JAPAN - (cont'd)
Sonia also negotiates assignment work for some of the finest photographers working in Japan: Bruce Osborn, Chu Fujiwara, Rei Ohara, Hitoshi Fugo. Their work spans the full spectrum of the editorial-corporate-advertising markets.

Our archives cover the gamut of Japanese life: politics, business, homes, offices, city living, rural living, arts, education, food, religion. Contact us for a full list of topics.

FAQ's about Japan:

You were there a long time--you must speak Japanese.
I didn't know a word of Japanese when I first went to Japan. I learned the language 'on the job.' I took some language classes when time allowed (time often did not allow), but mostly learned from intense listening to Japanese dramas on TV. That's where I picked up idiomatic expressions and pronunciation. I even picked up a little bit of Kyoto ben, the dialect of the old capital in the South. But there are many foreign correspondents who have lived in Japan 20 years and more who don't speak a word of Japanese. It's true.
You were there a long time--you must have had a boyfriend there.
That wasn't the reason. I have found that some people have an extreme sympathy or attraction for Japan and are drawn to it like a magnet, and others have an antipathy and just can't understand the country or its ways. I am one of the former.

What was your most memorable experience?
There were many. Two stand out: one was covering the ascension and initiation ceremonies of the current Emperor and Empress, which took place at Ise Shrine. I have had a special spot in my heart for Ise Shrine, having done my senior thesis at Barnard College on its architecture. To have been present during the ascension ceremonies, was an exceedingly special event for me. Another memory is watching a master chef at Nadaman Restaurant, a premier Tokyo establishment. Observing the attention he gave to a flounder that was to turn into the evening's sashimi appetizer for a party given by the president of Honda was an unforgettable experience.

What would you like to convey most to readers or viewers?
I think I would like people to know how very playful, emotional, and extremely sensitive the Japanese can be despite appearances to the contrary. Also, many of the traits we observe in the Japanese--for example, extreme politeness, non-confrontation, etc, are not necessarily personal traits. They are traits that have come about through centuries and generations of socialization in order for people to co-exist on such a small island. And the food.......oh, the food! Nowhere else is a morsel of food appreciated, and attention lavished, to such a degree as in Japan. They are indeed a nation of connoisseurs.

We hear that Japanese women are treated poorly. How were you treated as a woman photographer? .
Actually, as a foreign woman photographer, I was treated very well and especially so as I came from the U.S., which they still admire and look up to culturally and politically. Japanese women trying to do what I did--such as getting photo sessions with CEO's of top companies--are treated very poorly, or so I am told by Japanese women photographers. So, I would have to say I have been extremely fortunate in this respect.

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sonia@photoshuttle.com   •   (919) 967-1585   •   Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA