For sometime now, it has been customary for me to visit the Japanese Cemetery in Broome almost immediately after my arrival. I do not feel settled into the community and feel superstitious about starting a project here until I pay my respects to my senpai(s) (先輩), at the cemetery.
When I walk through the gates, I feel the burden on my shoulders lift. Walking down the central pathway leading to the back of the cemetery adjacent to the Catholic Cemetery, I find myself talking with the dead.
I am back again, I let them know, and ask them how things have been since my last visit.
When I near the injured tombstone, vandalized only couple of years ago, I feel a sharp pain to see the once handsome tombstone so violently reduced to third of its original size. I say hello, let him know that I am back, and assure him I have a photograph of his tombstone before the attack.
It does not matter after all: everyone’s tombstones weather and disappear eventually. It is beautiful that it disappears and that once we are forgotten, we are finally free.
I know this.
But I am a photographer.
I cannot stop documenting, trying to preserve, trying to capture a moment in the flow of time. Something about my wish to document for posterity feels very human and a very sad part of being human at that.
In the north east section of the cemetery are the newer burials. I spend more time in this corner, letting each person know that I am back. I spend most of the time by Uncle Hama’s grave. I remember our first meeting, when he told me he was disgusted by young Japanese women these days, dying and perming their naturally jet black straight hair. A the time my hair was permed and was dyed slightly brown. I remember being embarrassed.
No one is in the cemetery other than couple of tourists a good twenty meters away. There is a gentle afternoon breeze. Out loud, I let Uncle Hama know I am back and explain to him my two reasons for being back.
I am back in Broome.
I am here to work with young people, passing on my skills as a photographer and story-teller as part of a project called Broome: You Are Here.
I am here to find about my photographic senpai (先輩), Yasuskichi Murakami as part of a project called 3 Japanese Photographers.
As I leave the cemetery, I let everyone there know that I will be back again.
– Posted by Mayu Kanamori