From today's Daily Yomiuri Online:
When freelance photographer Mika Sudo travels around the world, she takes no ordinary companion. For the past 20 years, taiyaki, or fish-shaped Japanese pancakes filled with adzuki bean paste, have gone along for the ride.
The taiyaki are immortalized in her photos of Machu Picchu, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Peru. Another photo shows a taiyaki placed precariously on an Indian man's turban.
An exhibition featuring about 80 such photos, taken in 34 countries, began Wednesday at the Senjushuku Rekishi Petit Terrace, a gallery remodeled from an old traditional warehouse in Adachi Ward, Tokyo.
Soon after she went freelance about 20 years ago, Sudo was shooting a beach in Chiba Prefecture. Attempting to eat a taiyaki during a break, she accidentally dropped it on the beach. Inexplicably, she then placed the pancake on a seawall and took its photo.
Seeing the photo later, Sudo felt as if the taiyaki, covered with sand, was looking at the ocean. "I thought: It's alive!" she said.
Unable to forget the elation she felt at that moment, Sudo managed to photograph taiyaki in between school-event and corporate photography work.
Another decisive moment led to Sudo taking the taiyaki overseas. In the summer of 1998, her younger sister Rie, with whom she lived, killed herself.
Sudo was so shocked and lonely that she wanted to kill herself, too. After a while, she decided to cancel all her work and go wandering around the world.
Yet she needed a companion, and immediately chose taiyaki, purchasing some of the sweets in vacuum-packs and putting them in her travel bag.
Shooting photos of the taiyaki on the streets of New York and France, Sudo felt reinvigorated. About two months later, she returned to Japan.
"When photographing the taiyaki, I could concentrate on myself. Because I had taiyaki with me, I wasn't lonely," she said. "It was just like having my little sister along."
Taiyaki have since become indispensable on her photography trips.
Sudo goes abroad three or more times a year "to escape reality," and photographs taiyaki just as ordinary travelers photograph their friends.
Due to language barriers, she often relies on body language to ask people to pose and let her photograph them with taiyaki. Some are suspicious and others amazed at being photographed with the unique-looking sweet.
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