Ena, a town nestled in the gorge stretching across the south of Gifu Prefecture in Japan, serves as the backdrop for each of these photos. The towering Mt. Ena, casting its shadow across both Gifu and Nagano prefectures, is considered sacred, and said to enshrine the amnion which once encapsulated the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. Often shrouded in a layer of clouds, the mighty peak is rarely visible from the town below.
Hired on in support of a film crew in 2010, it was by chance that I wound up in Ena, resulting in my first experience being part of a local community in the Japanese countryside. By strange coincidence, Ena also happens to be the birthplace of my father. Following the completion of the film, I made my way back to Tokyo, only to soon find myself with a large format camera and film in hand, making regular trips back to Ena. Before I realized it, seven years had passed.
Ena is in many ways a most typical example of the countryside towns and villages scattered across Japan, a mixture of modern living, along with scenery of a bygone era, colored by the seasons reflected in the rice fields and surrounding mountains. While easy to characterize as rather commonplace, what I experienced on a personal level transformed daily life in Ena into an intimate stage, the people inseparable from the place in a way that could never be replicated.
People, homes, fields, cars, forests, clouds, furniture, temples. Taken in parts, it couldn’t be more commonplace. Yet somehow, in finding Ena, I found something more.