My Foolish Life
We Japanese like using the word "Tragedy".
For instance, I heard the football match Japanese national team lost their
qualification for World Cup was called "The tragedy in Doha".
Because the qualify was held in Doha of Qatar. However, a tragedy in real
meanings, for example tragedy in history, is fatal tragedy that you could
hate even God. It must look as a tragedy for everybody. The one talked
as some story would be a comedy rather than a tragedy. In other words,
it's just a fault which comes from lack of adequate preparations. Maybe
some sentimental feeling was added on it. So from the objective stand point
of view, the sentimentalist who call it "tragedy" looks even
little bit funny.
I also have a tragedy. I named it "The tragedy in Portland" by
myself. Because it's happen at Portland airport in Oregon state, US. In
Apr. 1997, I flew to the US. The country I had been many times and lived.
But the travel in 1997 had just different meanings to me. Because I had
a resume and portfolio in my suitcase. I thought, as a photographer, I
would visit publishing companies or news paper company with it. That's
to say, I determined it's OK if the travel becomes a farewell to Japan.
I told only few friends and left short letter to my parents.
Since my teens, I had had very optimistic life plan. (I think it must be
so immature and vague to call it "life plan", but anyway) At
first, I divide my life in three parts. I pass first 25 years in Japan.
I'll spend next 25 years in the US. Then I'll spend rest of life in somewhere
neither Japan nor the US making living with photograph.
"Heading for the US" must be the fashion among the young people
in those days and I was one of them. When I was in a college, I visited
New York and I made mind " I'll be back to New York again as a student
of photo school after working for few years in Japan" The job was
quite busy. But I prepared for it. There was not even Internet. So I filled
up the application form in the bed for night shift editors in newspaper
company's office. Then I brought it to an international post office in
the next morning.
2 years later I quit the job as I planed. And I went to the States for
studying at City university of NY and International Center of Photography.
I was 26 years old.
However I gradually got to know the gap between my ideal and real world.
It's the fact "Man cannot live anywhere he want on the planet"
Expire date of VISA was the time must go back to home. Nevertheless I tried
to get closer to my blue print. I also decided to be a teacher's assistant
at the center of photography and accomplished it. So after all my life
was half in Japan and half in US in my late 20's. Maybe I was confident
too much because all my decision never brought in bad result those days.
As a matter of course, I started to thinking to make my living base in
That's the reason why I got to Portland in Spring 1997. I, myself, had
not chose the Portland as a gate city. It's just a hub of the air line
company I took. I lined for passport control. People made a long line as
usual. "Next!" I was called and steeped forward to the booth.
A female immigration officer asked me the purpose and period of my stay.
So I answered "It must be 2 months. I'm gonna promote my photo works.
And it's possible to participate in some photo work shops"
The VISA waver period was 3 months. I had never had problem about it so
far. But the attitude of the officer at Portland airport was obviously
different from any case in the past. I was stopped there and taken to the
immigration office immediately. Then my suit case was checked in every
detail. A inspector pinched up my resume and portfolio from suitcase and
showed it to a white man who looked most authorized person in the room
saying "Boss, look at this" The white man glanced the documents
and told me in loud voice. " You come to the US for seeking job illegally,
aren't you? The baggage meant it, uh?" And he added "No matter
which reason you have, I never let you get into the US. Go back to Japan
The gate for dream was suddenly slammed. I was describing the fact desperately
in the office. But finally, the boss shouted to me "Shut up! Whichever
you can enter the US or not, it's all in my decision. I definitely cannot
let you enter this country. "The plane you came here with will return
to Tokyo in an hour. So you take it" He let his subordinate to change
the returning date on the ticket. I was exhausted and flopped into the
chair. During next few minutes, I thought a lot of things in almost 3 year's
"Let me smoke" I asked a officer in the room. "Sorry, No
smoking except a smoking room here in Oregon" He answered in slightly
sorry to me and went on. "Actually, there is a smoking room in <America
side>. But unfortunately you are ..." Then his words were faded
out. The boss said in loud voice with hearing it. "Hey! Let him smoke.
It's not big deal" The young officer took me to the smoking room in
America side from the back door. The room was surrounded by the all glass.
I sat on the chair and hold the cigarette in the mouth. Then I tried to
organize the chaotic things which was suddenly happen to me in my mind.
I looked out through the glass. The officer kept eyes on me. He might be
worried if I would escape from there. But he need not doing it. Because
even tiny energy wasn't left in my body anymore.
As making sure that I had finished smoking, the officer open up the glass
door. "Sorry for inconvenience ... " he said. The last thing
what I did in the United States of America was smoking a cigarette in the
glass walled room being watched by US immigration officer.
"I changed the returning date. Get on board immediately" When
I came back to the immigration room, the boss passed me the boarding pass.
I was sandwiched by two men in suit and brought to the boarding gate. The
men put earphones in their ear like the secret service of president. But
I looked like a criminal rather than a president. We went through the boarding
gate which had not opened yet officially. The lined passenger looked at
us with strange. In the cabin, the suites whispered something to the purser.
Then they made sure I sat on the seat at very end of the cabin and had
gone. It was the closest seat to cabin crew. It meant I was the most unreliable
passenger, I guessed. In this way, I got on the plane I had got off just
The official boarding was started. With big laugh, Japanese tourist group
was coming into the cabin. I covered myself with blanket. Shortly after,
the plane started running then took off. I peeped outside through the blanket.
I saw snow capped Mt. Hood. Tears came out from my eyes.
The faces of my friend in New York faded gradually. Sleeping gently in
the darkness of the night must be the best way to forget a bad thing. However
I couldn't do that. Through the west bound route, I had never seen a sun
set. The Japanese tourists I had seen before came to a rest room and chatted
in front of the emergency exit behind me. They were talking about their
holiday of Disney land in Kansai(Western) accent. "I wanna open up
the emergency exit" I seriously thought such a stupid thing. I could
blow them up with me myself to clean up every thing. Having possibility
to think about such a stupid thing must be the very reason I made sit on
the end of cabin.
Fortunately ... or unfortunately, I had not opened the door. I didn't eat
anything and just covered myself with blanket. I couldn't sleep at all.
So I thought lot of things. Of course, all those thoughts were not constructive
one but erasing my dreams one after another. The dream of young man was
After all, I got a same day trip to the west coast and came back to Japan
with suite case. It must be "a comedy" from the objective view
point. However when I look back the agony in next decades of my life, it's
nothing but "tragedy" to me.
Days passing, my anger to the US was filled. I came to the US embassy in
Tokyo and protested against infringement of privacy in the inspection of
immigrant office. The officer in the US embassy seemed to only listened
what I said. (Actually, it worked the gate city in the US of the airline
was changed after all. So many Japanese were refused to enter the US. It's
a main reason. I heard Japanese ministry of foreign affair also talked
about the issue with the US)
"American dream" is only illusion made up by media. Exactly,
the US is consist of immigrants. But once they get the citizen ship, they
hardly open up the doors to the people newly coming. They become the person
on the other side when they become American. The person newly coming was
not welcomed in US. Remind it. America is not a free country. That's the
moment I knew it.
My thirties was just "blank". I want remove it from my personal
history. I was shut up by the US. And I could not make myself adjust to
the Japanese society neither.
I always thought the low-altitude flight of my life was caused on the tragedy.
I tried to put every blame on it. Maybe I could take it easy with it. "The
all hatred thing was <the tragedy in Portland>" Thinking like
that, I got start visiting the place where was on the opposite to the United
States in politics, history or even language. And I took the photos.
As first destination after the Portland, I chose Cuba. Actually I got many
excellent photo pieces in Cuba. Nevertheless, the energy which make me
motivated was not positive one but the negative to resist to the US, at
least in those days.
However gradually I noticed the fact my strange travel on the planet was
not came from resistance to America. I was looking for the place where
I could exist. The true thing make me frustrated was uncertainty of my
existence. It's anxiety with impatience if I can't fit to any societies.
I had believed the primitive thought "I got my life for taking photo".
But through facing severeness of real world my ideal thought was always
On Sep.11, 2001, I turned on TV. What I saw in the monitor was smoked twin
towers of World Trade Center. The two skyscrapers were burned down shortly
I still believe there is not such a big difference between < 9.11 >
called tragedy by the US government and my tragedy. However in first look,
I had very sad feeling to the image in the TV news. It must be the sadness
to the fact my familiar district was destroyed by somebody. But the sadness
gradually turned into fear. It's not fear to terrorism but to the thing
which is happen in the real world I could not adjust. How can I adjust
myself to such an awful world?
Way off from the life plan, I still live in this country. All faults are
caused on me myself. My tragedy could be comedy to someone. On the day,
the boss of the immigration office would tell the funny story to the family
over the dinner table. "Stupid Japanese came to the US for illegal
stay. I took him off. ha ha..." However for me, it became a trauma
never wipe off. Even now, I shake at the passport control in any country.
I think sometimes. "There must be a big hole from which I fell in.
When I get to there and look up, I can see the blue sky through the hole
mouth. Maybe I can back to the correct route where I used to be with climbing
up the hole" If I could enter the US in the time, did I have a different
life? Or the swells of fate which I am drifting may be much bigger. 9years
and 12 months has passed since then. It's a long time.
May. 2007 from " 9 years and 12 months"
I don't want being a travel photographer. My goal is a portrait photographer
or a photo interviewer. Maybe there is not such a occupation. So I made
it. Through taking the portrait of the old, young, ordinarily citizen or
celebrity, I wish my works became an encyclopedia of people at final. However
it's very sorry I cannot meet the person who comprehend my idea. Is the
photographer such lonely indeed?
On the other hand for "the tragedy of Portland", I have plan
to make a turnover story with my photo works. It's a long way back from
Portland to New York. To make it doubling into my life, my life also needs
turnover at some point.
My foolish life looks like a scenario of cheap movie.
" Fading silhouette " NYC, New York, USA 1995
" World Trade Center " NYC, New York, USA 1989
fumikatz osada photographie