/23 Japan

Yamamoto Masao

Kawa and Shizuka


I enjoy watching transitions in nature.
Clouds in the sky are all different from each other. While watching the clouds, I realize I am seeing beyond the clouds. I may be focusing on the clouds, but my mind is immersed in something else.
There is a Haiku poem Ryokan (1758-1831), a Zen monk, wrote. It goes like this:

A Japanese maple leaf
It turns to show its back
It turns to show its front
Before it is time to fall

This Haiku has made a great impact on me. I believe Ryokan wrote about life through using the metaphor of falling leaves.
Life is an accumulation of moments. There are moments when leaves show the sunny front, and there are moments when they show the dark backside. But at the end, all leaves fall and decayed.
Ryokan’s attention to the sound of the nature, and realization of how humans are but a part of nature, made it possible for him to write this poem. I imagine how Ryokan led his life enriching, soothing, and purifying people’s mind.
“Active passiveness,” a teaching of Zen, influenced me, too. It is necessary to acquire the sense of active passiveness to reach a steady mind and body. When you achieve a calm feeling by finding yourself integrated into nature, you will develop a respect and humbleness towards the whole universe. You will be enveloped in a deep sensibility of the universe, and the earth you are placed on.
This thinking is widely known in Budo (martial arts.) I try to sharpen my sensibility to reach this state of mind when I photograph.


Living in the forest, I feel the presence of many “treasures” breathing quietly in nature.

I call this presence “Shizuka.”

“Shizuka” means cleansed, pure, clear, and untainted.

I walk around the forest and harvest my “Shizuka” treasures from soil. I try to catch the faint light radiated by these treasures with both my eyes and my camera.

In Tao Te Ching , an ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu wrote , “A great presence is hard to see. A great sound is hard to hear. A great figure has no form.”

What he means is that the world is full of noises that we humans are not capable of hearing. For example, we cannot hear the noises created by the movement of the universe. Although these sounds exist, we ignore them altogether and act as if only what we can hear exists. Lao-tzu teaches us to humbly accept that we only play a small part in the grand scheme of the universe.

I feel connected to his words. I have always sensed that there is something precious in nature. I have an impression that something very vague and large might exist beyond the small things I can feel. This is why I started collecting “Shizuka” treasures.

“Shizuka” transmits itself through the delicate movement of air, the smell of the earth, the faint noises of the environment, and rays of light. “Shizuka” sends messages to all five of my senses.

Capturing light is the essence of photography. I am convinced more than ever that photography was created when humans wished to capture light.

I hope you will enjoy “Shizuka”, the treasures of the forest, through my photographs.