Since my daughter was born, I have tried to visit my parents every two months, so I can show them how she is growing up and so she can learn the importance of family. I live in Chiba prefecture, just outside Tokyo, while they live in Shiga prefecture, 300 miles or so to the west, near Kyoto. It’s a journey that became routine for my daughter and me: driving for about an hour to the train station, then taking the bullet train for two hours and then changing to a local train for about 20 minutes to get to a station near my parents’ house in Higashiomi City. But last year that routine was disrupted by the pandemic.
My family has always been important to my work as a photographer. In a project I published in 2005, I curated 13 years of images I had made of them, capturing the final years of my grandfather’s life and the birth of my nephew. Later, through my own childbirth and parenting, I rediscovered the fragility and transience of the human condition — a feeling that I documented through yet another project, showing my daughter’s growth from birth to about 3 years, along with the changing of the seasons.
And now, because of the pandemic, I’m thinking about my family again. I want my daughter to feel the same kind of bond with her grandparents that I used to love so much, and that made it so hard for me to say goodbye to them in death. This summer, after my parents were vaccinated, we made the journey again, resuming the old routines: the train trip, the visits to a nearby river, enjoying fireworks with my daughter’s cousins. And I prayed in front of my parents’ altar — when I woke up in the morning and before I ate dinner, when I arrived and left their home. It’s a way of saying hello to my grandparents and other ancestors who have passed away.