🪄1. Can you introduce yourself and the journey to your photography?

I studied international politics and economy in Japan. I’m working for a Japanese communication agency and am a director of the Cambodia office. So, I’m not a photographer by profession.

However, I started iPhone photography as a hobby in 2010, and became passionate about photography…Since moving to Cambodia in 2016, I have been focusing on documenting people’s everyday life/photography for good when I have time. I’m a co-founder of Art4foodkh and was one of the winners in the Single Images category at the 7th Annual FeatureShoot Emerging Photography Awards in 2021.

🪄2.Most of your works are about sceneries and local life. Why do you like capturing people's everyday lives?

My photos are not artistic or creative. There is a genre of street photography, but I don't really like to be bound by such a genre.

My photographs are a combination of great photographers and artists, movies and football, jazz and food, books and travel, journalist documentaries, in-depth news articles, and conversations with a diverse group of friends. It's not street photography, it's simply photos taken on the street.

I live in Cambodia, and I just take pictures of the everyday life of the people I see, but I think it would be hard to find someone who has been taking pictures with the same theme for six years.

Anyway, life here is completely different from the life in Japan where I used to live, and all of the scenes are unusual and I want to keep them all. Cambodia's economy is growing remarkably, and people's lives are becoming more and more convenient.

While this is a joy for many people, at the same time, new buildings like those in other cities around the world are being constructed rapidly, and unique cityscapes and scenes of people's lives are being lost rapidly. The desire to record this is a major motivation for photographing people's daily lives.

In addition, because similar things are happening in many places in the world today, by closely following the people who have been living on the streets for a long time, I hope that the viewers of my photographs will think about what is really important for society and what is necessary for the lives of ordinary people. That is my main goal.

I like photos that make the viewer think, rather than simply beautiful or cool photos.

🪄3. What makes Cambodia so attractive to you that you have stayed for more than 5 years?

There are many attractions of Cambodia. First of all, people are very close to each other. When you walk around town, you are sure to meet someone you know. When you meet them, you share what you are up to and what you are doing in your life. Neighbors share food with each other. It is one of the most attractive features of living in Cambodia that you feel you are not alone.

Also, Phnom Penh is one of the international cities. It may be a matter of course for non-Japanese, but you can make friends of really diverse nationalities, which is so rare in Japan.

And every week something interesting happens. Art events, live music, screenings, open-air markets, and no shortage of events that both locals and expats can enjoy together, I think it is because there are so many curious people who are looking for new and fun things to do. I think it is no exaggeration to say that people from diverse backgrounds come together to form a town, and this is part of the city's culture.

And if Phnom Penh is the city center, the surrounding provinces are home to natural and cultural heritage. Many wonderful places, not only the world-class monuments such as Angkor Wat, but also the beautiful sea of Kep, Koh Kong, and the small islands, the quiet rivers of Kampot, and the mountains like Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri are just few hours away from city center.

Another great attraction is that you can visit not only the country but also neighboring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar as soon as you think of it.

Since Cambodia attracts many people from other countries, there is a wide variety of food genres. One of the great attractions is that there are places where you can taste not only local cuisine, but also French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Ukrainian, Indian, Greek, Myanmar, Taiwanese, and many other genres of cuisine from so many different countries.

Anyway, for those who have not yet visited Cambodia, I highly recommend that you come and experience the charm of this country.

🪄4. What have you discovered in your journey to South East Asia? Any difference compared to your home country Japan?

I have lived in Cambodia since 2016 and I feel like I have been to neighboring countries like Singapore, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand almost every year. The biggest and most basic difference I feel is the momentum of growth. The speed of growth in Southeast Asian countries is overwhelming, in contrast to Japan, where the economy grew at a remarkable rate after World War II and has largely stopped growing since the bursting of the bubble economy. Things that are happening here almost every week, month, and year, such as the digitization and diversification of means of transportation and payment, that would be slow in Japan.

It is easy to predict that they will grow even more in the future by successfully taking in new and interesting things from other countries and attracting investment. The people living here are hungry in many ways, which is a big difference from Japan.

In Southeast Asian countries, talented young people who have studied in Europe and the U.S. or worked abroad to learn know-how return to their home countries, and while respecting the culture of each country, they take in the wonderful attractions from other countries, create their own unique businesses and contents that blend well with their own culture, and I feel that diverse lifestyles are being born.

This is naturally reflected in the way they take pictures. I feel that many of the photos taken in mega cities such as Bangkok, Singapore, or Kuala Lumpur were taken with an awareness of photos taken in cities such as New York and London, which have created global trends, but even so, there are still elements of Southeast Asia, such as Buddhist elements, Southeast Asian architecture, Southeast Asian tones, and Southeast Asian philosophy. I feel that many people successfully incorporate ideas and sublimate them into unique photographs of each country and city.

🪄5. Do you have any interesting moments during your shoot? Can you share one of your most memorable stories in your photography journey?


He is an uncle we met when I went with my friend Daniel to the street where I always go to get my photos with the launch of our project called ART4FOOD.

He was asking me where I was from and talking to us in perfect English while I was filming with Daniel (https://www.instagram.com/danielnomatic/) for Art4foodkh (https://www.instagram.com/art4foodkh/) on St.198.

He was putting some umbrellas away from street and he told us that he studied English from 1983-1988 all by himself. He read 6 English books including encyclopedia and mastered English even though it was prohibited to learn English during that time because he wanted to know the world.

He taught English for few years and came back to the street to help his family. He's almost 70 years old but he said putting these umbrellas in and out everyday was a good exercise for him. A weight of one umbrella is 20kg.

I really appreciated for him to tell me his personal past, and I learned that once there was a time learning English was prohibited in Cambodia, but the will for learning can't be prohibited.

What I personally find interesting and gratifying about taking photos on the street is that I can hear these very personal stories directly from various people, which I cannot find anywhere on the Internet, and I can utilize them as food for my own thoughts, philosophy, and creativity.

🪄6. You recent photo project for Ukraine is so meaningful! What is your idea behind? And how did you make the shoot?

Since Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, my heart has been with those who have lost loved ones in the war, those who have been separated from loved ones, those who have lost their homes, those who have had to leave their homeland, and all who oppose the war. I am standing with you.

People around the world are expressing solidarity in various ways to see what they can do to help those who have been caught up in war.

I decided to express my solidarity in a way that only Japanese living in Cambodia can.

I would like to convey our prayers from everyday life scenes in Cambodia with @bluelotus_ryoko who expresses "Izanai," a dance to convey "prayers" throughout Cambodia by evolving "Yosakoi," which originated in Kochi Prefecture, Japan.

16 years ago, Ryoko san first encountered the Izanai dance. The moment she saw the people dancing, her heart shook and she was so moved that it was as if lightning had been struck into her heart. After she started dancing, she gradually began to understand why.

"The root of this dance is prayer. To the planet Earth that keeps us alive, to nature. To the people and animals that live with us. We dance with love and gratitude to all."

Love and gratitude in Ryoko san's heart. She has been searching for a way to convey this since she was a child.

It is precisely because we live in an age when it is becoming difficult for people to even have hope for the future that we dance, live, and pray. We believe that one day we will surpass the critical point and all living things will have hope.

We would like to send Japanese dance from Cambodia with our prayers. May a little light shine on those who are hurting.

Let there be prayer for the people of Ukraine.

🪄7. We saw you also founded two pages called Art4foodkh & The Everyday Southeast Asia (https://www.instagram.com/everydaysoutheastasia/) , can you tell us more about these pages?

Art4foodkh (https://www.art4food.org/) was born in May of 2021 when Phnom Penh was locked down by Covid-19. The city of Phnom Penh was color-coded red, orange, and yellow, and strict curfews were imposed to prevent the spread of infection.

In particular, many of the residents living in the red zone were poor, and those who could not even go shopping had no good food and no water. The authorities were aware of this situation, and instead of distributing water and food free of charge, they started selling them at higher prices than usual.

I was very angry about this situation. I was thinking about what I could do to help, when my friend Rafael (co-founder) (https://www.instagram.com/cambodia_streetwise/) said he would donate the money from the sale of prints of his photos.

I was thinking that I could only collect a small amount by myself, but with many friends, we could collect more money. His call immediately resonated with me and another friend, Daniel (https://www.instagram.com/danielnomatic/) and we decided to gather more photographers and fellow artists. 90 artists came from inside and outside of Cambodia, each selling 5 different photos, for a total of 450 photos on the website. Within a month, $15,000 was raised.

All the money, minus the cost of printing, was donated to Local4Local, a non-profit organization. The donations were turned into food by street food vendors and delivered via cyclo drivers to people, mainly those living in the red zone, who were unable to go out and have a good meal due to the C19.

Although it was disappointing at times to see some people participate in the project for their own prestige rather than the outcome of the project, I really learned a lot through this project.

I learned that a project created by a diverse group of photographers, artists, journalists, media, PR planners, designers, etc. can have a greater impact than a one-person project. That good objectives lead to good creations. Rather than spending time aiming for perfection, we should create quickly and continue to make improvements. Don't just say it, do it.

Through this project, I think I have learned more to take photos that are not only beautiful but also meaningful, photos that are for someone else. I have been consulted on more socially meaningful projects and have become more involved in such projects.

The Everyday Southeast Asia (https://www.instagram.com/everydaysoutheastasia/) is one of the teams of The Everyday Project, (https://www.everydayprojects.org/) a global community of visual storytellers, including documentary photographers, journalists, and artists who use photography to challenge stereotypes that distort our understanding of the world.

I didn't start this team, but I was invited by Smita Sharma, a founder of this team to join as a contributor.(https://www.instagram.com/smitashrm/)

🪄8. Do you have any life goals? What are they and why?

My photographs will not stop wars or eradicate the various disparities in the world. However, I believe that through my photography and other forms of expression and creation, I can convey the distortions in the world and tell the stories of those who are working hard to correct them.

We tend to focus on convenient things and our own interests, but I would like to continue my creations that will help people realize what is important to society and their own lives by caring for those who are vulnerable and at the mercy of the distortions in the world.

Because I believe that if more and more people can care not only about themselves but also about other companies and society, this world will become a brighter place, a society where life has more meaning.