A Japanese hare, winter white, dead in the snow. A traditional minka, thatched roof shedding summer rain. A silver-haired man gathering wood from the forest. In Otari - Pristine Peaks, Keiko Nomura documents life and ritual in mountainous far northwestern Japan. During a cycle of seasons around Otari Village, she photographs the landscape, the worship of spirits, hunting, cooking, growing food. In the tradition of the Tahiti paintings of Paul Gauguin, or Sabine: A Love Story by Jacob Aue Sobol, Nomura’s pictures show not just a rural and remote place, and not just an exotic way of life, but a place and a way of life that for a time the artist has made their own.
"Nestled among the peaks of Japan's Northern Alps, small enclaves such as Otari village punctuate the foothills with faint signs of activity. Here villagers live with the flow of the seasons in the fertile, yet unforgiving foothills. It’s been almost four years since my first visit to this mountain community, a place where snow can pile as high as 3 meters in winter. My initial motive for visiting was to research the traditional fire festival and hunting culture of this land.
However experiencing the nature of the mountains and the people settled within this environment left a sensational impression on me. Life in the village seemed to have an untainted and fundamental depth.
When I was standing in the heart of the deep surrounding forest I felt as if I was a tiny fragile object embraced in the bosom of something enormous. It was like a giant living and breathing essence with a will beyond human knowledge. Mountains bring about water and nurture all living things.
Life at the foot of these mountains is simply one of working together with family and friends generation after generation. Above sits the ever-changing peaks and sky. I spent a cycle of seasons in this village. My photographs were taken by instinct."
- Keiko Nomura