2021: a personal year in review

Ross Hall

December 31, 2021
(Updated on December 28, 2021)

Photograph with statues of samurai leading into the distance from the right and trees offering shade on the left

The end of December inevitably brings thoughts of how the past year has gone. We look back on our hopes, achievements and failures. Sometimes we simply reminisce, other times try to draw lessons.

2021 was a year of consolidation. After moving to Japan in 2020, we finally settled in Kobe and started setting down roots. Kobe is where my wife was born, and hopefully where we will spend the rest of our days together.

Image above: Statues of the 47 Ronin at Ako Shrine in Hyogo, Japan.

Language and Covid.

There have been frustrations. My language skills have plateaued, hindered both by the complexity of Japanese and the lingering impact of Covid. Business has been difficult, perhaps more so than I anticipated given the effects of time zones

A year of exploration. 

Aided by a bright green Suzuki Hustler called Henrietta, we’ve started to explore Japan. We’ve had a few restrictions during the “state of emergency” declarations that limited us to Hyogo at various points in the year. There’s been plenty to see, from dams to parks to museums. A lack of overseas tourists made it easier to enjoy the spring Sakura in Kyoto, and the autumn momiji and koyo. That said, I can’t help but feel for the many small businesses suffering a lack of visitors.

Inspired by my surroundings.

My photography has been patchy, partly because I’ve enjoyed where I’ve gone and taken pictures for my amusement rather than stock or commercial reasons. There are a handful of photo projects lurking around, from toy cars to portraiture ideas, and I’ve yet to set up my home studio.

That said, I have been inspired. I’ve written a handful of short stories, and I’ve rediscovered Constructivism. The latter prompted me to restart creating art, some of which has sold as prints to eagle eyed arthounds. I’m also sketching mascot-style characters (keep an eye out for next year). Then there’s my CSS experiments, bringing some of my artwork to life, as well as building a firm foundation for my work.

The “Less Stress” lifestyle.

There have been stresses during the year. I have been a little isolated and introverted, which has added to my stress. Yet the environment we’re in (debt free, surrounded by beautiful mountains a few minutes drive from the city) just lends itself to lower stress. I’ve watched the mountains and valley in front of the house evolve over the year, and there isn’t a week when something hasn’t changed.

Overall it was a “Good Year”.

There were challenges with covid, language and business. These were far outweighed by the inspiration I’ve drawn from my surroundings, and the enjoyment of exploring the country. Overall, 2021 has been a Good Year, and I’m aiming to make 2022 even better.

Now enjoy some photos from 2021

Photograph of sunflowers with a focus on their yellow leaves to a background of blue sky and bright green foilage
Sunflowers in Ono. Located beside a main road, the field is a public space dedicated to growing these bright and vibrant plants.
Photograph of a teddy bear mascot sat on a drainage grid, waiting to be collected by its owner
Teddy bears are often seen on the bags of adults and schoolchildren alike. This one was left near a local school, waiting for its owner to collect it.
Photographs of autumnal leaves coloured red and yellow by a setting sun.
Although the red leaves catch the attention during autumn, I find the yellows can be as enjoyable.
A couple walk along a path by a river with cherry blossom surrounding them
From the other end of the year. Sakura (Cherry Blossom) on the famous Philosopher’s Walk in Kyoto. Normally full of tourists, this year was quiet.
A railway station in Japan with an ATM in centre of the screen and no people
During the various states of emergency, Japan could take on an almost ghostly feel. This is lunchtime in Myohoji, my local train station.
Photograph of a free standing cupboard beneath a sign of a local shop in a car park
This may have been abandoned in a nearby carpark, or is part of an obscure marketing campaign for a local business.
Black and white photograph of cranes at the Kawasaki dockyard in Kobe, Japan
Cranes at the Kawasaki Dockyard in Kobe, Japan.
House on a beach on the Sea of Japan
From a visit to the Japan Sea. Perhaps the best beach house in the country.
Photograph of a river plain with tall green grassed in the foreground, a ridge with houses in the midground and mountains looming in the background
The valley in front of my house. Sometimes you don’t have to go far to find beauty.
Black and white photograph of the Tennoji Temple in Osaka reflected in a pond with good luck prayers in white along the bank.
Where 2021 started: the Tennoji shrine in Osaka, near where I lived before moving to Kobe later in the month. This was taken on New Years Day.
The Japanese city of Kobe seen from a high aspect
And finally. Kobe, the city I now call home.

I'm Ross, a digital editorial designer and content creator from the UK now living in Japan. I help growing companies plan, source, produce and promote a range of content. Find out more

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