To Bloom in the North Country

George Nobechi

2015 - Ongoing

Iwate, Japan; Aomori, Japan; Akita, Japan

“Hanami” is the tradition in Japan of celebrating the arrival of Spring with food and drink under the cherry blossoms. The first mentions of this practice date back to the year 812 in the Imperial Court of Nara. The cherry blossom is the national flower of Japan and it represents the impermanence of life and the cycle of the seasons and fragile beauty of nature.

My grandparents were born in the Tohoku Region of Northern Japan, but because they moved to Hokkaido during the War to raise my mother and her sisters away from the falling bombs, I rarely had occasion to visit my family’s true roots in Tohoku. Years later, while living in Tokyo I witnessed the earthquake and tsunami that struck the region in 2011, and felt, like many of my fellow countrymen, that the situation seemed overwhelming. I soon moved to the United States, but in 2015, having reinvented myself as a photographer, I took the occasion to return to this area for the first time in three decades, hoping to connect with my homeland and tell a story of hope for the region in a meaningful way. I chose to focus on cherry blossom season for the positivity it brings in the cycle of life.

In the North the snow is deep and the winters long, so when Spring finally comes it brings great joy for the people. Over the past four years I have visited the region frequently, and witnessed moments of contemplation, sadness, and perhaps loneliness, too. The recovery from the tragic events of 2011 remains slow, as the population continues to decline when many young people move to the big city for better job prospects, leaving the elderly behind. Despite these challenges the arrival of Spring still brings hope and warm smiles to the faces of these hardy people, to whom this project is dedicated.

{{ readMoreButton }}

  • Woman

  • Ice Cream Vendor

  • The Gathering

  • Security Guard

  • Picnic Chairs and Gravestones

  • Noodle Vendor

  • Ice Cream Vendor II

  • Castle Moat and Cherry Blossoms

  • Woman II

  • Young Men's Party

  • Rowboats and Storm

  • On the Riverbank

  • Three Trees

  • Woman by the Moat

  • Festival Stalls at Twilight

  • Mt. Iwaki and Rowboats

  • By the Kitakami River

  • Bilboard