At the foot of the Togakushi Mountain Range
in northern Nagano Prefecture lies the Togakushi region.
Surrounded by majestic nature, it is a place of religious faith.
Togakushi village is famous throughout Japan for its soba.
The name “Togakushi” originated in Japanese mythology.
Despite being in the mountains,
many worshipers come from all over the country to visit Togakushi Shrine
as it relates to an important story in Japanese mythology.
Mt. Togakushi is also known as a site of Shugendo
where Shugenja (mountain priests) carry out intense training on sacred mountains,
which have been regarded as a subject of faith for many years. Furthermore,
Shugendo is said to be the origin of Ninjutsu,
while Togakushi is where the ninja school of “Togakushi Ninjutsu” was born,
passed down through the ages and still practiced today.
About three years ago,
I began photographing folk art at museums across the country
and compiled them in this photo album as “ Japanese Tools.”
Everyday tools created throughout our long history were fashioned
to suit those using them perfectly. As the tool is used its color fades,
its familiarity to the user becoming more pronounced
until it is more valuable than a work of art.
I was fascinated by the colors and shapes of
such tools and so took out my camera,
capturing the unique shapes and functional beauty of each tool.
These tools, so often used until only a short time ago,
are now rapidly disappearing. I wanted to record this disappearing culture.
I thought I had taken all the photos I planned to display in “ Japanese Tools,”
but when I found a piece of folk art standing inconspicuously
in the Togakushi folk museum I happened to visit,
I wanted to take more photographs. So, in cooperation with the museum,
I photographed through the night. From the age of mythology to today,
Togakushi has fascinated many people despite being deep
in the mountains far away from the city.
Watched over by the rugged Mt. Togakushi,
the village has a sacred air about its peaceful landscape.
Snowy Togakushi is a village of faith;
it is the origin place of soba and the village of ninja.
These characteristics are reflected in the folk art.
When I looked through the lens,
I felt I understood why I was so drawn to the tools of Togakushi.
If this were conveyed through these photographs
it would be a great-unexpected pleasure.
Series: Togakushi's Tools
Image rights: Yasuo Kiyonaga
Kyoto Museum of Photography
About Yasuo Kiyonaga
Japanese, b. 1948, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan, based in Tokyo, Japan