A very long time ago Kelly and I were staying at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains when we stumbled across this picture in a second-hand store. It was hidden amongst a pile of miscalaneious framed prints in various stages of dusty decay. The whole pile was leaning precariously against the wall under an old 1970’s laminated kitchen table.
The print depicts a Japanese winter scene where three villagers, hunched over against the wind and the snowy slope pass before a temple.
It was faded and stained and the frame was not in good shape, but something about the print called to us both, so after negotiating a bargain price of something less than $20.00 it was ours.
Some years later we came across another framed print that seemed to compliment it. A person crossing a windy snow-covered bridge in the mountains.
It wasn’t until very recently that I discovered that both these prints are by the same artist. The first is titled ‘Kanbara: Evening Snow, and the second, ‘A Bridge in a Snowy Landscape‘.
Both are by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), a Japanese ukiyo-e (woodblock) artist whose work is esteemed by many for his ability to convey a deep sense of the human experience. His prints are renowned for their depiction of weather and landscape, mists, snows and rains.
Whilst I was researching all this I came across a very interesting video showing the incredible craftsmanship that goes into producing the original prints by Hiroshige.
Now here’s the thing.
As I was watching the video in bed and wearing headphones (don’t judge me), I noticed that I was experiencing this tingling sensation up my spine into my neck and across my head. It was very pleasant and relaxing. I have experienced these sensation many times before and it seems to be triggered by a certain environmental ambience and certain sounds.
I also noticed that the video was sub-titled: Non-intentional ASMR.
ASMR? So now I had to find out what that was all about….
What is ASMR?
In case you don’t know (and I did not), ASMR or autonomous sensory meridian response, refers to a set of sensory responses to stimuli such as whispering, or crisp sounds (such as fingernail tapping or plastic rustling) or even the sounds of people eating.
The responses include tingling and feeling waves of relaxation. It is sometimes referred to as experiencing a ‘head orgasm’.
The science behind it is not well understood but is thought to be related to a release of endorphins.
As I said, I have in fact expeirenced these sensations in response to certain situations for as long as I can remember…but I never knew it was a thing. I just thought I was weird.
It turns out there is a whole youtube community built on ASMR with a deep rabbit hole of videos just waiting to show you beautiful people whispering and tapping and rustling and eating crunchy, squelchy foods.
I checked out a couple of the videos for myself and found them mostly just annoying.
But the video I have posted above definitely did elicit a strong ASMR response in me, and now thanks to Mr Hiroshige, I know that I am not all that weird after all.
Check it out for yourself. The video is best listened to with headphones and when in a relaxed state.