J-A Nisei Portraits at Nikon Salon

BRIAN Y. SATO Nisei ExhibitionMy friend Brian Y. Sato, a sansei Japanese-American from Hawai’i, is having his first exhibition in Japan of his Japanese-American Nisei portraits.

Photographing the dying generation of Nisei has been Brian’s pet project since 2002 when I first met him and was very impressed by his project that included portraits of Nisei I personally knew. His portraits are very compelling and sometimes stark representations of this historical and storied generation.

The Nisei are the second-generation Japanese-Americans born to the Issei or first-generation Japanese who immigrated to Hawai’i. This generation are now elderly from their 70s on up. It’s like catch them while you still can. They all have their unique stories. Some have been told and recorded, while many others have died with them. Brian has encountered many nisei who refused to open up and be photographed. But he insisted that he did not want their stories to die with them.

Upon skillful persuasion, Brian has amassed around 200 nisei portraits from all the major Hawaiian islands (including Molokai and Lanai). He has already exhibited them in Hawai’i and the US mainland, but never in Japan until now. I kept urging him to show these portraits in Japan and he is finally doing it.

Portraits from his Nisei of Hawai’i collection will be exhibited at the Nikon Salon in Tokyo and Osaka as follows. He tells me that he’ll be at the gallery most of the time, but you could call and ask to make sure.

Title: GOKURŌSAMA: Second-Generation Japanese-Americans in Hawaii
Place: Shinjuku Nikon Salon (Map)
Shinjuku Station Exit A17, Shinjuku L Tower 28th floor
Phone: 03-3344-0565
Date/Hours: Oct 18 – Oct 31, 2011
10:30 to 18:30 (Oct. 31: 10:30 to 15:00)
Open every day.


Place: Osaka Nikon Salon (Map)
Osaka Station Exit A4, Hilton Plaza West Office Tower 13th floor
Phone: 06-6348-9698
Date/Hours: Nov. 3-16, 2011
10:30 to 18:30 (Oct. 31: 10:30 to 15:00)
Open every day.

Relevant links:



Book: Photography and Japan by Karen M. Fraser

Photography and Japan

A new book about photography in Japan has been published in English. The author is Karen M. Fraser, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Santa Clara University in California, USA.

Being written by an academic, you might think this book might be too scholarly or cerebral, but I’m delighted to report that it is obviously written for the layman. It is very easy reading and touches base with most people and things as it traces the history of photography in Japan intertwined with the country’s social history from the 1850s to the present day.

The author mentions the most important Japanese photographers, whether they are from the Meiji Period or the present day. The book is also heavily illustrated in color, making it very interesting to thumb through.

Thus, it is a great introduction to Japanese photography for everyone. The book has an Introduction, and then only three chapters. Chapter One centers on people and portraits, Chapter 2 focuses on wartime photography, and Chapter 3 is about cityscapes and street photos. It’s not a massive, intimidating book. You can probably read it in a few hours.

In the Introduction, the author asks the basic question, “What is Japanese photography?” This is a question I’ve wrestled with myself before, but couldn’t really define it clearcut. But for the purposes of my PhotoGuide Japan web site, I pretty much define it as photography created by a Japanese national and/or images of Japan and the Japanese. Of course, there are inherent flaws with this definition, but I have been using it as a basic guideline while noting and accepting exceptions to the rule.

Instead of trying to define what Japanese photography is, the author has pursued to link photography in Japan with Japan’s social history. She shows how Japanese photography is distinctive through its reflection of Japan’s social history. This makes it a very interesting read as you learn about both Japanese photography history and Japanese social history.

Over a year ago, I had the pleasure of helping the author contact a few photographers and estates to secure photograph reproduction rights for this book. I thank her for mentioning me in the Acknowledgements and congratulate her on a job well done.

Book available at Amazon.com. ISBN: 978-1861897978

Bruce Osborn’s Oyako photo exhibition in Maibara

Oyako photo exhibition in Maibara Station.

My friend Bruce Osborn, an American pro photographer based in Hayama, Kanagawa Prefecture, is now having a grand photo exhibition inside Maibara Station on the Tokaido/Hokuriku Lines in northern Shiga Prefecture. The theme is Oyako (parent and child 親子) portraits. The city of Maibara set up and opened the new Maibara Station Oyako Gallery on July 16, 2011, and Bruce’s 60+ oyako portraits are the first to be displayed. The exhibition is titled, Kakegae-no-nai-mono (Irreplaceable Things) (かけがえのないもの).

If you go out of the ticket turnstile, you will immediately see his large portrait panels mounted on the large window in the main corridor. There are more portraits decorating the corridor toward the east exit. The portraits are all black and white and show one or two parents together with his or her child. Most of the portraits are of Japanese celebrities such as Kayama Yuzo and Yokoo Tadanori. They mainly come from Bruce’s longtime Oyako photo series published in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper. Bruce has been shooting oyako portraits since 1982 and it’s his life work. He has been widely published and even has a few oyako books published. He has photographed over 3,000 oyako and even calls the fourth Sunday of July “Oyako Day” when he shoots oyako portraits assisted by his Japanese wife Yoshiko.

But the main interest for us in Shiga are the Oyako portraits of local people in Maibara shown in four large panels. The four panels represent the four seasons. Each seasonal panel has a number of portraits of ordinary Maibara folk posed as parent and child(ren) taken outdoors in Maibara. They all show a hometown background in Maibara. Bruce tells me that he went through an awful lot to make some of these portraits of 20 oyako in Maibara. For portraits in winter, he and his crew spent a freezing time in Oku-Ibuki, a ski ground. I thought he was crazy to lug heavy lighting equipment up snowy Mt. Ibuki in winter. It took him two years to complete the Maibara Oyako series during which he visited Maibara a few times in the four seasons.

Maibara oyako

Maibara Oyako portraits.

Maibara oyako

Maibara oyako in winter.

Another great thing is that the captions are in Japanese and English. And they include interesting quotes about child-rearing from the parent. The exhibition will run until March 31, 2012. You can see the exhibition while Maibara Station is open from early morning until late night when the last train leaves. Free admission, but  you have to give your train ticket and go outside the turnstile to see the photos in the corridor. Too bad that most people transferring trains at Maibara Station won’t see the oyako portraits because of this. Thus, the portraits will be mainly seen by people who live and work near Maibara Station. I wish they also put a few portraits on the walls inside the station where we can see them when changing trains. Maibara Station certainly has lots of wall space everywhere.

Maibara Station has finally completed its major renovation and the large, new corridor connecting the west and east sides has remained empty and white these past few years. Finally, there is something nice decorating its walls. Initially, there were plans to have famous artist Hiro Yamagata, a Maibara native, to paint those huge white walls in a psychedelic motif. But it was apparently too expensive and it never happened. Bruce’s oyako portraits is a great alternative, a lot cheaper, and they fit in with Maibara’s current slogan of Kizuna (human bonds) and furusato (hometown).

Photos of Maibara Station and Oyako Gallery: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=149
Bruce Osborn’s Oyako web site: http://www.oyako.org/en/oyakonohi/
Maibara’s Oyako page

Charity photo exhibition in Tokyo

A group of about 70 photographers in Japan will hold a charity photo exhibition sale at Axis Gallery in Roppongi, Tokyo on May 14-15, 2011. Each original print (or photo book) will be sold for 30,000 yen and the proceeds will be donated to a charity for children in the Tohoku region affected by the earthquake/tsunami disaster.

The photographers include Sugimoto Hiroshi (photo book sale), Moriyama Daido, Kon Michiko, Suzuki Risaku (photo book sale), Nagashima Yurie, Nakano Masataka, Herbie Yamaguchi, Hirama Itaru, Bruce Osborn, and Miyoshi Kozo.

Each photographer will have 3 to 5 prints for sale. The show will be from 11 am to 8 pm on the 14th, and 11 am to 6 pm on the 15th. When a sale is made, the print will be taken down and given to the buyer. So you may not be able to see all the prints at the gallery.

Map to Axis Gallery in Roppongi: http://www.axisinc.co.jp/access.html

Info in Japanese: http://caps.vc/

Sasamoto Tsuneko exhibition at FCCJ Tokyo

Japan’s first woman photojournalist is still going strong at age 96. Sasamoto Tsuneko has seen all of the Showa Period (1926-1989) and has photographed many people of the Showa times.

She’s now having an exhibition of her photos at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Yurakucho, Tokyo. The show will be until June 3, 2011 at the Main Bar Gallery.

I attended the opening reception and I found her to be very gracious and vivacious. She seems at least 20 years younger than her real age.

The FCCJ is right in front of JR Yurakucho Station. Map here:

Also see an article about her in The Japan Times:

PhotoFAQ Index

Index of FAQ (frequently-asked questions) pages:

PhotoGuide Japan FAQ
FAQ about this Web site.

Japan Photos FAQ
FAQ about our online photo collection/gallery/albums at PHOTOGUIDE.JP/pix/.

PhotoWho’sWho FAQ
FAQ for famous Japanese photographers and their biographies at PhotoWho’sWho.

PhotoVendors FAQ
FAQ about camera stores in Japan, stock photography agencies, buying vintage photos, renting camera equipment in Japan, and photo schools.

PhotoRepairs FAQ
FAQ about camera repair centers for major camera manufacturers in Japan as listed in PhotoRepairs.

PhotoSpaces FAQ
FAQ about Japan’s museums, galleries, photo salons, and other exhibition spaces listed in PhotoSpaces.

PhotoBookstores FAQ
FAQ about major Japanese bookstores stocking a good selection of photo books.

PhotoReviews FAQ
FAQ about PhotoGuide Japan’s book review page for Japanese photo books, magazines, and CD-ROMs.

PhotoPostcards FAQ
FAQ about vintage and modern Japanese postcards.

PhotoOrganizations FAQ
FAQ about major pro photographer associations and imaging industry-related organizations in Japan, as listed in PhotoOrganizations.

PhotoLibraries FAQ
FAQ about museum libraries in Japan that have a good collection of photo books and magazines, as listed in PhotoLibraries.

PhotoSpaces FAQ

What is PhotoSpaces (under construction)?

Listings of Japan’s museums, galleries, photo salons, and other exhibition spaces (such as department stores) which hold photography or camera exhibitions regularly or occasionally.

For the Tokyo area, Tokyo Art Beat provides an excellent list of photo exhibition museums, galleries, and other spaces.

What types of photo exhibition spaces are there in Japan?

Basically, we can categorize exhibition spaces as follows:

  • Photo galleries (Free or rental)
  • Art galleries
  • Museums (public and private)

Almost all photo and art galleries have free admission, while museums usually charge admission.

Where’s the exhibition schedule of the photo galleries and museums?

PhotoSpaces does not provide exhibition schedules. In English, you can find exhibition schedules as follows:

In Japanese, you can find exhibition schedules as follows:

  • The gallery or museum’s Web site (if available)
  • Major camera magazines such as Asahi Camera and Nippon Camera.

Exhibitions run for only one to two weeks at most galleries. It is much longer at photography museums.

What should I know before visiting a photo museum or gallery in Japan?

You should make sure that the place will be open. The gallery or museum can be closed on any day of the week. Most are open on weekends and holidays (see list below), but others are not.

For large museums, arrive at least 30 min. before the closing time. Otherwise, entry might not be permitted. Also note that on the final day of an exhibition period, the gallery may close earlier than usual.

What days are national holidays in Japan?

New Year’s Day (Jan. 1)
2nd Mon. in Jan. (Coming-of-Age Day)
Feb. 11 (National Founding Day)
Mar. 21 (Vernal Equinox)
Apr. 29 (Greenery Day)
May 3 (Constitution Day)
May 4 (Children’s Day)
(The week-long period spanning Apr. 29 to May 4 is called “Golden Week.”)
July 20 (Marine Day)
Mid-August (Obon summer vacation)
Sep. 15 (Respect-for-the-Aged Day)
Sep. 23 (Autumnal Equinox)
2nd Mon. in Oct. (Sports Day)
Nov. 3 (Culture Day)
Nov. 23 (Labor Thanksgiving Day)
Dec. 23 (Emperor’s Birthday)
Year end and New Year’s period refers to the last few days of the year (around Dec. 28-31) and the first few days of the year (around Jan. 1-4). Many museums are closed during this period.

Note that if a national holiday falls on a Sunday, Monday becomes the holiday.

How long do photo exhibitions run?

At most galleries, one to two weeks is the average exhibition period. It is much longer at photography museums.

What about maps to the photo museums/galleries?

For Tokyo-area venues, see Tokyo Art Beat. Also see etc. magazine for art museum/gallery maps in English (might be slightly outdated).

Lastly, check the museum or gallery’s Web site to see if they have a map in English (they would have a map in Japanese). PhotoSpaces may provide Web site URLs for museums and galleries.

How do I hold a photo exhibition in Japan?

Basically, there are several ways to exhibit in Japan:

  • Use a rental gallery where you pay money to rent the space for a certain period.
  • Apply for an exhibition at one of the free photo galleries operated by the major camera and film makers.
  • Enter and win a major photo contest whose winners are given an exhibition.
  • Become famous enough to be invited by a museum or gallery to hold an exhibition
  • Become friends with a gallery owner who is willing to give you an exhibition.
  • Participate in local art festivals or exhibitions.
  • Negotiate with department stores, coffee shops, and other local public establishments which may allow you to show your photographs.

If you are rich enough to rent a gallery, it’s quite easy. Just contact the gallery and reserve a time slot. Be prepared to pay around 20,000 yen per day to rent the gallery. The minimum rental period is usually 7-10 days. Some rental galleries require certain standards in the quality of the work to be exhibited. If your work does not meet their standards, you might be rejected. Exhibition-quality prints may also be required. The gallery may also take a large commission (as much as 50%) on any print sales. You will also have to pay for frames/matting and publicity postcards. The total bill will be considerable.

A cheaper (but more difficult) way is to apply for an exhibition at one of the galleries operated by a film or camera maker such as Fuji Film, Canon, Nikon, and Kodak. Find out the deadline (usually every month or once every few months) and entry rules, then submit the required number of sample photos. If you pass the judging, you will be notified of an exhibition slot which is usually about a week long and a year in advance. You are competing against many other people, so the chances of getting in are pretty slim. Places like the Nikon Salon have applications in English. Most other galleries require you to communicate in Japanese only.

If you’re a famous photographer, you may be invited to exhibit in Japan by a major gallery or museum. That’s when you got it made.

Having a gallery connection is also a secure way. If you know a gallery owner or know a friend who knows a gallery owner, you may be given an exhibition if the owner likes you and your work.

Some small cities like Kamogawa in Chiba are very art-oriented and welcome participation from the public or foreigners during city-sponsored art events. If you get involved in your local community, there may be local venues to show your work. Sometimes there are exhibitions where anybody can submit a photo. For example, the Month of Photography event in Tokyo has the 1,000-Person Photo Exhibition every year for this purpose.

Japan also holds many, many photo contests. There’s even a magazine called “Photo Contest” which lists all the photo contests that are held. Some of them are major competitions from which major photographers made their debut. Besides an exhibition, the winners get a lot of media attention.

*Also see an excellent article by Tokyo art critic Monty DiPietro on trying to hold an exhibition in Tokyo. He even writes, “Forget it” was the response I got from most of the Tokyo-based artists, and gallery and museum people I queried on how a North American might arrange a Tokyo exhibition.”

And oh, if you do not live in Japan and want to exhibit in Japan, you should find someone in Japan to help you or represent you. The person will have to do all the translating and paperwork submissions for you. It might be difficult to do everything from overseas.

How do I make a phone call in Japan?

All phone numbers shown in PhotoSapces are for calling within Japan. To call from outside Japan, dial Japan’s country code (81), then the local area code without dialing the first zero. For example, to call or fax (03) 3280-0033 (Tokyo), dial 81-3-3280-0033.

In DirectoryZONE, the phone number’s local area code is indicated in parentheses. It need not be dialed if you are in that area. For example, if you are within the 23 wards of Tokyo, you need not dial the 03. Also, toll-free numbers (usually starts with 0120) work only within Japan. Note that most people in Japan cannot speak English, so be prepared to communicate in Japanese.

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