Matsuri - Call of the Gods was photographed on weekends during the years 2006 and 2007, mostly in the spring and autumn when the festivals predominantly take place. The concept of matsuri is simple - to carry from the 'jinja' (shrine) a 'mikoshi' (portable shrine) temporarily housing the 'kami' (god) and bring the deity to the people. The mikoshi, borne on the shoulders of heaving and loudly chanting crowds, is paraded around the neighborhood or community and returned to its home at the jinja at the end of the day. Like all ancient festivals, matsuri were originally purely religious in nature and served as a means of giving thanks to the god, or gods, and praying for continued blessings in the coming year. Many take place in the autumn, hence it is conceivable that they started as a ritual of thanksgiving for the year's rice harvest. Those that are held in spring are most likely connected to the central role that the earth's rebirth and fertility played in primitive societies as they emerged from the harshness of winter. Certain matsuri have evolved from simple affairs to elaborate festivities, incorporating more secular activities such as folk dancing and masked theater. Matsuri are without doubt one of the most photographable and photogenic aspects of Japanese culture. However, rather than show scenes from the events, the author has chosen to focus more on the people taking part in the festivities and somehow capture the amazing range of emotions that they on this occasion openly display. It was perhaps an unconscious attempt on the author's part to reveal the 'honne' (inner self) of the Japanese psyche, though these images are but fleeting fragments of the complex whole. Above all, this book is a homage to the cultural richness and diversity of Japan.
Professional photographer, Englishman, permanent resident of Japan, now residing in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I run and manage The Cockatoo Nature Resort with writer Virgil Calaguian. The Cockatoo is only minutes away from the magnificent famed and fabled monuments of Angkor Wat. The resort has been the venue for writers' and photographers' workshops. We warmly welcome those who would like to bring groups here. I also personally run half-day and full-day photo tours in and around Siem Reap, including the Angkor Archaeological Park, the Floating Village, Beng Melea and the countryside. To check out my photography website, you are cordially invited to visit: http://www.pbase.com/peteroxley