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Falling in love with Japan caught me by surprise. Last year in June I was invited to be on the judging panel of the annual Nikon Photo Contest in Japan and it was my first time in this special country. I didn't have many expectations. My knowledge of Japan was limited to what I had heard about it in school a million years ago and what is portrayed in the media.

When I travel I love to feel connected, that’s why I hate staying in big hotels and feeling like a tourist. If the choice is up to me, I prefer staying with locals or small hotels and get lost in the streets. To be honest, I expected not to find that local connection in Japan. From what I “knew”, it would be hard to read Japan’s people, the culture being more distant and polite.

In retrospect I can only shake my head at my ignorance. That’s why traveling is so life changing: It takes all your preconceptions and throws them upside down and over board. Japan really stretched my heart.

I found connections in moments and places I didn’t expect to. I found that people desired it, seeked it out and gave it freely. I found so much warmth and love in Japan. It was a delicious surprise and great honour to get a glimpse of how beautiful Japanese people are.

When I landed I made a two hour journey to Mount Fuji, where I stayed at this campsite by myself for four days. It was breathtaking, peaceful and a perfect introduction to Japan. I was totally alone and I felt like a child - not able to read any of the signs in the village, not able to communicate with most people. Such a new experience, so refreshing, so humbling. Natsuco who managed the site was my first connection and first surprise in Japan. We got to know each other over cooking together or sitting in silence looking at Mount Fuji.

After those beautiful days I spent a week in Tokyo with 11 other photographers, discussing pictures all day at the Nikon HQ. It was a crazy experience and I still have to pinch myself that I was made a part of this.

Working next to Jill Furmanovsky and Carol Guzy? How did I get there?

Special thanks to Parker who was my tourist guide in our free time slots. One afternoon I ventured out on my own - with no idea where I was going - and found so many lovely places, vintage shops, interesting streets and ceramic shops - oh the ceramics, guys! Tokyo: Wow. So interesting and for some reason way less overwhelming than I thought.

All I can say is that I was not ready to leave when my plane took off. I remember waiting for my taxi in the hotel lobby and feeling: "I need more time..." Japan will definitely see me again.

When I travel I love to shoot film and often don't even take digital cameras with me. For work I want to be quick and not think about what I am doing, I need things to run without giving it a second thought. But for my private photos I prefer shooting film because it does the opposite: It slows me down, it makes me think more than twice about the shots I am taking. Film photography reminds me to see beyond and look at the details. Seek the little joys.

Shot on Nikon F80 / Fuji Superia film / developed by Carmencita Film Lab

Camp Mahoroba. The hut with the fairy lights is the outdoor kitchen where I cooked in the evenings and then ate my dinner sitting on the bench facing the mountain.

The wonderful gift that is Natsuco.

This was my little cabin.

My Japan journey

I walked down from the campsite into the village to eat at this noodle house (it literally was called noodle house) and the only thing on the menu was this HUGE pot of I-forgot-what-it's-called. The yummiest food I had in Japan.

Found Mushu. I know, wrong country, but look at him!

The view from my room in Tokyo. Thank you Nikon.

When I saw these girls in their school uniform I finally understood Sailor Moon's uniform.

That first shot on the roll.

This was one of the best experiences! If you are in Tokyo, visit one of the Team.Lab venues, thank me later. It's unforgettable.

Mie. Our navigation system at Nikon.

We were told this was the smallest bar in Tokyo. Could have been a lie.

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