Voices of Tohoku

Everett Kennedy Brown

Photographer

Everett Brown is a photographer who has worked in Japan for over 25 years. He specializes in wet plate collodion photography, an early photographic technique done with a vintage camera.
His photographs express his unique perspective on Japan and have appeared in major publications around the world.On a sunny day in the Japanese countryside, Everett explains what he finds so enchanting about Tohoku—Japan’s wild northeast.Everett’s relationship with Tohoku began long before setting foot into Japan, when a Buddhist nun in San Francisco advised him to avoid big cities like Tokyo and begin his journey off the beaten path. He took that advice, and found himself drawn to the natural beauty of Tohoku.

Tohoku inspires a feeling of poetry. For centuries, many of Japan’s greatest artists have traveled through Tohoku, inspired by the landscapes, culture, and people. Many ancient memories still endure in the Tohoku landscape, as if one has stepped back into another point in time. This mystic quality captivates travelers even today and inspires Everett to create his art.

Tohoku’s long winters and distinct seasons offer travelers a rich connection to nature, setting the area apart from large cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, where travelers hurriedly pass from one sightseeing spot to the next. By contrast, Tohoku is best experienced by taking time to linger and enjoy the moments that connect one to the land and a rich fabric of native traditions.

Though steeped in ancient history, in many ways Tohoku’s culture is on the frontline of a post-modern cultural shift. Everett has seen this quality firsthand during his training as a Yamabushi mountain priest. Yamabushi were originally hermits who trained on holy mountains to take in spiritual energy and rid themselves of worldy desires.

In Tohoku’s Dewasanzan region, the ancient Yamabushi tradition thrives by inviting people from all backgrounds—from women to foreigners—to participate and learn. This is one experience Everett urges every visitor to Tohoku to try for themselves. Not only does the Yamabushi experience offer a path to discovery of Japan’s deep relationship with nature, but also a way to re-engage with oneself—an encounter with the past bridging the way to the future.

Photos provided by Everett Kennedy Brown

Everett’s interests lie less in the past and more in the ancient currents of culture still alive in the modern age, like in the Soma area of Fukushima, where Japan’s samurai spirit still thrives. With his camera in tow, Everett traveled to the Soma area to record this enduring legacy. His captivating photographs of modern-day samurai descendants express the timeless quality of the samurai tradition carried into the modern age.

Photos provided by Everett Kennedy Brown

The crowning achievement of Everett Brown’s experiences in Japan is embodied in his sprawling homestead in Chiba, Japan. One hour east of Tokyo by express train, Brown’s Field is home to a 200-year-old thatched roof farm house, an inn for guests and a café offering meals made from homegrown rice and vegetables, as well as homemade miso and soy sauce.The influence of Everett’s experience in Tohoku shows through at Brown’s Field, an experiment in a post-modern way of life which brings together the best elements of past with the present to realize a better, more harmonious future.
Everett Kennedy Brown
Photographer

Everett Brown is a photographer who has worked in Japan for over 25 years. He specializes in wet plate collodion photography, an early photographic technique done with a vintage camera. His photographs express his unique perspective on Japan and have appeared in major publications around the world.