The day you were born, I wasn’t born yet

Kai Yokoyama

2020 - Ongoing


This is what I have to do now with my life. When this pandemic began in 2020, I lost control like people around the world. I talked with my parents more than ever and shared almost all my time with them.

I searched for photos of my family in the past. I walked where my late grandparents lived and kept taking pictures. Then I tried to connect the present and the past. It was a kind of spatiotemporal movement as if I went back to where my soul had been. There were memories full of love and sadness.

This April, my father said, "This year's cherry blossoms don't look beautiful at all." I couldn't help feeling the death from the scattered cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms are drawn on the fighters, and the military song says,

"Since we are flowers, we are doomed to fall. Let us fall magnificently for the country."

My grandfather went to the Pacific War. He came back and gave birth to the daughter who gave birth to me. I think it's a miracle. There are countless reasons why I wasn't born here.

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  • The lights of the building across the street from my apartment building. I took this picture on the first day of isolation due to the pandemic. I didn't know why I took this picture at the time.

  • My grandparents had an arranged marriage in 1935.

  • My grandfather became deaf after he came back from the Pacific War.

  • Little is known about where my grandfather was and what he did during the war in 1944-1945. He didn't tell his family anything about the war.

  • When my mother asked her father about the war, he was always angry and said, "Don't ask me that."

  • My mother's family photo. She says, "This uncle did a lot of bad things in the Pacific War." My grandfather is not in this picture.

  • I live in the downtown area on the east side of Tokyo where my grandparents and parents lived.

  • The place where I live was destroyed by the Tokyo air raid 75 years ago.

  • My paternal grandfather was too short to go to war.

  • My mother doesn't go out because of this pandemic, but she wears a kimono at home. This is a memento of her late mother.

  • I was born at dawn. The day was a month earlier than my scheduled date.

  • I was separated from my parents for a little while in the neonatal intensive care unit, wearing this name tag with my mother's name on my ankle.

  • My mother is the first daughter her father had after he returned from the Pacific War.

  • One of my aunts died when she was a child and the other aunt committed suicide when I was little.

  • My grandmother passed away on the last day when the soul of my grandfather, who died 49 days ago, is said to remain in this world.

  • My grandfather came back from the Pacific War and stayed here for a few weeks for medical treatment.

  • My mother's hand holding a picture of my grandfather. My relatives always say that I look like my grandfather. But it always gave me the fear that one day I might go deaf too.

  • As I continued to make this work, I knew that I could find out about my grandfather's war history by applying to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office, so I tried to do that. He had trained near where I grew up and where my mother worked. It was a fact we didn't know at all.

  • A picture of my parents when they were young.

  • When I began to make this work, there was one other phrase that has stayed with me for a long time, in addition to my father's words. That is the opening line of the old Book of "Hojoki by Kamo no Chomei".

    “The current of the flowing river never ceases, yet the waters never remain the same. In places where the current pools, bubbles form on the surface, burst and vanish while others form in their place, never for a moment still. People in the world and their dwellings are the same.” 

    It made me realize that I have to accept this life and flow through it like a river. This is something that is connected to my grandparents and ancestors,
    and I realized that they also flowed through the river.
    A photograph becomes the past when it is taken. Isn't photography a means of finding a connection with the past and the dead? I think so now.