BJ: We were in each place maybe three or four days tops. Sometimes we’d drive through and leave the next morning. So it would be helpful if we had someone that we were going to meet right away.
Richeille: Some of the girls would say, “Oh, you can hook up your RV in front of my mom’s house,” and they’d pull an extension cord out to us through their front door. We had a 1969 silver Airstream.
BJ: We got it from a guy in Oregon. We flew out there not knowing how to pull it or even owning a vehicle to pull it with. We just knew it was a great deal and perfect for what we wanted to do. We took a cab to his house, gave him cash, then said, “Okay, we need to buy a car or truck to pull this.” After we did two years of photographing women across America, “The Japan Diaries” came out of a desire to travel somewhere completely different.
Richeille: After “Circumstance,” we wanted to go in a completely different direction. We actually had been in Japan to scout things out on the way back from South Korea, where we oversaw the printing of our “Circumstance” book.
BJ: It wasn’t so much the opposite direction. We still incorporated our love for cinema. We looked into the film noir of Japanese movies. I’m also a big fan of Araki, Daido Moriyama and Eikoh Hosoe.
Richeille: I really hoped Japan lived up to the country I had dreamt about. I had put it on such a pedestal. We were blown away by it. Our senses were engulfed. We were just killing ourselves that we had no equipment with us during that first trip. We said, “Right, we’ve got to come back ASAP.” We did and spent six weeks there.
BJ: Because of the language barrier, we knew we had to go through agencies for the models. On that first trip, I think Richeille brought home a hundred kimonos.
Richeille: I did all the styling. I knew I wanted to show Japan with the kimono, but I also wanted to introduce a little bit of the 1950s from our first body of work. So it was the ’50s postwar Japan kind of look that I wanted to incorporate. For instance, after the war, Japan opened up a trade in these cheap little pearl collars. You’d add them to a cardigan or a sweater. So we used these in a shot.