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Japan: A Visual Journey in 21 Images

Words and images by Deborah Loeb Bohren

From Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka, and from Naoshima to Hiroshima and Wakayama and back again, my senses awash in the unique colors, flavors, aromas and experiences that define Japan and its culture. It’s a marvelous blend of ancient traditions and ultra-modern architecture and technology all rolled into one. Three weeks was barely enough time to scratch the surface of this amazing country where each day brought new and exciting opportunities for cultural exploration. Here are 21 of my favorite things, from the simple to the sublime, one for each day of my trip.

1 Egg Salad
The ubiquitous Japanese egg salad sandwich —the perfect cure for my jet lag when the clock said 7pm but my stomach said 7 am. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


2 Matcha Ice Cream
Everything matcha, but especially the ice cream. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


3 National Art Center
National Art Center. The unexpected ultra modern architecture that dots Tokyo’s cityscape. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


4 Bamboo Forest
Getting lost (figuratively speaking) in a magical bamboo forest on the outskirts of Kyoto. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


5 The Art of the Geiko
The art of the geiko thriving in Kyoto’s Gion district. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


6 Temples, Prayers, Shrines
Temples, Prayers, Shrines Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


7 Sake
Hot sake. Cold sake. Any sake. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


8 Fans
Fans, fans and more fans, in every color and design imaginable. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


9 Miyajima Island
Miyajima Island’s giant torii gate that seemingly floats in the sea at high tide. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


10 Cherry Blossoms
Being surrounded by cherry blossoms and experiencing hanami, the art of viewing, enjoying and appreciating them. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


11 1000 Torii Gates
One thousand bright vermilion Torii gates (the symbolic boundary between holy ground and the secular world ) at the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


12 Hiroshima Bomb Dome
Hiroshima Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park for a moment of reflection and contemplation. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


13 Naoshima
Naoshima, a tiny spit of an island in the Seto Inland Sea that is all about art, boasting multiple museums designed by legendary architects, a myriad of public art installations and two of Yayoi Kusama’s iconic polka-dotted pumpkins. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


14 Gardens
Quintessential Japanese gardens like Ritsurin, replete with lily ponds, koi, 300-year old perfectly manicured bonsai-like pine trees and gently arched wooden bridges. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


15 Kimonos
Traditional kimonos in an endless variety of colors and patterns. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


16 Moritsuke
Moritsuke — the Japanese art of presenting food — where each component of the meal is served in a unique dish or bowl to ensure that the color, shape and material of the tableware make the food more attractive and easier to eat. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


17 Agawami
A day at the Agawami Factory making hand-made washi paper and learning orizome-shi, a traditional Japanese dying technique. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


18 Monastery
A night in a 1,200 year-old monastery behind elaborately decorated shoji screens, channeling the ancient Japanese way of life. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


19 Golden Gai
Golden Gai, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku. Narrow, neon-lit alleyways filled to the brim with 200 miniscule and ramshackle bars entered through tiny doorways or up steep staircases, and adorned in stickers, pristine and bright, or a bit seedy and dark. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


20 Fluffy Pancakes
Fluffy, souffle-like pancakes, Tokyo’s hot breakfast trend, that trace their origins back to tea ceremonies from the 16th century. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


21 Mount Fuji
Being caught in Mount Fuji’s spell as it reveals itself to me on my last day and understanding why it has inspired artists and poets for centuries. Photo Deborah Loeb Bohren.


Deborah Loeb Bohren is a fine art and travel photographer. Photography has been Deb’s passion since her father put a camera in her hand when she was only five years old. Today she combines that passion with her love of travel, using her camera to capture the intersection and interplay of light, line and color to create visual stories from the flea markets of Paris to the dunes of Morocco and from Machu Picchu to Havana and beyond. She lives in New York. Go to http://www.travelinglensphoto.com/ for info about her online photo workshops.

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