#Japanspiration: Instagrammer of the Month

This month's Instagrammer of the Month feature is Kathryn Bagley, aka @Kitsunekun - a freelance photographer, videographer and editor based in Tokyo.  We love her striking images showing Japan's seasonal beauty.  Enjoy!

Hi Kathryn!  Can you tell us a bit about how you came to live in Tokyo?  

My husband Ryan and I always wanted to end up living in Japan.  He's lived here before and speaks Japanese, and I've always loved Japanese artwork, films, literature, and general traditional aesthetics. He landed a job in Tokyo in 2014, and I've been freelancing as a Photographer, Videographer, and Editor since moving here.  I've also been exploring like it's my full time job. Before moving to Tokyo, I was doing similar work while we were living in New York City.

As a photographer, you take photos of many different subjects. Are there any particular things or places you like to photograph the most? 

I love to capture the 'mis en scene' of Tokyo in a slice of life style.  There are countless little businesses and side streets tucked away within the sprawling city and so many sings of life laid out among them: towels and brooms lined up outside a noodle shop, buckets and ladles neatly in their wooden racks at shrine grounds, sake and fruit offered to deity statues, etc.  I think my favourite places to photograph are the alleyways that feel like time capsules, and shrines and their grounds.  

We particularly enjoy your seasonal photos of Japan. Is there a particular time of year (season, month, holiday etc.) you enjoy the most?

That is so difficult to answer! Japan celebrates seasons, and even month to month like no other place I have ever known.  It's so intense and inspiring and magical and overwhelming all at once.  There is always something to look forward to and it's always very distinct.  

Sakura and Koyo seasons are obviously visually stunning and exciting, but I think my personal favourites are probably June and August.  Japan is beautiful in the rain, and it rains almost every day in June.  The temperatures cool down, everything is glossy and a deeper shade than normal, and thousands of hydrangeas bloom all over the city in Tokyo. It's so beautiful, and there are often festivals with hydrangea flavoured or shaped treats.  

August is hot and muggy, but there are summer festivals galore, huge firework shows every weekend, and a traditional holiday celebrating the dead falls right around my birthday each year.  There are beautiful community dances at night around live drum players in lantern lit towers, and lantern floating ceremonies on enarby rivers lakes and beaches, and sometimes even  public ghost stories depicted with puppets or dancers. It all feels very magical.

You’re also a video artist - can you tell us more about this? Do you film, edit, or both? What sorts of projects do you work on? 

I studied film as my university major and have always been interested in visual storytelling.  I film and edit all my own work, which includes mostly digital footage, but i sometimes shoot on super 8 film as well.  I film a lot of personal short documentaries around Japan when I travel, and I also shoot and edit wedding videos.  I'm currently working on a documentary with my friend Alex about Japanese public bathhouses, and if all goes well it will be my biggest scale personal project to date.

Is there anything you’d like to photograph/video in the future? Anyone you’d like to collaborate with?   

I'm interested in shooting more short documentaries around tokyo about specific aspects that make the culture unique. I'd like to highlight wagashi (tea sweets) and how they are made for example, and their history, and perhaps individual artisans like kokeshi makers or tatami weavers.  I am also very interested in shooting more creative fashion related photography around tokyo. Kaila of @JapanLoverme and I have talked briefly about collaborating on something this year- probably a photoseries, and I'm excited to see that come to fruition. 

Your other Tumblr account ‘Snack Japan’ features Japanese snacks carefully laid out and photographed using professional equipment, a style which is very different from the typical photos of Japanese snacks seen on social media. What inspired you to create this account?

I love color and am always inspired by color combinations around me. I'm also a huge fan of good product design and Japan is second to none with their packaging of food and drinks.  The idea came to me one day to shoot a series of common snacks first in their packaging and then unwrapped as a side by side.  I've been a little more fluid with it since then, but I decided I wanted to start the project with the end goal in mind being a high quality printed hard back coffee table book, with a page or two for each month of the year since most snacks are seasonal.

I'm still working on it but hope to complete my shooting and have a good compilation for a book by the end of 2017.

New Year is the biggest holiday in Japan, do you have any recommendations for things to do/places to go during the New Year period in Japan? Or even anything/anywhere you’d advise us all to avoid?  

It's such a beautiful, magical time.  My advice would be to go shrine hopping throughout the day to take in all the excitement and details.  Don't be put off by the crowds and long lines, because the lines are just for people going directly to the altar to pray,  or to buy a good luck charm from the shrine shop.  The crowds are extraordinarily managed in a way that doesn't impede traffic throughout the rest of the shrine grounds, so it's actually quite easy to walk around and explore and see the unique decorations and watch special performances without feeling trapped in a queue.  Each shrine has it's own flavour so I really like going to 2 or 3 on New Years day for the differing vibes.

There are also often huge bonfires held at shrines at night to burn charms from the previous year, so it's a nice feeling to watch the bonfire, stroll under festive lanterns, and sip hot amazake from the food stalls.

If you'd like to see more of Kathryn's work you can follow her on Instagram @kitsunekun or over on her her blog at kitsunekunblog.tumblr.com

Interview by Akai Tsuioku