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July 27, 2012

Photo of the Week

[Photo of the week is a regular segment we will try to include every Friday. The goal is to showcase a travel-related photograph or other piece of art, talk about it a bit, and explain what it means to us. It will be slightly briefer than our normal posts, but we hope the images will fill in what words don’t.]

I took this photo at the Kobe Biennale Art Festival at a shodo gallery, showcasing Japanese calligraphy. Some was very traditional, while others were done with a more modern spin. I centered the image and put it in black and white to emphasize how the piece captivated this particular viewer and transported him into his own world. The message behind this photograph hinges on the search for the deeper meaning, and I think that ties in very well with the purpose of our blog.

Think of each new culture as a work of art. Some are pretty and colorful, others are darker and more mysterious. But all of them are worth looking at, because a single glance can only tell you so much. When I was hostel hopping in Kyoto I met several other travelers. Kyoto is known as the “City of 1000 Temples” (really only about half the actual number) and as such it was the topic of frequent conversation. One of my bunkmates confessed to me that they were great, but “once you’ve seen ten you’ve seen them all,” and that he was tired of it after the first day. This approach made me realize that just because you’re taking a rugged solo backpacking trip around the world doesn’t mean you’re not still a tourist if all you do is look at something and move on, just like a connoisseur of art wouldn’t power through the Louvre in an afternoon.

Sure, the temple architecture may be similar and the calligraphy might all be in a foreign language, but people are always unique. Look closer and you’ll see the passion come through the brushstrokes. Attend a few temple services and you might be invited to participate or learn a few secrets the tourists don’t see.

There is a big difference between seeing something and understanding it. So take a closer look.

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