2019 Project: Photographing Tenryu

Hello! My name is Sky and I am a 2019 GPS Tenryu-mura intern. I am a rising senior at Harvard College majoring in architecture studies.

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For my individual project, I decided to do a photo-documentary project about the homes and residents of Tenryu. I spent the month loitering in different neighborhoods (so graciously driven around by Honda-san, a member of the Kyoryokutai) and interviewing villagers about their homes and lives.

The homes of Tenryu-mura are diverse, ranging from 100-year old wood structures to recently renovated, surprisingly modern houses. Many are a mix, an accumulation of DIY add-ons made over the course of generations. These homes are packed with stories and all of the traces of daily life; a front door that’s always open, a hand-made patio, a collection of plants, a shelf full of pickle jars.

I tried to capture these little things that make up the lifestyle, the kurashi, of the people in these homes. The photos are of people, their things, and their space.

At the end of the month, I worked with the local temple to have an exhibit of the photos I took. The priest there has a loyal Facebook following for his nature and landscape photos, and was kind enough to let me show my photos alongside his in a 5-day event we called the “Tenryu-mura Photo Exhibit.” Our hope was that the exhibit would be a place for villagers to gather and rediscover what’s beautiful about the place where they live.

On the left are Haruka and her son, who both were integral in bringing the exhibit to life. On the right is the most charming and approachable Buddhist priest that ever was.

So many more people came than I’d anticipated, and the support from the community was really amazing. The atmosphere of the temple was ideal for creating a space where people feel welcome and inclined to linger. Most guests would end up sitting around to talk or to play with the baby. It was an incredibly warm feeling, like the temple was the living room of the village.

My hope is that small events like this will become commonplace in Tenryu-mura. How cool it would be for Tenryu to become the village where there’s always something going on, always something to do.