I took this photograph of Rebecca Jennison from Women of Japan at an outdoor pool in a beautiful onsen in northern Kyoto.
Onsen means “hot spring” in Japanese and they have baths and pools and other facilities as well. There were other women bathing in the pool area and watching when I took this. It’s the only photograph I’ve taken where the photographer was also nude.
She does superb and significant work around feminism and art, and she’s one of my primary collaborators on the project. We’ve worked together since 1998 when I met her at Kyoto Seika University where she teaches. This year she’s on 6 month sabbatical here in the US as a visiting scholar at Stanford. It’s a pleasure to have her here.
This is her text from Women of Japan:
So many people in today’s world are “of” more than one place. I feel that I am part of two places, two languages, two (or more) views of the world—and that they are part of me. I feel that I am neither “this,” nor “that.” But other people think they know which I am because they can see what I look like: when I go through immigration to enter the U.S., I am usually asked, “Did you have a nice vacation in Japan? I hear it’s beautiful there.” And when I return to Japan, the kindly immigration officer tries to direct me to the “Foreigners Only” line; I have to explain that I am a “permanent resident with a re-entry permit.”
None of the words for people who are neither “this” nor “that” seem to fit me—“gaikokujin,” “ex-pat,” “resident alien.” Laurie’s photograph helps me along: Here I am, more than a little exposed, and only partially visible. Immersed, and head well out of water. Nudged into a corner, and comfortably enveloped in warmth. Neither one nor the other. Both.