Naoki Ishikawa(Photographer/Japan)

Naoki Ishikawa(Photographer/Japan)


Naoki Ishikawa

Born Tokyo, 1977.
Continues to have photos published while traveling all over, from remote regions to cities. In 2011, received the Domon Ken Award.

Otsu Showed Me the Purpose of Travel

I’ve been traveling around the world for the past 20-plus years, so I didn’t feel like taking a sightseeing trip to tour famous sites. More than visiting places listed in guidebooks, the far more notable thing about my travels has been the many experiences I’ve had from stimulating encounters. So, unless I have an explicit reason to go, I haven’t felt like going out of my way to visit a famous tourist spot.

That being said, I think I’ve rethought that attitude since visiting each of the famous sites in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture in turn: Ishiyama-dera Temple, Omi-jingu Shrine, Mii-dera Temple, Ukimi-do Hall, Saikyo-ji Temple, Hiyoshi Grand Shrine, Mt. Hiei Enryaku-ji Temple, and Lake Biwa.

I took a car around Otsu to photograph the city’s sightseeing spots and famous sites. I also spent a night at a traditional inn at Mt. Hiei Enryaku-ji Temple and walked around the mountainous terrain. When I looked out over Lake Biwa from atop the mountain, I could easily imagine how it serves as an enormous source of water and that people have been living here since long ago. The Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines around the lake must be here because people have been in the area for a long time. This fact and Otsu’s proximity to Kyoto demonstrate that the area is a land with a rich heritage.

Here and there in the city, I was reminded of the bits and pieces of Japanese history I know. Like filling in the missing pieces of a puzzle, I could imagine historical scenes with vivid clarity. If I search online, all I get is information that interests me or some other info related to that, but traveling is different because I learn things I would never find on the Internet. The landscape of social media may seem huge, but it’s actually a small world. It may strengthen connections, but you expand your horizons less.

Even just sightseeing with a guidebook in hand leads to numerous discoveries you won’t get searching the web. That may seem obvious, but it’s something I thought of while touring Otsu. You just have to step out the door. That simple act reaps greater gains than you’d imagine. Now that I’ve traveled to Otsu, it’s something I want to reiterate, but louder.