In a few months, I’ll be moving (temporarily!) to Japan. This journey has been a long time coming—after losing my mom to Alzheimer’s last year, I knew I wanted to create something that paid homage to her. With time to heal and reflect, I’ve been inspired to embrace uncertainty, pursue a more creative direction in my life, and design a book that illustrates the journey of Alzheimer’s.

I know a lot of people love Japan for so many different reasons, but I’ve never had that kind of infatuation with the country. Though beautiful, for me Japan has always felt shrouded by silence and repression. Its elusive culture intrigues me, it feels foreign even though it is a deeply ingrained part of me. When I think back to my childhood memories of my mom, they are dominated by ritual and duty. If she wasn’t at work, she was home preparing dinner, washing dishes, folding laundry or scrubbing the floors. Even as she progressed through the later stages of Alzheimer’s, her sense of duty to keep things neat and tidy remained intact as she mindlessly folded, polished or stacked any object within reach. Alzheimer’s peels away layers of personality, but some stubbornly remain, and I think that culture plays a significant role in determining what stays and what goes.

Needless to say, this trip feels a bit like a pilgrimage, a journey to my mom’s homeland that I hope will offer more insight into who she was (and who I am?). In many ways my mom paved the way for me to live a life for myself, with less fear and inhibitions and with more courage and selfishness. So while I’m excited and honored to be able to take this trip, I can’t deny the weight and seriousness that comes with it.

During my stay, I’ll be volunteering at a nursing home, working on the book and traveling throughout the country. I hope my work will do justice to this incredibly vulnerable experience and that my book will be a helpful guide for others who are touched by this illness.

You can follow this project and my other design work on ig 🌸 @nhjafari

P.S — If you find yourself in Japan, I’d love to connect!