I lived in a small city known as Ohtawara-shi in Tochigi-ken. Ohtawara's name directly translates to 'Big-Rice Field-Field'... which will tell you something about a place that has the term 'field' in it twice. It's a farming city with a population of about 50,000 people.
That's pretty small considering that Toronto, where I am from, has some 3-million people... I frequently have a 45 minute to 1-1/2 hour commute into work and again out from work to my home in the west end of the city. Toronto has an average commute longer than Los Angeles. It's true... and yet, LA is considered the poster child for all that is wrong with highway travel. It's not. Toronto is.
So... when you realize that the photo above is what I see when I look out my window in Ohtawara, you'll realize why I felt like the luckiest man on Earth.
Do-inaka... the sticks... the rural of ruralness with nothing around it... this is what people say when they realize where I lived... and yet, for three years I was proud to call it my home... a home I really wouldn't have traded with anyone else in Japan.
Now... this particular photograph was taken by me from the roof of my seven-story apartment building, the tallest structure in Ohtawara. I had to pull myself up onto the roof by first standing on the railing and hauling myself and my bulky Minolta 35mm camera with the 50mm lens and the 128mm zoom lens in my pocket of my pants... and not fall down 7+ stories to my death.
This photo was taken hours after a typhoon had blown past the prefecture... nothing of any note was damaged... the power never flickered once... but man was the sky lit up like the 1st of July (that's Canada Day!), with lightning strikes and thunderous clouds drag racing each other across the sky.
This was the storm's aftermath... and you can see the large Nasu mountain range in the far background, and the hills in the middle front foreground where the storm's dying winds blow over them.
The light from the dawn now one hour past struggles to break through the greeny sky... and the city has not yet woken up, because it's around 5AM.
Can you imagine what the people on the 7th floor must have been thinking... there they are on the top-most floor of the apartment building, and they can hear my footprints tromping over their head... as they wondered just what sort of monster was there at that late (or early) hour.
According to some, Tochigi-ken was supposed to be famous for its winds... but I never saw that.
I just saw what I saw in this photograph... a calm, violent solitude within a city full of people who knew I was around, but didn't know what I was doing.
Doesn't that sound just like home?
As an aside, because I should have ended it one paragraph earlier... aren't the different shades of grey in the photo absolutely magnificent? They are, if I don't say so myself.