#29 Miori Inata

Interview with Miori Inata

Miori Inata is a renowned photographer based in Japan. After she worked as a fine arts teacher in Tokyo, she moved to New York City and lived there for 17 years. Her essential works include the photos taken at Ise Grand Shrine, and she exhibits them internationally along with pictures taken at holy places all over the world. J-Collabo asked her what made her take pictures of holy places and about the Japanese spirituality.


– What are your latest exhibitions in New York City?


I came back to New York City with people from the Association of Shinto Shrines to exhibit my photos for a series of events called “Millennium Forest Forum.” It was the first time for the association to promote its activities in the United States. My photos were exhibited at three places: Columbia University, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and the United Nations. At Columbia and Brooklyn Botanical Garden, I exhibited photos of the Shinto festival, Shikinen Sengu, taken at Ise Grand Shrine. I also exhibited my photos taken at holy places all over the world during the luncheon party for ambassadors at the United Nations. The Shinto priests, such as from Miyajidake Shrine in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, performed the traditional dances of Kagura and Mai at the party.

– Have you had any wonderful experiences at holy places?


While I had an exhibition in Monaco, I decided to go to a Holy Cave called La Sainte-Baume, which is located near Marseille in France. In the cave, Mary Magdalene prayed to God and angels for about 50 years until she died after she arrived at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer by boat. I and my Japanese friend and actress, Mieko Harada, left for the Holy Cave, and a heavy rain started. Though the highway and houses were flooded, and we didn’t know where we were without any maps and directions, we could make it to the cave. We were the only visitors and prayed in the quiet cave. Immediately after we got out of it, we saw a beautiful rainbow. The heavy rain had stopped altogether. It was a wonderful experience.

– What made you take pictures of holy places all over the world?


I used to live in the New York City for 17 years. It was the 10th year after I moved to the city in 1991 that the 9/11 attacks happened. I saw many ambulances coming from all directions, and the buildings collapsed before my eyes. I witnessed everything and thought that this couldn’t be just an accident. I thought intuitively that some people were doing this and wondered where, if God exists, he was guiding us. I don’t believe in any religion, but prayed to God, if any, strongly, “I will do anything to stop this tragedy.” Obviously, I couldn’t take any pictures of the tower falling down. In addition, my mother passed away three months before 9/11. After 9/11, I was too shocked to take pictures for about a year. The experiences of losing people so suddenly made me wonder what it meant to live. I was at a loss.

One day, I stopped by a bookstore at Columbus Circle and found a book of photo collections of the Southwest Native Americans. Before 9/11, I loved New York City. It provided the cutting-edge art scene, and that was why I came from Japan to live in the city. But after 9/11, strange moods were everywhere, like religious battles, and discrimination based on rel