Personal Impressions of Japan

Text by: María González Arjonilla

Photos by: Anouk Bello Burkart and María González Arjonilla

Today three days ago I arrived in Seville. The truth is that I have been spending these last days trying to reflect and face my emotions, without success. But I really feel the need to do it.

I am writing from the living room of my house. Everything seems to be the same, but I know that now I look from another perspective. The smell of my house intensifies, the colours seem more vivid, the light that penetrates the room from the balcony to my left shines more radiant than ever.

Three months ago I was terrified of leaving my life here for so long, I felt that everything would go on without me, that it would somehow be like starting a new paragraph in my story. But the day arrived, and my life underwent such a big change from my study trip to London that at no time I could assimilate that I was really going to see Japan with my own eyes. By the time I realized, I was on the plane to Tokyo.

Airplane. 20.47h in Spain. 5.28 hours to get to Tokyo. We fly over Russia, 3944km from our destination. Passengers sleeping, or dozing. Immersed in the darkness. Lights on some of the seats, and hurried passage of hostesses and passengers visiting the kitchen in the background, or services a little more forwards.
Next to me, in the centre row, a Japanese woman has been sleeping all the way, occupying all the seats. I begin to hear slight snoring.
As for us, we make the long journey more bearable through gatherings and the food packaged in tiny bags. And the beloved screens before our seats also help. I see blurred and sleepy faces, illuminated by the screens. Many watch Rise of the planet of the apes.
There are several empty seats, and I have been lucky that one of them is the one next to me.
Seat 28J.
Also 28L. My trip is being very comfortable. I have slept, seen some series and movies, and now I have Tchaikovsky in my ears. I remember my city … Seville. Almost three months without seeing it, and a documentary about its streets surprises me.
Moment of emotions and memories. Past, present, future.
Outside, the stars.

At that time, for me Japan was cinema, it was literature, it was photography. It was Cherry Blossoms, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Nagasaki: Memories of my Son, The Old Capital… Everything, less reality. And I stepped on its streets feeling still another spectator or reader, with scenes revolving around me.

When I arrived, I was stunned. 14 hours locked, seeing no more than clouds and stars, and suddenly appeared… In Tokyo?

The sounds of the plane kept rumbling inside me, I felt like I was in a bubble. But it started to dissolve little by little, as the emotion was taking over me. Behind a cloud of smoke and bathed in golden light, rose the Sensoji temple; uniformed schoolgirls in a row, groups of friends laughing, tourists buying in the stalls… and my first great experience in Japan.

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Then I began to feel it, it was magical. The people, the streets, the light, the colours, the movement. My head was chaotic, and even then I started wanting to capture everything with my camera. Every corner, every person, everything was so new to me…

In the hotel, a huge window in my room left me speechless, and I felt it screaming at me: Finally, here you have it, what you so longed for… I introduce you Tokyo!

mynd 2

                                                                                          Photo by Anouk Bello Burkart

Tokyo… during the day you dress in elegance, you wear black, high heels, tie and briefcase, or backpack and uniform. You are order, seriousness. Hurry, punctuality.

But at night you transform, and you fill with office workers who say goodbye, bows at the subway station. Then we know that the hard day is over, and you are overwhelming. You wear neon lights, extravagance, you let yourself go. I went into Shibuya and immerse myself in a world of publicity, gigantic screens, music and stimulus everywhere. It’s time for street singers, karaoke, and overflowing life.

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Kyoto, you have always had a special attraction for me, and when I arrived I felt that you welcomed me with open arms. The city of temples, of tradition and simplicity. It was like a dream… although the visit was short and among tourists, I know that magic was present and I can’t wait for the moment when I can spend hours there, observing. I dream of being a flâneur…


It’s what I experienced visiting you, Miyajima. On the ferry ride to the island I already knew that I was not going to leave indifferent… And so it was.

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Upon our arrival, a floating giant torii stood before our expectant gazes; shortly before, a deer welcomed us to the island.

The peace that the environment transmitted was amazing. The movement of the waves, the herons on the shore, the distant sounds detached from the rites of the Japanese on the way of the sanctuary; prayers, claps, gongs.

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But the walk to the hill was fascinating. The vegetation, the small traditional houses, the animals… It was an idyllic image.

A few minutes before leaving, I came across a small cafeteria on my way down the hill. That image remained engraved in my memory, time stopped for me, as if somehow I knew that at some point my life would lead me back with you.

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Hiroshima, knowing you was moving. In the rain of that cold, grey day, we placed our paper cranes next to the others. Meanwhile, I kept remembering my childhood, when in class we studied the horrors that you went through. Startling. An authentic lesson of overcoming…


Now I can only thank for so much, for so many experiences and for allowing me to meet such a wonderful people. For each class and visit, for the patience of the tutors, for the dedication of each and every one of those involved, and for an opportunity that will surely affect our professional and personal futures.

Thank you Mirai Program.




Add yours →

  1. Congratulations Maria! What a very nice article.


  2. Experiencia magnífica y bellamente narrada…


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