PhotoReviewsFAQ

Updated: Jan. 26, 2016

What is PhotoReviews?

It is the name of PhotoGuide Japan’s book review page for Japanese photo books and magazines reviewed during the late 1990s to 2006. It is no longer updated with new book reviews. The old book reviews have been largely integrated with photographer bios at PhotoWho’sWho. Most of the books are out of print.

How did you select the photo books to be added to PhotoReviews?

Any one or more of the following criteria was used to select books (including magazines, CD-ROMs, etc.) to be reviewed and added to our catalogs:

* The book’s subject is well-known or popular.
* The book’s photo theme is interesting.
* The book seeks to teach you something about Japan.
* There are customers who would buy the book from PhotoGuide Japan.
* The book created a major sensation or received significant media attention in Japan.
* The book’s photographer is well-known or interesting.
* The book has nice photos.
* The book is worth having either as a collectible item or excellent reference.
* The book has historical significance.
* The book is of personal interest to PhotoGuide Japan.

Explain the book information.

Reviewed on is the date when the book was first reviewed by PhotoGuide Japan.
Last modified
 is the date the book review was last modified.

Published is the book’s “issue date” as stated in the book. The book is usually available in bookstores two or three weeks before this date, so it is not the exact release date of the book.

Publisher is the name of the book’s publisher.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique numeric code that the publisher assigns to a book. It is recognized internationally and helps to identify books and facilitate inventory management and order fulfillment. It is also convenient to use when you are searching for a particular book in an online book catalog. Use it when you don’t have time to specify the book’s title, author’s name, publisher, etc. The ISBN can be found on the back cover of the book. Note that in PhotoReviews, the hyphens have been eliminated in the ISBN.

Price in Japan is the price (in yen) you would pay if you bought the book in a bookstore in Japan. It includes the 5 percent consumption tax which is like a sales tax. (The price printed on the book usually does not include the consumption tax.) If the book is out of print or commands a premium price, this is the book’s original price when it was first published.

Qualities indicates the book’s physical properties: Hard or soft cover, color and/or B/W photos, and any inserts such as CD-ROM, trading cards, etc.

Size indicates the book’s paper size and number of pages. Note that the number of pages is not the same as the number of sheets in the book. One sheet is counted as two pages (one page on the front and one on the back of the sheet).

The book’s size is indicated by a standard paper size such as A4, A5, B4, and B5 commonly used in Japan and Europe. These are ISO (International Standards Organization) paper sizes. Sometimes the book’s actual paper size is not a standard one. In such cases, the standard paper size closest to the book’s actual size is stated. (A4 and B5 are the most common in Japan for books and magazines.) The measurements of the most common ISO paper sizes are as follows:

A3: 297 x 420 mm (11.69 x 16.54 in.)
A4: 210 x 297 mm (8.27 x 11.69 in.)
A5: 148 x 210 mm (5.83 x 8.27 in.)
B4: 250 x 353 mm (9.84 x 13.9 in.)
B5: 176 x 250 mm (6.93 x 9.84 in.)

A4 is the most common size, and it is similar to letter size (used for business letters) in the United States. A3 is twice the size of A4, and A4 is twice the size of A5. Similarly, B4 is twice the size of B5. All books are in the vertical format unless “landscape” is noted next to the book size. For example, “A4 landscape” means that the book is A4 size in the horizontal format.

Language indicates the language(s) used in the book’s text (if any). If English is provided, it could be a complete translation of the Japanese or only a partial translation.

Is it possible to buy an out-of-print book?

Out-of-print books may appear at Yahoo! Japan Auctions.

How long do you keep the book reviews in the PhotoReviews and when do you delete them?

Books reviews of the most interesting photo books will be retained in PhotoReviews indefinitely.

Most photo books remain in print for at least 3 or 4 years. The more popular books may remain in print longer, about 10 years. But you never know when a book will go out of print, so if you see what you want, buy it now especially if it was published 2 years ago or longer.

Besides the book’s cover image, I want to see a few sample photos from the book. Can you scan a few pictures and send them to me?

We do not send sample photos. Sometimes our book reviews might include a link to sample images (usually at the publisher’s site). (2004.03.12)

What academic qualifications or credentials do you have for reviewing all these books?

I have none. I don’t have any college degree in book reviewing nor in art criticism. I don’t pretend or want to be an academic or an art critic. What you are reading are just general (but informed) comments and impressions from one person on the street who happens to be me.

It’s always more interesting to hear what the ordinary man or woman or consumer on the street thinks. Art critics don’t do a very good job at helping the masses understand art. In fact, I can’t stand how art critics write. They try to sound really intelligent or want to show off their linguistic abilities or vast knowledge with incredibly fancy phrases and words or obscure quotations and references. They love to speak over the heads of the layman.

The result is that you don’t understand what they are trying to say. Not very many people care about what an art critic thinks about a work. Most photographers also prefer to know what ordinary people think about their work. So you should regard my reviews as the voice of a man on the street or the word-of-mouth review. (2002.11.30)

I read your review of the book and it misses the mark. You do not seem to understand the meaning of the photographs or the photographer’s intention.

Fine-art photo books can be difficult to understand. What I write is mainly my own impressions. They may or may not match the ideas or feelings that the photographer wanted to convey.

If the photographer does not provide a comprehensible explanation of his/her photographs in the book, then I can only draw my own conclusions. I don’t ever proclaim my reviews to be correct. They are just my own comments and opinions mixed with any facts that I know to be true.

How do the book publishers, photographers, subjects, and your sponsors influence your book selections and reviews? Or do you have total freedom in what you select and write?

There is no pressure from these people. I am completely independent, and I don’t have any special ties with the vast majority of these people. However, meeting the photographer in person does influence my book review, usually in positive ways because it enables me to understand his/her work better and therefore I can write about the book better.

If a photographer friend gives me a complimentary copy, I may likely review it. Mainly though, customer demand and purchasing patterns influence my selection of books to be reviewed here. I also often browse the photo book section at major bookstores in Tokyo and pick up whatever interests me personally, especially with regard to serious or art photo books. I don’t necessarily write a book review in order to sell the book.

In fact, I don’t really care if my book review will sell the book or not. I won’t hype a book that does not deserve it. But more often than not, I usually have a few good things to say about each book because I usually select books which I like and those I think would sell.If you don’t see a book in the PhotoReviews catalog, it does not necessarily mean that it’s not good enough.

There are a lot of photo books that deserve to be included (especially fine-art photo books), but time and money limit the number of books I can acquire, review, and include in the catalog.

I have total freedom in selecting the books to review and sell. Also total freedom in rating the book the way I see it. If I criticize something, I try to be constructive and not insulting. As of this writing, no book publisher, photographer, author, female model, or pop idol has ever complained or protested to me about any of my book reviews.

I should also add that I respect the publisher’s or photographer’s copyrights concerning the book cover images and sample photos provided in PhotoReviews. If the copyright holder requests that his images be deleted, I will comply immediately. But so far, no one has ever complained to me about the sample images provided in PhotoReviews. If there was a complaint, I would delete the image(s) and the entire book review as well (and all other book reviews for that publisher or photographer). I would never review or sell that photographer’s or publisher’s books again. (2002.11.30)

I don’t know anything about Japanese photo books. What kinds of photo books are there?

In large bookstores in Japan, photo books (called shashin-shu in Japanese) are usually categorized as either aidoru shashin-shu (idol photo books) or geijutsu shashin-shu (fine-art photo books). The idol photo books would be in a separate (but usually adjacent) section from the fine-art photo books.

Idol photo books feature a celebrity, usually an actress (or actor), adult-video actress, singer, TV/game show personality, pro wrestler, etc. She could also be a yet-unknown starlet (a wannabe celebrity). The model can be posed nude, in a bikini, or in regular clothes. Idol photo books are mainly produced to promote the idol or her image and to gain public attention. Usually, the photographer is much less important than the female subject.

A subcategory of idol photo books is the “hair nude shashin-shu” which are nude photo books that also expose pubic hair. Showing pubic hair in photographs was banned in Japan up until 1991 when a miracle happened. Celebrity photographer Kishin Shinoyama published Japan’s first “hair nude” idol photo book with water fruit (featuring Kanako Higuchi) and then Santa Fe (with Rie Miyazawa). The authorities did not deem those books obscene, so the dam broke and photographers and publishers feverishly produced hundreds of “hair nude” photo books in the years following. Suddenly, the photo book and magazine market was awash with pubic hair pin-up photos and we saw big-name celebrities one after another putting out a hair nude photo book.

Today, a lot of hair nude photo books continue to be published, but the novelty has worn off. These days, we hardly see any big names posing nude. Idol photo books is a major subculture probably unique to Japan.

The other category is fine-art photo books. This includes all other types of photo books (landscape, documentary, travel, nature photography, etc.). They are the so-called “serious” photo books whose main purpose is to promote the photographer and his/her work or art.

The photo diary book is a major and popular subcategory here. A photo diary is a highly personal and private collection of random snapshots of people (boyfriends, girlfriends, family), things (pets, bowl of cereal, flowers, etc.), scenes (sunset seen from the bedroom window, clouds outside the airplane window, etc.), and activities (brushing teeth, putting on make-up, etc.) as seen or experienced by the photographer. It gained mass appeal beginning in the mid-1990s when a few young Japanese female photographers (such as Yurie Nagashima and Hiromix) won major photo contests and gained a lot of attention for their private snapshots, especially nude self-portraits.

Nobuyoshi Araki is the most famous Japanese photographer working in this category (since 1970) and he has inspired many younger photographers to take photo diary pictures. In Japanese, photo diary books are called shashin nikki. In PhotoReviews, these books can be found in the Photo Diary Books category.

Besides new books, there are also many secondhand photo books for sale at used bookshops in Japan and at Yahoo! Japan Auctions. If the book is out of print and in demand by collectors, it becomes a premium book sold at a higher price, sometimes in the hundreds of dollars or even $1,000. (2004.03.12)

In Japan, which bookstores do you recommend to buy photo books?

Kinokuniya is a major bookstore chain and they have an excellent selection of both idol and fine-art photo books at their two big stores in Shinjuku, Tokyo. (See Shinjuku PhotoMap.) Maruzen is another major bookstore chain in Japan, and they have a lot of imported fine-art photo books.

In Tokyo’s Jimbocho, famous for many bookshops, Shosen Grande and Shosen Book Mart have a large stock of new idol photo books, and Sanseido has a good collection of fine-art photo books by Japanese photographers. In Jimbocho, you can also find bookshops selling used photo books and premium photo books. Prices of premium photo books can vary widely, so shop around to check prices.

Also, in Hachimanyama on the Keio Line starting at Shinjuku, Tokyo, a shop called Culture Station stocks a large, world-class collection of secondhand and premium idol photo books, magazines, posters, and videos.

See PhotoBookshops for a list of bookstores in Japan and overseas that sell Japanese books. (2002.04.05)

How do I find out about new photo books that come out in Japan?

In Japan, the best way is to often go to a bookstore having a large photo book section. Usually the newest photo books are stacked on a low table to catch your eye. See PhotoBookshops for a list of bookstores in Japan (mainly Tokyo) which have a large photo book section.

Photo book publishers also have their own Web sites where they announce and list their photo books.

You can also browse through weekly magazines and men’s magazines (Friday, Focus, Shukan Post, Penthouse Japan, Shukan Playboy, etc.) which always have a nude or bikini pictorial. The pictorial usually promotes the female model’s upcoming or latest photo book (whose publisher is usually the publisher of that magazine as well). You can see sample photos from the photo book in the magazines.

For serious photo books (fine art, documentary, landscape, etc.), read the major camera magazines such as Asahi Camera and Nippon Camera which have a column reviewing such books.

Japanese Postcard FAQ

Updated: Feb. 3, 2016

I have vintage Japanese postcards about 50 to 80 years old, how much are they worth?
As with most antique items, the value is determined only by how much the seller is willing to sell it for and how much a buyer is willing to pay for it. The value depends not only on the postcard (rarity, condition, etc.) itself, but also on the seller and buyer. Remember the old adage, “One person’s trash is a another person’s treasure.” (And vice versa.)

Also, when you want to sell postcards, you can either sell them to a postcard dealer or to a direct customer. A postcard dealer will buy your postcards only at a fraction of the price he would resell the cards for. So it would be smart to sell directly to someone willing to buy your cards.

If you are really serious in judging the worth of your postcards, you should attend one of the many postcard fairs and shows held in the U.S. and Europe. This is where postcard dealers gather to sell to collectors. Look for dealers who have Japanese vintage postcards and browse through their stock and note the prices. You can get a fairly good idea of current selling prices.

In Japan, postcard dealers gather at stamp shows and antique fairs. If you happen to be in Tokyo during a stamp show, you could browse through the stock of vintage postcards and get a good idea of prices. Generally speaking, landscapes, scenics, temples, shrines, and other non-people postcards have the least value unless they are hand-painted or hand-tinted. Japanese beauties (Nihon bijin) such as geisha with hand-tinting seem to have the highest prices. For a single postcard, a price of 3,000 yen to 5,000 yen can be considered very high. It is rare to see any postcard priced higher than this. On the low end, black-and-white, vintage postcards of unimpressive landscape and scenics may sell for a few hundred yen or less.

So where can I sell my vintage postcards in Japan? Can you list a few postcard dealers?
Internet auction sites like Yahoo! Japan Auctions (Japanese language required) and eBay would be best. eBay’s postcard section probably has a larger selection than any store in Japan.

So when and where are those stamp shows and antique fairs where I can buy vintage postcards in Japan?
One large stamp fair is JAPEX, held in autumn in Tokyo (Asakusa).

How much do postcards cost in Japan?
For vintage postcards, normally anywhere from 100 yen to a few thousand yen. New postcards issued by the Japan Post Office are 52 yen (with stamp).

How much does it cost to send a postcard in Japan?
It costs 52 yen for domestic destinations. Also see International Postal Rates.

What types of postcards does the Japan Post Office sell?
There are several types of postcards which the post office sells. Besides the plain postcard which sells for 52 yen (including the printed stamp), there is a variety of postcards with pictures:

Picture postcards (e-iri hagaki)
These postcards have full-side or large pictures on the front side. 

Hometown postcards (furusato e-hagaki)
Sold by the local post office, these cards feature small pictures of the local area’s sites and scenes. 

Seasonal greeting postcards
Four types of seasonal postcards (all include a printed postage stamp) are issued by the post office: 

  • New Year’s postcards (nenga hagaki)
    These are the most popular since they are like Christmas cards in the U.S. These cards have lottery numbers for various prizes. The cards sold by the post office are plain with no pictures. But private companies also buy these cards and resell them after printing a picture or message on them. Photo labs also buy them and make photo New Year’s cards. Sold in November. 
  • Spring greeting cards (Nicknamed “Sakura mail”)
    Postcards for school entrance congratulations, graduation, and employment. The cards typically have a picture of spring flowers, etc. Sold in February. 
  • Summer greetings cards (Nicknamed “Kamo mail”)
    These postcards have lottery numbers. They number a far second to New Year’s cards. Sold in June. 
  • Fall greetings cards (Nicknamed “Heart mail”)
    Mainly for the Respect-for-Aged Day on Sept. 15. Sold in Sept. 

Economy postcards (Nicknamed “Eko hagaki”)
These cards feature advertising on the address side and they cost 5 yen less than usual. 

International postcards (Kokusai yuubin hagaki)
These cost 70 yen for any place outside Japan via air mail. 

You can see the different types of postcards sold by the Japan Post Office here.

What are New Year’s postcards (nengajo)?
Japanese people send each other something like three billion New Year’s postcards (as of 2015), the equivalent of the Western custom of sending Christmas cards. This works out as an average of about 30 New Year greetings mailed for every Japanese person. They are usually decorated with pictures of the animal representing the coming year, according to the 12-animal Oriental zodiac. 2003 was the peak year with over 4.4 billion New Year’s postcards printed by the Japan Post Office. This number has been steadily declining since then with a little over 3 billion issued by 2015.

The custom of sending postcards at New Year became common only after 1871, when the Japanese postal system was established. If they are mailed by a certain date (after December 15th of the previous year), the cards are given a January 1st stamp and will be delivered on the first day of the new year, something to aim for! New Year cards are not only exchanged between friends, but also sent to business acquaintances, people who have done you a favor or kindness in the previous year, and those with whom you wish to establish good future relations.

The official New Year’s cards are lottery postcards; this was started in 1950. The drawing is held on January 15th and various prizes are given to those who received cards with the winning numbers. Traditionally each card are written carefully by hand, using special brushes and ink. Nowadays, many cards are printed with a personal computerat home, made easy with many software for this purpose. New Year cards are often highly individualized, containing news of personal events that occurred during the previous year or photos of the sender’s family.

Can I write correspondence on the address side of the postcard?
Yes, you can write your message on the lower or left half of the address side as long as the name and address are clearly legible.

What are those red boxes which I see on Japanese postcards and envelopes?
Those boxes are for the postal code (equivalent to the zip code in the U.S.). Japan postal codes have 7 digits (it used to be 3 or 5 digits before Feb. 2, 1998). So you will see seven red boxes printed on most postcards and envelopes.

I want to make my own postcards. What are the required size and weight?
In Japan, postcards must be 9 cm to 10.7 cm high and 14 cm to 15.4 cm long. It must weigh 2 g to 6 g. (Postcards issued by the Japan Post Office measure 10 cm x 14.7 cm.)

Can I put on stickers, etc., on a postcard and send them?
Yes, you can stick on thin stickers or paper as long as the total weight does not exceed 6 grams.

I bought 40 postcards from the Japan Post Office, but I accidentally dropped them in a muddy puddle. They are ruined. What should I do?
You can return any postcards that you ruined (by ink spills, bad writing, etc.) to the post office and exchange them for new postcards for a fee that is cheaper than buying new replacement postcards. You can also do this for stamps.

I have an old Japanese postcard which has a stamp on it. How can I check the age of the stamp?
Get a copy of the Japanese Postage Stamp Catalog (Nihon Kitte Catalog published by JSDA). This wonderful annual booklet has a color image of all the stamps that Japan’s postal service has issued since the very beginning. It gives the stamp’s issue date, quantity printed, and approximate value. Although it’s in Japanese, the issue dates and stamp names are also given in English. The catalog costs only 700 yen.

Are there postcard fairs in Japan?
No, but there are stamp shows and antique fairs where postcards also sold. There are also flea markets held at shrines on weekends.

Are there postcard auctions in Japan?
At Yahoo! Japan Auctions (Japanese language required). However, eBay has a much larger selection.

Are there postcard collectors clubs in Japan?
Yes, but they all speak Japanese only.

Are there postcard collector’s magazines or publications in Japan?
No magazines but there are a few books on Japanese postcards.

What’s Kokkei Shimbun?
See Andrew Watt’s article on this subject.

PhotoRepairs FAQ

Updated: Nov. 2, 2017

CAMERA SERVICE CENTERS IN JAPAN
To find contact info for camera repair in Japan, click on the links below.
CanonCasioEpsonFujiFilmKenko-TokinaKodakKonica-Minolta |KyoceraMamiyaNikonOlympusPanasonic LumixPentaxPolaroidRicohSigmaSonyTamronIndependent Repair Centers

What is PhotoRepairs?
An English list of camera repair centers in Japan organized according to camera manufacturer. This is where you can find your nearest camera service center in Japan or find out how to send in your camera for repair. In recent years, many manufacturers closed their service centers in regional cities. So now the service centers are concentrated in the largest cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and Sapporo. All camera makers also offer mail-in repair services where you send in your camera for repair.

Note: Repair centers sometimes close or move, so you might find outdated information here. Contact us if you find any outdated information so we can correct it.

I live outside Japan and I need to repair my camera or lens in Japan. Can you help me?
Camera repair centers in Japan do not accept camera repair orders from overseas. They will not ship your repaired camera overseas. You need to be in Japan to receive your repaired camera. You need to contact your dealer or camera maker. You have to repair your camera in your own country. Or you can visit Japan and have it repaired here. But your warranty might not be valid in Japan. If you are outside Japan and want to repair your camera in Japan, you will need to find a friend in Japan who can accept your camera, give it to the camera repair center in Japan, then ship the repaired camera to you.

How can I repair my camera in Japan?
You can either take your camera to the manufacturer’s service center or call a phone number and find out where to send it for repair. It might also be possible for someone to pick it up at your location. Sometimes your camera dealer can accept cameras for repair.

I bought my camera outside Japan and it’s still under warranty. Can I repair it for free in Japan?
In the case of Nikon, camera bodies and accessories (flash, etc.) have only country-specific warranties. So the warranty will be valid only in the country where you bought the camera. Only Nikkor lenses have worldwide warranties. As for Canon, both camera bodies and lenses have country-specific warranties. Most other camera makers would have similar warranty conditions. Whether your warranty is valid or not in Japan, you can still have your camera checked out at any repair center in Japan for free. They can tell you what’s wrong and give an estimate for the repair cost. If you bought your camera at a US military base in Japan, it will likely be considered as a purchase in the US.

I don’t speak any Japanese. Will the people in Japan understand me?
Major camera repair centers in Japan will usually have someone who can understand English. Just speak slowly and don’t use any difficult words.

How long does it take to repair a camera?
It usually takes one week for digital cameras. Certain manufacturers offer a quick repair service or same-day service depending on the camera model, the type of repair, how early in the day you bring in your camera, and how busy they are that day. Call to check. If you are a tourist visiting Japan, you will need to make sure whether the camera will be repaired fast enough while you’re here. Call to check.

Also, if you are registered at a pro service center, you can get it back much faster and at cheaper rates. To be eligible to receive services from a pro service center, you must register and show proof that you are a full-time pro photographer.

What about cleaning my D-SLR’s sensor?
You can usually have it cleaned on the same day you take it in. But if they are busy, it may require overnight service. Best to take your camera earlier in the day, by early afternoon so it will be ready the same day. Or you can call them to ask how long it will take. They might charge for cleaning the sensor, especially if the warranty has expired.

Do they speak English?
Staff at camera repair centers in Japan usually don’t speak English, so when you call, try to have someone who can speak Japanese to inquire for you.

How much will it cost to repair my camera?
For expensive SLR equipment, expect to pay an arm or leg or both. Compact digital cameras usually cost around 8,000 to 13,000 yen to repair. Most service centers have a Web page listing their repair prices. You can also ask by phone for an estimate.

Can I pay by credit card?
Note that camera repair centers do not accept credit cards. Prepare to pay in cash. Even when you send in your camera for repair, it will usually be delivered to you C.O.D. so you will have to pay the delivery person in cash upon receiving the repaired camera.

How should I send my camera to a repair center in Japan?
You should ship it via a courier service called takkyubin (宅急便) available at most convenience stores. Or go to a post office and request Yu-Pack. You fill out the address label with the address and stick it on to the box. You will then receive the receipt that has the package tracking No. in case it gets lost. Better to not send anything via parcel post or regular mail.

What are independent camera service centers?
These are companies that are independent from camera manufacturers. They specialize in repairing old (classic) and discontinued cameras and often manufacture their own spare parts after the camera maker runs out of parts to fix your camera.

In other words, if your camera is too old to be repaired by the manufacturer, then you can take it to an independent camera repair center if it’s worth repairing.

I forgot to bring my warranty card!
If your camera is a new model introduced less than a year ago, it will be obvious that it is still under warranty (usually 1 year), so they will likely repair it under the warranty even if you don’t have the warranty card. But try to bring the warranty card just in case, especially if you have an international waranty.

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