This month’s photo is one of my favourites. It sums up something special about Japan, for me. Japanese women in NaraThat sense that the place can look superficially so normal and almost Western and yet always there’s something else going on below the surface.

It was taken in Nara, a short train ride from Kyoto, where we’d been to look at the shrines and feed the sacred deer in Nara Park. I spotted the two women as we walked back from the Park towards the station.

It’s not unusual to see women in traditional dress in Japan, especially at the more famous temples and shrines. People often like to dress up for such occasions. But there was something very Japanese about the juxtaposition of the traditional costume and the cars and vans in the car park they were crossing.

Deer in Nara Park selfie - Japan

Japanese taking selfie with deer in Nara Park

In Britain, we tend to keep our traditions separate from modern life. In Japan, there seems to be a closer union. They can manage both to venerate the old Shinto shrines and obsess over the latest computer game; to create superstores filled with the latest technology and then sit quietly to watch a stream bubble over rocks in a Zen garden.

At first glance, with its cars and modern buildings, Japan seems very familiar. But look a little further and you realise – deep down – that’s an illusion and the reality is very different.