ラダック地方と呼ばれる山深いヒマラヤの奥地を旅していた時、小さな山村で日本語を話す不思議な女の子に出会った。聞けば母親は日本人なのだと言う。子どもは正直苦手だったが、覚束ない足で荒野を歩き回る姿にハラハラしてつい手を引いた。

日本に帰ってからもどこか気にかかり、気が付くとまたこの村を訪ねていた。

そんなことを繰り返し、次第に家族のように生活するようになって七年。

あの時の小さな女の子は二人の弟妹の面倒を良く見る優しいお姉ちゃんになった。そして私は彼女たちの年の離れた兄になっていた。

ある日、子どもたちと戯れる私を見て母親が言った。「あなたも成長した。」 何の事かと聞き返すと、「昔はどこか苛立ち、何かに焦って生きている感じがした。遠くばかり見つめていて、そんな風にじっと同じ場所に留まり、子どもたちと楽しそうに遊んだりはしなかった。」と。

賞や名声、お金。野心に駆られ時間への焦燥に生きていたかつての私が今の私や私の作品を見たらどう思うだろうか。

でもわかって欲しい。人を遠ざけ孤独に生きてまで得るほどの価値はそこにないのだと。そして写真の中に映っている隠せない自分の本性、こんな優しさがある事を。

While traveling the inner reaches of the Himalayas in a region called Ladakh, I met a girl in a small mountain village who oddly spoke Japanese. It turned out, because I asked, that her mother was Japanese.To be honest, I wasn’t good with kids, but seeingher walking about the rough terrain on not-so-sure footing, I uneasily led her by the hand.

Back in Japan, something kept itching at me when, before I knew it, I was back visiting that village again. This happened time and time again, till even-tually things got to be like family. Seven years. Iwatched that little girl become a tender-loving sister who cared for her two younger siblings. I was like their brother, though a lot older.

Watching me clown around with the kids, their mother said, “You, too, have grown.” When I asked what she meant, she added, “A long time ago, you seemed frustrated and rushed by something. You were always gazing in the distance, standing still in the same spot blown by the wind. You didn’t play so happily with the kids.”

Fame, glory and money. Driven by ambition and always fretting about time. That was me before. I can’t imagine what the old me might think if he saw me and my work now.

This seven-year photography journey taught me
that living alone and away from people has no true meaning. And there were moments that helped me uncover my soft side, which I have tried to express through my work.