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Open to Tshirt Designers, Illustrators and photographers, to post pieces showing culture, food, textiles, people, places, etc; of/or influenced by Japan.

March - Melanie McQuoid

thickblackoutline thickblackoutline 455 posts

Melanie McQuiod

1. First up, you profile says you are living in Japan! What are you up to there, and how are you finding it? Any culture shocks?

Well I moved to Japan in 2005 to teach English. I started out in Kawasaki which is a city that borders Tokyo and Yokohama. Then in 2006 I moved to central Tokyo which is where I`m based now. Getting married next month to a smashing chap called Daisuke, so I`m likely to keep the connection to Japan someway or another for the rest of my life. Initially, the idea was to travel around and photograph as much of Japan and Asia as I could while teaching. Never quite got around to leaving Japan, as there`s so much here to see and do here, you`d need several lifetimes to really feel satisfied. Japan seems to get it`s hooks into people and it becomes impossible to leave. Many people settle here never expecting to initially, but once it gets under your skin it`s hard to keep away.

I`ve bumped into yukata and geta clad Sumo wrestlers at night waddling amongst the crowds in Shinjuku; got lost (A LOT) and found the most amazing places that no guidebook could ever take me to; driven along the Tokaido Highway by coach amongst the emerald peaks and green rice paddies; shared a bento box with a Shinto priest and his wife; prayed in a tatami floored meditation hall in a quiet temple surrounded by gold ornamentation and the peaceful whistling of the trees; had limbs and bags stuck in the doors of crowded trains; seen flavoured oxygen concentrate sold in the local convenience store; had my photo taken and signed autographs for locals in Nagoya soley for not being Japanese; sat by the river wearing yukata and seen a sublime fireworks display and seen Mount Fuji which is too stunning for either words or pictures (a photo could never do justice to it) and have not been able to take my eyes off it. I`ve made so many fun memories along the way with my friends Kristy, Kimber and Renee.

The striking thing about Japan is the complexity of it. When I think of Japan I imagine a mille crepe cake, you know, the one with twenty layers of crepe squashed together with cream; at first glance it looks pretty simple, but take a closer look and you see layer upon layer. Japanese people love everything new and modern. New buildings, restaurants, products, new trends and fashions spring up every day and the pace is astounding. Houses and buildinga are rebuilt every 20 to 30 years. Some buildings look very old but are actually very modern but made to look old. The technology coming out of Japan is cutting edge. When I first arrived I couldn`t see a lot of what I imagined Japan to be; traditional, calm, peaceful, elegant, zen-like etc. I just saw the concrete, glass, cars and the crowds of people. After looking a bit closer you can see just how much tradition there still is too. The tradtional festivals are carried on to this day and enjoyed. The Kimono is still worn and enjoyed by every generation. Many art forms such as ikebana, kendo and tea ceremony are still popular with young and old alike. There`s a lot of respect for the aged and for the customs of the past too. And that`s what I love to capture.

2. Sakura and Ume are two of my favourite pieces of yours, do you make any special time in your week to go out and take photos?

Not really. I`ve always got my camera handy as I never know what I`ll come across in any given day. Generally weekends are super busy here. So I try to go out on the weekdays. I work part of the weekend anyway, so the weekdays are a great chance to kick back and take a few shots. When I come across something I like, I want to try and capture it in some way. I really do feel passionate about photography and Japan has inspired me endlessly.

3. What inspires you before you look through the camera lens?

I try to think about whether I can capture the atmosphere and colours of a place without being too intrusive. I don`t like to stick my lens where it`s not welcome; for example, in the inner part of a shrine or temple; a private shared moment between people I don`t know etc. I love reds, greens and browns, there`s plenty of those in Japan and I love capturing them. When I moved half way around the world I think it was hard for my parents and sister to imagine what Japan and Asia was like, so I wanted to capture the essence of the place and show them what the places I was visting was like and what I was experiencing. Hoping that in 30 or 40 years time I can look back on my photos and remember what the experience was like. If others enjoy the photos too I feel thrilled and honoured.

4. There is a lot of bright vibrant colours in your folio, like in Nebuta. For those of us who have never been, is (where you are) a colourful place, always energetic, or are there pockets of tranquility also?

Japan is a big country. It`s long slender shape and the fact that it`s surrounded by some of the biggest countries of the world, Russia and China make it appear smaller than it really is. But 80% of Japan is covered by mountains, hence the lack of useable space here and why space is tight, especially in the cities. There`s a lot of hussle and bussel, bright neon and plenty of noise. Buildings are close together. Human traffic is everywhere and at all times of day or night. Many places open 24/7. Very few people in the suburbs of Tokyo and especially in central Tokyo where I`m living now have gardens, even small ones. So as you can imagine the need to optimise space is crucial. But you can find those pockets of tranquility and often in unlikely places. One day I was strolling around Roppongi Hills and I found this tiny Shinto Shrine not more than 10 minutes walk away dwarfed by the towering sky scraper. Or the tiny Unagi shop run by an old Japanese lady. The Temples dotted around here and there. Walk down a busy street in Ikebukuro, Tokyo and turn off the main road and you can find little communities and quiet neighbourhoods. I love the way you (Thick Black Outline) capture vibrance in your art, it really does capture the atmosphere of Japan!

5. Is there anything in Japan you haven’t checked out that you are dying to? Harajuku, Sushi, Buying Green Tea Kit Kats for thickblackoutline? ;)

Hee hee hee! Love those Green Tea Kit Kats! How about Green Tea Haagan Daas too with your Kit Kats, or a flavoured oxygen canister with mask? Errrrrr, would love to go to Okinawa and lie on the beach and roast for a while. Also, the Miho Museum looks stunning, set amongst the mountains in Shiga Prefecture. Climbing Mount Aso one of the largest volcanoes in the world. Maybe to go to Hokkaido again and drink beer from the Sapporo brewery there. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still on my to do list at the mo. And I`ve got an up coming trip/honeymoon to Niigata, so look out for more new photos on red bubble soon!

jumpy jumpy 190 posts

they have green tea kit kats? wtf

Amazing interview!!!! can you be my tour guide when i come to japan melanie??

kaneko kaneko 2 posts

nice interview, congrats on your upcoming wedding.

jumpy jumpy 190 posts

mmmm Sapporo!!

dendoo dendoo 22 posts

love the interview, love your work. getting limbs and bags stuck in train doors sounds even more exciting when it’s associated with japan.

Estelle O'Brien Estelle O'Brien 91 posts

wonderful insights melanie…my dad married a japanese lady and they lived happily between the two countries for 30 years…to me …japan is a mystery that waits….

Melanie  McQuoid Melanie McQuoid 7 posts

Thank you sooooooooooo much everyone. Your kind comments are so encouraging. It is sooo exciting here! I feel really lucky to be here and I think writing this interview made me realise even more how great my experiences have been.

P.S. Resident tour guide for Tokyo at your service one and all!!!

shanghaiwu shanghaiwu 135 posts

this interview is BRILLIANT!

you have given those who have never experienced this amazing country just a taste/love your descriptions and will come back again and again to read this.
Yes/Miyajima via Hiroshima will be a wonderful treat for you. Maybe you will get to visit one of my favourites places whilst on your honeymoon…….the monkey onsen. Think your amazing journey has hardly started……….

honto ni arigato gozaimashita!

gypsycaster gypsycaster 89 posts

Great interview!
Hubby and I plan on going to Japan to teach in the next 3 years or so. So I plan on hitting you up for advice and cool places to visit!!!

Or I’m going to just find you and ask on bended knee for wisdom and guidance!!

gypsycaster gypsycaster 89 posts

OH! And mighty Conga Rats on your upcoming wedding!!!

jankcl jankcl 4 posts

amazing. congrads on the upcoming wedding and u’ve earned a well deserved feature! I love photography. truly captures japan :)

Melanie  McQuoid Melanie McQuoid 7 posts

Thank you tons everyone. Feel chuffed that everyone`s so positive, interested and encouraging!

stevemorrison23 stevemorrison23 1 post

Hi Mel,
Just seen your beautiful photo’s and what a fantastic interview..!!
We are all so proud of you back home in England!
Sending you all our love,
Stevie,Collette,Catherine & Hannah xxxxxx

Francesca Coppola Francesca Coppola 1 post

Ahh I want my life to be like yours haha
It’s my dream to live in Japan, but I am still in high school and can’t live anywhere but home in the US for now…

but this was a great interview!
Congrats on getting “a smashing chap called Daisuke” [Daisuke. i love that name :P]
I hope for the best of luck for you. Your pictures are stunning!!<3