This time we start with extra limbs in spirit photography and end with…well, something out of Lord of the Flies. I guess.
Translation under the cut!
2007.07.30 Kaneko Kazuma’s Hobby Diary Vol. 10
Writing about spirit photography these past few months reminded me of something.
Back in elementary school we had these events called outdoors school (the name might vary depending on the time period and area, but they’re similar to the field trips that take place during middle school or high school) where the public school chose places for us to visit. In my case, it was Nikko.
Of course, we had to visit some landmarks here and there, since we were on a school trip, but for a child those were not simple landmarks anymore, but actual spiritual places. Nikko has several famous spiritual places like Senjougahara or Lake Chuuzenji, but the most famous of them all are the Kegon Falls. It seems to have been a famous suicide place too, but only in the past.
There are, however, all kinds of TV programmes and books that base their reports on superficial information and make people believe the suicides continue even today because of the spirits still clinging to the material world. This is how you make up a spot good for spirit photography.
Anyway, there are people taking group photos in front of the Kegon Falls and quite a big number are teachers who photograph their students frolicking around.
When we came back from the school trip and started developing the film, there were several voices in class talking about seeing faces in the waterfall behind them or claiming there was an extra hand in the group photo. Something along the lines of ‘If you look closely at the waterfall, you’ll be able to see something resembling a face, look, those three points make up a face, so yeah, I guess it counts as a ‘spirit’…!’, or ‘The extra hand in the group photo belongs to someone who just popped up out of nowhere!’ (so it’s a prank).
There were also people chiming in and claiming they had felt a strange presence in the back while taking the photo, someone else joining and agreeing, turning the idea of a ‘spirit photography’ into something more and more real.
Oh well, leaving aside the authenticity of this school trip spirit photography, the most interesting thing about this whole craziness was seeing kids who had never interacted before the trip feverishly hunting together for spirits.
For kids, school trips are usually a fun event they can spend together with their school friends, but on the other hand, it’s also a time when everyone shows a side of them they wouldn’t normally want to show. Take, for example, the cool kids who’d be revealed as cowards, or the quiet kids who’d turn out unexpectedly reliable.
Moreover, being thrown into a place they’d never been to before in their lives, the kids’ concept of ‘normal’ daily life would be replaced with a rather ‘abnormal’ daily life. In this ‘abnormal’ space, kids try to maintain their usual tranquil lifestyle, while also attempting to establish their own status, but among them are other kids who actually end up believing the stories about monsters and spirits their classmates had researched with their limited skills. Daytime might be fine, but night would really prove to be a scary thing.
Amid such fright, opening one’s heart and talking to each other about it would make the terror more bearable, and as a result, kids who had never interacted before would gladly get along now (well, we are basically talking about a mass confession event here).
Having said that, the main purpose of school trips is to practice group behaviour through trips and lodgings, so monsters and spirits end up looking like a part of this entire event.
To be perfectly honest, I have no idea whether monsters or spirits exist (or perhaps I should say neither exist anyway).
Once you take humans out of their usual stable environment and thrust them into an abnormal situation, they will panic a little, but the most important thing for them as a group will be to recover their stability together: finding a common purpose, working towards its achievement, or creating a common enemy. If the latter doesn’t physically exist, then monsters or spirits are the easiest to use. Since they’re not something real, they won’t actually bother anyone, and the purpose of avoiding them would be the best method to keep the group together.
Truth is, people have always used monsters or spirits (sometimes even gods) as convenient excuses for anything, but it seems that kids unconsciously tend to do the same.