Note about the Laughing Geisha

I just received the note below about the identity of the “Laughing Geisha” on the vintage postcards I display here:

It sounds like a good lead.
Hi, Philbert –
I was browsing your website, again, and noticed that you don’t have a name for the smiling geisha of Yokohama. In 1905, Karl Lewis published a catalogue of the postcards he had for sale, including a section on “The Belle of Japan – Tokimatsu” – 22 postcards of “the smiling geisha”. The catalogue was reproduced in the Oct. 1987 issue of Japanese Philately. I have seen a few of these cards on eBay, although infrequently – one is up right now.

I assume Tokimatsu was her professional name – I read somewhere that she was a waitress, but I’ve seen a couple of rather risque pics of her, too. this may be no more than a nickname, but with enough data points, you may be able to identify her. Smile

Luck! Alan

Vintage Tourist Photos of Japan

By Philbert Ono and Edward A. Wright

This is a magazine article which originally appeared in the Summer 1997 issue of DARUMA magazine which is a quarterly magazine in English covering Japanese art & antiques. This article introduces a collection of hand-colored glass slides produced in the 1920s and ’30s by T. Enami, a photographer who operated a photo studio in Benten-dori, Yokohama and catered to foreign tourists. He sold his slides and photos to foreign tourists visiting Japan.

Japan Times photo articles up to 2003

Here are links to photography-related article published in The Japan Times newspaper. You may have to register (free) to access the archives.

In the Dec. 16, 2001 issue of the The Japan Times English newspaper, the Sunday Timeout column featured the following series of articles about photography in Japan titled The Big picture:
From pinholes to pixels, photography keeps on evolving by Rob Gilhooly
Photo-news loses its focus, by Mark Schreiber
It’s all in the eyes of the beholder, by Benoit Toutee
First, take off the lens cap (photo classes)
From ‘shashin’ to snapshots, by Rob Gilhooly
New angles on art: A photo is worth a thousand…, by Monty DiPietro

Article about US Ambassador Howard Baker and Russian Ambassador Alexander Panov holding a joint photo exhibition in Tokyo in April 2003.
Russian, U.S. ambassadors prepare joint photo shows in Tokyo, Osaka – Japan Times 2003-04-04

Article about foreign diplomats in Japan (including US Ambassdor Howard Baker) holding a photo exhibition in Tokyo in Oct. 2003.
Diplomats’ photo show puts lens on Japan – Japan Times 2003-10-30

Article about a photo studio in Ryogoku, Tokyo specializing in taking portraits of sumo wrestlers.
Shooting gallery aimed at sumo – Japan Times 2003-12-14

Article introducing photo galleries in Shinjuku, Tokyo. A Japan Times article.
Zoom in on Shinjuku for photogalleries galore – By MONTY DiPIETRO 2004-01-14

Epson’s new inkjet printers in 2003

On Oct. 3, Epson started selling a new generation of inkjet printers replacing almost their entire line of A4-size inkjets.

The main feature of the new printers is the newly-developed dye and pigment (archival) inks that are much more fade-resistant than the old inks. In Japan, they are calling it “tsuyo ink” meaning strong inks. (Symbolized by a muscle man cartoon character.)

The previous top-of-the-line models, PM-980C and PM-940C which came out only 5 months ago, are now discontinued. They are replaced by the new top-of-the-line PX-G900 (pictured above) and PM-G800. The “PX” designation refers to pigment-based ink while “PM” is for dye-ink photo printers

The large-format (A3-size), pigment-ink PM-4000PX (Epson Stylus Photo 2200 in the USA) is still available. However, I’m sure it will be replaced soon by a model compatible with the new pigment inks. Since it came out in spring 2002, it’s due for a replacement.

Pigment vs. dye inks
In Japanese, pigment ink is called “ganryo” (顔料), while dye ink is “senryo” (染料). Epson’s pigment inks are resin-coated, making them much more durable than dye inks. Some people call it archival inks.

Epson has offered pigment inks before (for the PM-4000PX), but the old pigment inks had to be printed on dull, matte paper. They weren’t compatible with glossy paper. However, the new pigment inks can now be used with the same glossy paper used for dye inks. (New glossy paper for the 4000PX will come out later in Oct.).

Furthermore, the new pigment inks for the top-of-the-line PX-G900 has a thicker coat of resin to make it more glossy. There is also an ink called the “gloss optimizer” which acts as a transparent filler between the sparse ink dots printed on the highlight areas of the image. It makes the image look more even and reinforces the adhesion of the pigment dots on the paper.

The PX-G900, the top-of-the-line
On the day it went on sale on Oct. 3, I ran out and bought one at Yodobashi. Cost me about 47,000 yen (including 5% tax) with 13% credit, so maybe about 41,000 yen in total.

I had been using Epson’s low-end PM-740DU photo inkjet which came out in April this year. I was quite happy with it until I learned that the photos might fade over time. So I wanted a pigment ink photo printer but Epson only had the large-format (A3-size) PM-4000PX which was too big and expensive for daily use. So the A4-size PX-G900 was the printer I was waiting for. For the first time, Epson’s top-of-the-line A4-size inkjet is now pigment ink-based.

While spending the weekend making a few hundred photos with this printer, here’s what I discovered about the printer:
– The printer uses 8 ink tanks which include two blacks (photo black and matte black, only one is used at a time) and the gloss optimizer. (They also sell the complete pack of 8 ink tanks for 7,000 yen. If you buy them separately, it’s 1,050 yen each.)

– The new pigment inks are compatible with normal glossy photo paper for dye inks. You are not limited to matte paper like before.

– The pigment ink’s extra-thick resin coating actually makes the picture look more glossy than the glossy paper’s original gloss. If you print with borders, you can see the difference in the gloss between the image area and the white borders. There is a visible boundary between the glossy photo that outshines the less-glossy white borders. The picture actually looks like it has a very thin lamination film covering it.

– When I compare the same photos printed with my low-end dye-based PM-740DU printer (6 colors) and the PX-G900, the color range of the pigment-based prints looked slightly better with truer blacks.
Conclusion: Color and image quality is better with pigment inks.

– At 1.5 pl (picoliters), the dot size is smaller than ever. (The PM-4000PX shoots 4 pl dots.)

– The printing speed is pretty fast. The actual printing time depends on your computer and the image quality settings. I use both a Pentium 4 (USB 2.0) and a Mac G4 (FireWire), and the printing is slower on my 2-year-old Mac perhaps due to the slower CPU. It takes my Mac about 15 sec. to “think” before the printer actually starts to print the next photo. But with my Win machine, there’s almost no thinking time. (I include the thinking time in the printing time.)

The printer comes with a software program called PhotoQuicker for printing photos. It provides three image quality settings: Normal, Fine, and Ultra-fine. The printing time for Ultra-fine is more than double that of Normal. For an L-size print (9 x 12.5 cm or 3.5 x 5 in.), it takes my Pentium 4 machine 2 min. to print in Ultra-fine mode for a borderless print. (It takes more time to print borderless than bordered prints.) My Mac G4 takes 2 min. 20 sec.

– The image quality difference of the Normal, Fine, and Ultra-fine modes are hardly noticeable with the naked eye. However, the differences are quite apparent when you look at the photos with an 8x magnifier. The Normal mode clearly shows microscopic banding of the ink dots (the dots look like rows in a rice paddy). The Fine mode only has slight banding. And the Ultra-fine mode shows a very even and pleasing pattern of dots with no microscopic banding.

– When you select the borderless setting, PhotoQuicker gives you three additional options: Minimal trimming, Less trimming, and Normal trimming. This is my favorite feature.

Borderless prints are made by enlarging the image to cover the entire paper area. But in doing so, part of the image is cut off along the edges. This has always been one of my pet peeves for borderless printing even with film. A critical part of the image is often near the picture edge that is cut away in the print. So if you want to see the entire image, you have to make bordered prints.

But I prefer borderless prints and finally there is a way to minimize the image cutoff at the edges. At the “Normal trimming” setting, about 3 to 4 mm of the picture edge is cut away in the borderless print. That’s a substantial chunk of picture especially if you have someone standing right at the edge of a group photo. You sure don’t want to see only half of her face.

Fortunately, at the “Minimal trimming” setting, only about 1 mm is cut away. So just about the entire picture is included. However, there is a minor compromise: the print ends up with a tiny white border on the right side (horizontal photo), about 1mm wide. It’s noticeable, but not enough to bother me. This occurs also with 2L (similar to 5×7 in.) and A4-size prints. The same 1mm border is there.

So I normally use the “Minimal trimming” setting (called “yori sukunai hamidashi” in Japanese). The help manual does mention that a border might appear at this setting. At the “Less trimming” setting, more of the picture is cutoff (maybe about 2 or 3 mm) but there are absolutey no borders. The worst “Normal trimming” is good if you want a slight enlargement of the image and don’t have anything important along the picture edges.

The software provides a small preview image for each trimming setting so you can see how much of the image will be cut off.

– Epson’s PhotoQuicker program for printing photos works well. But it’s still a hassle to enlarge the image on the screen from the thumbnails. And when it’s enlarged, you cannot select it on the spot for printing. You have to go back to the thumbnails and press the image’s button to select it for printing. It’s hard to choose photos for printing just by looking at the thumbnails, so they should make it easier to enlarge the photos on the spot.

There are basic retouching features for brightness and color saturation and photo touch-up mode for low-res photos taken with camera phones. You can also add insert text information at the bottom of the photo such as the title, date and time, and shooting data (shutter speed, aperture, etc.) if it’s an Exif image.

– The printer has an attractive design and shape with a silver finish. The printer cover has a transparent window through which you can see the print head going back and forth as the paper is printed.

– Printing operation is very quiet (except when it grabs the paper).

– It prints CD discs very well. Epson’s software, called Multi-PrintQuicker, for printing on CDs is very good. I can choose my own photos to cover the CD and can add text in any font, size, and color. The text can be shaped in an arc along the round edge or be formatted vertically or horizontally. The result on inkjet-compatible CDs looks great too. Printing speed is fast, but you still have to print CDs one by one because the CD must be loaded manually one at a time.

The program can also print business cards (business card paper is available from Epson) and on roll paper for panorama photos. The roll paper cutter is sold separately.

Epson will also soon offer a paper photo album and photo stand media that you can print on to make a 12-page photo album and photo stand.

– The printer has USB 2.0 and IEEE1394 (FireWire) ports on the rear. However, only one port can be used at a time. When I connected the USB port to my Win machine and IEEE1394 to my Mac, the printer didn’t work until I unplugged one of the two connectors.

– I can only feed 20 sheets of photo paper at a time, so it’s a hassle to keep feeding paper when you’re printing a lot of photos.

I’m very happy with this printer. It’s a great feeling to know that the thousands of prints I make with this printer will last a long time and not fade.

Epson’s latest inkjet product brochure is also shocking. It shows a photo of a Japanese bride badly faded after 1 year. It was made by Epson’s previous top-of-the-line PM-980C with the old dye ink. But the same photo printed with the new dye ink (with the PM-G700) looks fine after 1 year. So how does that make PM-980C owners feel?? It’s such a major defect that Epson should recall their previous injket printers and give a refund.

If you’re in Japan, go to the camera store and check out the sample comparative photos in Epson’s portfolio of sample prints. (Also take a magnifier.) If what they say is true, these inks are really revolutionary. The bottom line is that pigment inks last much longer than dye inks.

In this respect, Canon lags behind because they still don’t have any inkjet printers using color pigment inks. (They might only have black pigment ink.) They just put out a new top-of-the-line inkjet (Pixus 990i) too, but it uses dye inks with bigger 2 pl droplets. Since Canon printers heat up the ink to form the droplets ejected on the paper, their inks must be heat-resistant. Perhaps this requirement is hampering their development of pigment inks.

If you have a Canon digital camera, using a Canon printer will be more convenient. (I tried to use the software that came with my Canon digital camera [PowerShot S50] to print with the Epson, but it doesn’t work well.)

Canon also has a few portable printers like the elegant-looking inkjet Pixus 50i and dye-sub CP-300. However, the 50i is still a little too big and heavy to carry around and the image quality is a little too grainy for my tastes. The CP-300 is definitely small and light enough to carry around on trips (so you can give photos on the spot to the people you photograph) and the image quality is great. But the paper has perforations that you have to cut off after printing.

Next, I look forward to Epson’s new large-format, pigment-based inkjet printer. There’s no announcement yet for a replacement, but the PM-4000PX’s days are numbered. Perhaps I’ll start holding photo exhibitions after I buy the new A3-size pigment printer.

P.S. In early Dec., Epson will introduce the new PX-6000. It’s a large-format, pigment-based printer that prints huge A2-size (about 60×42 cm) prints. The print is twice as big as the A3 size that the PM-4000PX printer makes. It has a new gray ink that makes B/W prints look better. The only problem is that the retail price will be a whopping 228,000 yen, beyond my budget for sure.

Digital camera meeting report

On Oct. 2, we gave an informal talk on digital cameras to the Tokyo PC Users Group, an English-speaking computer club that meets monthly at the Tokyo Union Church basement in Omotesando, Tokyo.

I suggested the meeting to the group and gathered a few other digicam users to talk to the group. I talked about using my Canon Powershot S50, John Lancaster talked about his new Canon Kiss Digital (Digital Rebel), Bradley Anderson (who came all the way from Numazu, Shizuoka) showed off his Nikon D100, and Mark Skorji discussed his Sony Mavica and Sony 717. We showed sample photos as well. I think we had almost 30 people there.

After our talk, there was a lively Q&A session since a good number in the audience still did not have a digicam. It was a good meeting, and it was a pleasure to meet new people.

Thanks to all the speakers, Sako Eaton (club’s vice president) who helped to arrange the talk, and all the other club officers and people who came to the meeting.

My photo of Edward Seidensticker in Int’l Herald Tribune

In the Oct. 4-5, 2003 issue of the International Herald Tribune newspaper, the photo I took of translator Edward G. Seidensticker (above) appeared in the Books & Culture column written by my friend Ralph Cassell. It was the first time a photo of mine (properly credited) appeared in this newspaper.

The article titled, “Translator recalls what he got (and missed) over half a century,” was about a talk Seidensticker gave in Tokyo to the Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators (SWET) on Sept. 27.

In the translation world, Seidensticker is a legendary figure best-known for translating masterpiece Japanese novels such as Yasunari Kawabata’s Nobel Prize-winning “Snow Country” (Yukiguni), Murasaki Shikibu’s “Tale of Genji, and Jun’inchiro Tanizaki’s “The Makioka Sisters” (Sasameyuki).

Seidensticker accompanied Kawabata to Stockholm in 1968 for the Nobel Prize awards ceremony. Without Seidensticker’s English translation, Kawabata would not have won the prize.

PhotoGuide Japan’s Best Book Reviews

Links to some of the best book reviews at PhotoReviews. All reviews by Philbert Ono.

The History of Japanese Photography
The most comprehensive book ever published on Japanese photographic history in English. Also served as the exhibition catalog for the The History of Japanese Photography exhibition held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in spring 2003.

Japan’s Art Museums and Photo Collections
History of photography museums in Japan and their current state of affairs.

Gunkanjima: Awakening of a Dead Island
Fine-art photos by SAIGA Yuji of an abandoned island nicknamed “Battleship Island” off the coast of Nagasaki.

The Kabuki-za
Exquisite photo tour of the Kabuki-za Theater in Ginza, Tokyo), the world’s foremost kabuki theater. Photographed by SHINOYAMA Kishin.

Groups of Women Ama Divers (1931-1964)
Terrific B/W photos of young women ama divers in Onjuku, Chiba during 1931-1964 when they still worked topless. Photographed by IWASE Yoshiyuki.

SENTO―The Japanese Public Bath in the 20th Century
Everything you wanted to know about Japan’s public baths, and then some. Detailed photographic record of public baths from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Photographed by ONUMA Shoji.

Minzoku (Ethnic Tribe)
Head shots of teenage girls known as ganguro, yamanba, or ko-gals. Photographed by ONUMA Shoji.

Japanese War Brides in California 1978-1998
Portraits of Japanese women (and their families) who married US servicemen in Japan in the 1950s and ’60s. Photographed by ENARI Tsuneo.

Work 1991-1995
Portraits of Japanese men and women, both young and old, at their workplaces. Salary amount also mentioned. Photographed by Hashiguchi George.

Rules for Two–The International Marriage
Portraits of eighty international, married couples and their children (if any). Each couple also give a cardinal rule that they follow to get along in the marriage or family. Photographed by URUSHIZAKI Shuken.

Invisible Power
Photos of Japan by blind photographers. Includes touch-and-feel pictures.

A Corpse in 20 Scenes
Twenty famous Japanese actresses (including two actors) pose as a dead body dressed in brand-name clothing in various settings. Photographs by IZIMA Kaoru.

Dreamy landscape photos which include points or lines of light created by the photographer. Photographs by SATO Tokihiro.

Pictures of the most famous fashion model Japan has ever produced. Sadly, she died too early. Photographs by YOKOSUKA Noriaki.

July 2003 photographers’ meeting report

In July 2003, I organized a few networking meetings for photographers in the Tokyo area.

See announcement here:

The first meeting was held on July 10, 2003 at 7 PM in Harajuku, Tokyo (photo above). Here’s a very brief summary of what we did:

A total of 14 people came to our humble little dinner meeting in
Harajuku. We dined at the Sizzler restaurant, and it was a good
venue. (They let us pay the bill individually.)

First, we all introduced ourselves and those who brought their photos
passed them around after dinner. Architecture, belly dancers, nudes,
Okinawan dancers, B/W, etc.

Everyone was very friendly and we had no problem striking up
conversations with one another. Lil showed off her new Canon
PowerShot G5 digital camera, Louis talked about his botched interview
with Hiromix, Juergen showed his nudes published in a German digicam
mag, and John gorged on the salad/dessert bar all evening long.

Most people did not have a Web site, and some wanted to start one.
Lil highly recommended that you hire a professional to do it. But the
drawback was the cost. It sounds like we should have a photographers’
Web site workshop.

A few people went for drinks at the Pink Cow afterward.

It was great to meet everyone. Thanks for coming. Hope you had a good
time and were able to make new contacts.
July 12, 2003 meeting report
For the July 12 meeting, we had six people after two people (one from Numazu in Shizuoka) cancelled. It was another good meeting of people and photos (no women though). Six was a good number for everyone to talk to everyone. We met at the same Sizzler restaurant in Harajuku at 6 PM, but had to leave after 2 hours because of the Sat. night crowd. So we went to a coffee shop afterward at 8 pm. Most of the people were not in tokyo photo club, they saw my message board.

I met an Iranian photographer (who came all the way from Utsunomiya) for the first time. He showed photos of heroin addicts in Tehran. We also had a sports and financial photographer who just started out a year ago and now doing jobs for major clients.

A Canadian photographer showed us his two self-published books (50,000 yen for the first 10 copies). He gave advice about printing companies that offer self-publishing.

Louis came again and he showed photos of ama women divers (even while undressing) and backstage shots of the Miss Universe Japan contest (undressing, etc.)

People who show up at these meetings tend to be very sociable and friendly, so I’m very pleased with meeting these different people pursuing different things. Needless to say, it broadens your horizons when people share their worlds with you and vice versa.

So the next meeting will be the 26th or during that week. A weekday evening is also possible. So let me know if you want to meet and when. The meeting date is still flexible.

After July, perhaps we can arrange a meeting in the fall. A friend of mine who is the vice president of the Tokyo PC Club has welcomed my proposal to have a digital photography meeting at one of their monthly PC meetings. A few of us digital photographers could give presentations of digital photo equipment and techniques. I think doing a joint activity with the PC Club is such an obvious thing to do. They have an LCD projector so showing slides would be no problem. So that might be in Oct. or Nov.

Have a good July!
July 27, 2003 meeting report

n July 27, 2003, eight people came to our meeting, including three women! (Actually only 2 of them were photographers, and one was a very nice mum).

We met at Sizzler in Harajuku 5-7 pm. Dorian, one of the original members of Tokyo Photo Club, also came. He complained about how the photography market (mainly stock) in Japan was really depressed.

In contrast, the lovely and busy Kerry Raftis talked about her booming business in shooting portfolios for models in Tokyo. So folks, it IS possible to make it as a photograper in Japan.

Federica asked about rental darkrooms in Tokyo where you can make prints 11×14″ prints. The only one she knew was in Yokohama. The ones in Tokyo was only 8×10″ maximum, so she has to continue going all the way to Yokohama.

With great regret, Alan didn’t think of bringing any photos to this photo meeting whose main purpose was to show pictures to people, so you have to see his Web page. (See his note.)

Australian, Singaporean, American, Austrian, Italian, and Japanese. The group was very cosmopolitan as usual.

I’ve met over 25 new people this month through these meetings. I got the feeling that there’s a need for specialized photography workshops. I don’t mean teaching the basics, but teaching studio lighting (with a live model), making a Web site, Photoshop lessons, and digital photography (especially scanning). I’ve noticed a lot of people have not really sat down and learned the basics of these subjects.

I know a few people who are experts in these fields and who can easily teach these things in English. We just need to set a time, place, and logistics. There aren’t any computer classrooms which we could rent for Web site or Photoshop lessons (if you know of such a place, tell me), so you would need to bring your own laptops with the required software. We could try that in a place that has a lot of power outlets.

No, I’m not interested in establishing a photo school, but occasional workshops would be helpful I believe. It’s something I have to think about after the summer. Thanks to all the people who came to the three meetings.

Hope y’all enjoy the rest of the summer.

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