My name is Jann Williams, the creator of ‘Elemental Japan‘. Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, Australia is my home base. I am an ecologist with a PhD in ecosystem dynamics, the Managing Director of NRM Insights and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia in the ERIE Research Group. In May 2017 I was invited to become a member of ‘Writers in Kyoto’, of which I am very proud.
Australia and Japan are the two elemental places I have the strongest connection to. From late April to late July 2016 I was based in Kyoto, Japan. It was my twelfth visit to this intriguing country. The experience of living in the ancient capital for nearly three months was invaluable to my exploration of the elements.
On September 30th 2016, I returned to Japan for another two months. The purpose of this visit was to travel further afield to selected places with specific links to the elements. And to take advantage of those delightful serendipitous opportunities that seem to arise quite often.
As it turned out, I only spent October 2016 in Japan, cutting my planned explorations in half. My decision to return home was made after learning that a dear friend had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. A family member had also received some sobering news about their journey with the disease. Home was where I wanted to be.
In 2017 I will return to Japan to visit Kyushu and other elemental places which are on my list, as well as catch up with friends and colleagues.
So why ‘Elemental Japan‘?
Japan and the elements have an intimate association. Geographically the archipelago sits on The Ring of Fire where the earth moves and grinds due to the action of tectonic plates. As a consequence, volcanoes, earthquakes, hot springs and tsunamis are part of the Japanese experience. If that isn’t elemental enough, Japan is also located in the typhoon belt, which is at its strongest in the summer months. The long coastline and mountainous interior of Japan are also defining features. Fire, water, wind and earth – all have full expression.
The geographic setting of Japan also brings the distinct seasonality the country is famous for – cherry blossoms, the summer heat, maple leaves, a snow-clad Mt Fuji – and that is expressed in much of the art, poetry, food and aesthetics in Japan.
As someone with a passion for the elements, and taiko drumming, Japan inexorably drew me under its influence. So much so that I am writing a book called ‘Elemental Japan: feel the energy.’ This blog, which is informal and hopefully informative, shares some of the learnings and experiences of writing the book along the way. The book, or possibly books, will be based on systematic and synthesising research. There is a lot to cover! As importantly, they will reflect the energy, beauty and mystery of the elements in Japan.
In addition to the geography of Japan, the influence of Taoism and Buddhism sees the elements embedded and expressed in Japanese culture. This is through the pervasive influence of Yinyang (InYo) and the five phases (Gogyo) as well as the Buddhist five and six great elements (Godai and Rokudai). Shinto, the indigenous belief system of Japan, adds an animistic perspective on the elements (for example, see greenshinto.com).
The first post in this blog (‘A story waiting to be told‘), written on May 1, 2016 in Kameoka (near Kyoto) is well worth reading as an introduction. It shares some of the material on the elements in Japan written in a complementary blog that I write, Fire up Water down, that explores the elements at a global level. You can read more at fireupwaterdown.com. There is a whole world of elements waiting to be discovered.
Photographs really are worth a thousand words or more – I always use them to illustrate my posts. Unless otherwise stated, all images are mine. If you would like to use share these images with others, they should be attributed to myself or the original source. Thank-you.