Yeah, I know, Mother’s Day is quasi-holiday that is way too commercialized. But that doesn’t mean we can’t legitimately set aside one day per year to honor our mums for bringing us into this world and then doing their best not to fuck everything up after that. Motherhood is hard work, a lifetime of it. It’s 24/7 for at least 18 years but really it’s from the day you’re born until the day one of you dies. And for the rest of their life whoever remains has to do whatever it takes to keep from falling completely apart emotionally.
It’s vicious, it’s cruel, it’s love, and it’s life itself. If asked I bet most mothers would say they wouldn’t trade one good, great, bad, or horrible second of raising their children for anything. I hope that includes your mom.
To celebrate this day of Eggs Benedict, mimosas, and fresh-cut flowers I present a small gallery of photographs I’ve taken in the past few years of moms and their kids. I hope you enjoy it, and see the beauty and edginess in these people who share a human bond like no other…
Brisbane, California, July 2015
Kagurazaka, Tokyo, Japan, November 2015
Sierra Point Yacht Club, Brisbane, California, September 2016
Clarion Alley, San Francisco, March 2017
Nijiya Market, Japantown, San Francisco, July 2017
This Mormon boy
(I didn’t get his name and it doesn’t matter)
was on his mission at Nakano Station
handing out tickets to god and scattering seeds of fertilized Jesus.
The Japanese soil won’t take those seeds.
The Japanese never needed a long-haired hippie foreigner to tell them
how to fear death and ghosts.
Besides, Japan’s gods are legion,
tend to be more entertaining,
and bring darker blood and better humor to dinner parties.
And they’re good for a short loan and fast drink on payday.
What this Mormon boy didn’t understand,
will never understand,
is Jesus will never get more from the Japanese than a 90-day visitor’s visa.
The Japanese love their ancient gods so much
they’ve made them characters in video games.
And how is Jesus going to bring devout people
closer to heaven than that?
(Nakano Station, Tokyo, September 2013)
This is brief recounting of two men from very different walks of Japanese life, whom I encountered near Ueno Station within 45 minutes of each other. The first, an older and somewhat rugged-looking salaryman, stopped for a smoke on the south end of Ueno Station by a ramp which descends down to the Tokyo Metro…
The second, a monk holding out a bowl for alms on a street corner across Chūō Dori from Ueno Station. Monks with such bowls are a familiar sight in this spot…
I wondered if the monk was a fake, for in Tokyo these men are sometimes convincing imposters who collect money from unsuspecting passersby for no legitimate religious purpose. But about the salaryman I had no doubts. He was who he appeared to be, and I respected the miles I saw in the lines on his face and the battle his hair was losing to age.
Ultimately, however, the contrasts between the two men captured my attention. The differences between their appearances, apparent professions, and between Japan’s new ways and old ways.
(Ueno Station, Tokyo 2015)
It’s always good to have a picture of a place you want to be, just in case the place where you are is not where you want to be…
Ameyayokochō, Ueno, Tokyo 2015
I wasn’t sure what she was browsing for. She had a jittery way about her, perhaps because some big damn foreigner was pointing a camera at her and taking her picture. For me in Tokyo that’s sometimes an unintended consequence.
But once she composed herself she was cool. And she was generous with both her smile and the peace sign the Japanese love to make when being photographed. Sometimes that peace sign makes me squirm a little, like I’m some American soldier running around Tokyo taking happy snaps during the post-war U.S. occupation.
I’m probably reading too much into my own presence on Tokyo’s streets. But my own discomfort is a price I gladly pay for the enrichment I get from being in this city and among these amazing people.
And I sure as hell hope that after I walked away, this nice woman found what she was shopping for.
(Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo 2015)
Look at this unconventionally beautiful man, and what he was willing to share with my wife. She and I were at a festival at the Ohtori Shrine in Asakusa on a Tuesday…
To this man we were strangers, foreigners to him, and that mattered for nothing. When I asked to take his picture, he agreed. Then he saw my wife and insisted she borrow his shimekazari so that I could take a picture of her holding it…
The Japanese are often the most warm, generous people you will ever meet. And because of this man, that day in the Asakusa sun with my wife was one of my best days in Tokyo or anywhere ever.
(Asakusa 4-chome, Tokyo 2015)
Yasukuni Shrine is an interesting place, but I won’t make more of visiting it than doing so deserves. The truth is, my wife and I went there on a rainy Sunday primarily to browse a weekly flea market on the shrine grounds. We arrived around 9:45 a.m. There wasn’t much right-wing nationalist activity, just five or six men in olive-drab uniforms sitting out the rain in two black propaganda vans. They drove away 20 minutes later.
Everything at Yasukuni was wet, the sky was uniformly dour and grey, and the immense Daiichi Torii gate looked as if it was indifferent to who walked under it that day and would maintain its indifference for the next 1,000 years…
(Yasukuni Jinja, Tokyo 2015)