There’s just 9 days left of the NAGAIR Artist-in-Residence program left to go here in Nakajo.

Early morning in the “village”

I’m sure we are going to be asked about our impressions of Nakajo in the coming days and at the farewell party next week. I thought maybe if I tried first using my fingers instead of my mouth maybe I could be a little more coherent, so here goes.

We (me and two artists working in film from Serbia – Mihajlo Jevtic & Jelena Krneta) have spent the last 9 weeks living in Nakajo, Nagano.

It’s not a village (anymore) but it’s a town that feels like a village. The layout makes it hard to wrap your head around the size of it; get away from the main road running through the middle and everything winds up and away into the hills. After even the short time spent here, you finally get a feel for the personality of the place – the people, the goings-on, the way life goes.

Maybe it’s easier to reveal what I loved about Nakajo by telling you what I’ll miss.

I’ll miss the scenery – everyday is like living surrounded by mountains. In front of the house, the alps. Behind the house, a wooded hill. Through the town, mountains on either side. Heading into town, in and out of mountain tunnels. The proximity of real, proper wild nature has been a luxury. There’s no need to get in a car and head out of town to find untouched nature. It’s a five minute walk on foot, if that.

I’ll miss the people. Though a village can have the effect of surveillance and everyone knows everything, the village keeps people together. We were so warmly welcomed into all kinds of bizzare and wonderful events and situations. It is even more impressive that Nakajo people were open to us despite language barriers. It was the desire to share their town and their culture with us that meant we had such a rich experience. Picking chestnuts with my neighour, sitting in on a yearly shrine ritual, helping cut a neighbours rice field, climbing up a misty mountain with a local flower expert, conversations with the cash register lady at the tiny supermarket, sitting in on Taiko practice and even getting to have a bash on the giant drum, going round to our new friends’ house to eat pickled chrysanthemums and home-grown grapes, witnessing the local giant pumpkin competition, helping lose the giant tug of war at the sports festival, having mushroom soup in the half-dark watching fireworks, being brought home-made rice balls in a park in the middle of nowhere, the gift of some whacky looking eggplants and 10kg of homegrown rice, playing flute duets with one of the talented locals, free coffee at the noodle-soup shop run by our neighbour, coming home to apples left on the doorstep, epic guided tours of nearby towns, greetings from schoolkids out running during PE class, ladies saying hi at the bus stop…it goes on and on.

I’ll miss the freedom to concentrate on creation. But that’s the beauty of Artist-in-residence programs, isn’t it. They give you the space and time away from real life to buckle down and focus. Looking at what I displayed at the final exhibition which finished today, I was thinking how one of those artworks takes me 4 weeks to finish when I’m doing my “real life” at the same time. Here I bashed out 6 proper big artworks in 8 weeks! Ridiculous. Time moved differently here, I’m sure.

I don’t know if I’ve been very coherent, after all. My time in Nakajo has been many different things all wrapped into one.

Never mind. No need to make things final, I’m sure I’ll be back again soon.