength since ancient times, which is as precious as gold. I try to express how Japanese people have lived with those sprits in the Land of Zipang in my photographs.

幼少のころ、私は両親から「日本はアジアで最初に日の昇る国であり、それが国名の由来である」と教えられました。そのときの朝日が昇ってくる光景と、両親の誇らしげな様子はいまでも私の心に刻まれています。 事実、このころの日本は高度成長期と呼ばれる時代で、国民総生産高も世界の上位を占めていました。アジアで最初の日が昇るように躍進していることが、両親にそんな言葉を思い出させたのでしょう。 しかし、それから日本の経済は、石油輸入に起因する物価高騰、土地投資に起因する経済バブルとその破綻など、多くの浮き沈みを経験しました。日は昇ったものの、日が沈む前に次の日の出を迎えるための準備を怠った結果だとも感じられました。 そんなとき、私は『黄金の国ジパング』という言葉を思い出しました。13世紀に出版された『東方見聞録』の中で、マルコポーロが日本を表現した言葉です。彼は金の産出が豊富で黄金の宮殿であると聞いて、そのように記述しましたが、確かに東北では当時、金の採れ、金に覆われた伽藍が存在しています。 けれども、私には黄金の国というのは、黄金があるという意味ではなく、農耕を主として営んでいた時代に自然を敬いながら、条件の悪い狭い土地や天災が多いこの国土で耕作と格闘していた人々の魂を指しているのではないと感じられました。人々の忍耐や精神力、絆の強さこそが、黄金に値するものだったと……。 日が最初に昇ることに感謝し、黄金の精神を持って、日々を生きる。それが日本の本当の姿であり、いまの日本の光景にもそれは残っているはずです。日本の光景には、その背後にある人々の黄金にも劣らぬ努力や精神力が投影されています。日いずるこの国土で育み受け継いできた人々の息吹を表現しようと思いました。