For someone who’s made a career from bouts of extended isolation, Yu Yamauchi is a font of verbosity. It’s as if all that time spent alone — 600 days in a mountain hut on Mount Fuji, nine months in the forests of Yakushima — has created a reserve of extroversion in him. The moment he touches back down into society, it all comes rushing out.

On a bright day in Kyoto following two days of rain, I sit across from the 45-year-old photographer as he regales me with densely packed tales from his life between bites of egg and toast. Yamauchi — with long ears and a broad, cheery smile, his glasses pushed up on his head — is more like a gregarious sailing instructor than the monastic artist you might anticipate from his eerie photos of solitude.