Oyako portraits in Tohoku

Today, my photographer friend Bruce Osborn will be featured in an online TV program at NHK World called FORWARD -OYAKO Forever-. “Oyako” means parent-child. It will show him photographing families recovering in the disaster-affected areas in Tohoku. The 30-min. program will stream today several times today at the schedule below. It will be in English, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic. The first stream will start now. http://www.jibtv.com/onair/oa_about.html?n=0

Japan Standard Time: Feb. 10 = 9:30, 13:30, 17:30, 21:30, 25:30
Hawaii time: Feb. 9 = 14:30, 18:30, 22:30, 2:30 am
Greenwich Mean Time: Feb. 09 = 00:30, 04:30, 08:30, 12:30, 16:30
Eastern Standard Time: Feb. 09 = 19:30, 23:30
Feb. 10 = 3:30, 7:30, 11:30
Pacific Standard Time: Feb. 09 = 16:30, 20:30, 24:30
Feb. 10 = 4:30, 8:30

Ishimoto Yasuhiro dies at age 90

Well-known Japanese photographer Yasuhiro Ishimoto (石元 泰博) passed away in Tokyo on Feb. 6, 2012 due to pneumonia. He was 90 years old. Born in San Francisco, California in 1921, he was a fine-art photographer with ties to both Japan and the US. He was one of the “elder statesmen” of the Japanese photography world.

Parents were Japanese immigrant farmers in the US. Raised in Kochi city, Kochi Prefecture from age three. Studied agriculture in Kochi until 1939. Due to concerns of him being drafted in Japan, his mother urged him to return to America which he did in 1939.

Lived with a farmer and went to Univ. of California in 1940 until being interned at Armach, Colorado when war between Japan and America broke out. Since he had no assets, he did not lose anything unlike other Japanese-Americans who were interned.

He stuck with a group of shutterbugs in the internment camp. After being released in 1944, he went to Chicago after being told that he was free to go anywhere except the coastal cities. Joined a camera club in Chicago.

Studied architecture at Northwestern Univ. in Chicago 1946-48 where he met photographer Harry Shigeta and took up photography seriously. Studied under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago 1948-52 (B.S. degree 1952).

Freelance photographer in Tokyo 1953-58; Chicago 1958-61, and Tokyo since 1961 after moving back to Japan. Naturalized as a Japanese citizen in 1969. Instructor at Kuwazawa Design School 1962-1966 and Tokyo Photographic College 1962-1971. Professor at Tokyo Zokei Univ. Photo Dept. 1966-1971.

With ties to both Japan and America, Ishimoto gained recognition in both countries. He took an interest in traditional Japanese architecture, starting with photographs of the Katsura Palace in Kyoto. (Katsura was subsequently published by Yale Univ. Press.) His photo book, Chicago, Chicago is another signature work.

He has received numerous awards including Medal with Purple Ribbon and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette. Survived by his nephew Takashi.

Fu**in’ sale posters

In early Jan. 2012, a store in Osaka plastered their shop with large, red posters advertising a sale with the words “Fu**in’ sale.” They were trying to advertise their sale of fukubukuro (lucky bags). A photo of it went viral on Facebook and the Internet.

The shop has taken down the signs and apologized:


CP+ 2012 camera show in Yokohama

Canon booth at the last CP+ show in Feb. 2011.

The 3rd CP+ Camera & Photo Imaging Show, Japan’s largest camera show, will be held during Feb. 9-12, 2012 in Yokohama, at Pacifico Yokohama, a large convention complex and the same venue as last year’s CP+. Hopefully, it won’t snow on those days.

Note that the morning of Feb. 9, the show is open to the press only.

Admission is 1,000 yen at the door, but this fee can be waived if you preregister via the CP+ Website.

You can also register to attend free seminars and lectures where they sometimes provide simultaneous Japanese or English translation. The year 2012 is also the 150th anniversary of commercial photography in Japan. Lectures about vintage photography are planned. A special talk by Ellliot Erwitt is also scheduled on Feb. 9.


For details, see the show’s official site in English:

See my photos of CP+ 2011 here.

Pacifico Yokohama is near JR Sakuragicho and Minato Mirai Stations:

CP+ is held by CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association). CIPA is an international organization comprised of companies involved in the production and sale of silver-halide camera and digital camera, imaging-related products, software and more. In addition to product specifications, standards and technical research, CIPA deals with environmental issues and other industry-wide issues and seeks to contribute to the development of photographic and imaging culture.
Web site: http://www.cipa.jp/english/

Kyoto International Photo Showcase 2011


Updated: Our group photo exhibition in Kyoto went very well. It was great meeting people and explaining about our pictures and work. Thank you to all who came to see us.

Photos of the exhibition here:

Exhibition details:
PhotoGuide Japan organized a group photo exhibition in Kyoto held on Nov. 16-20, 2011 at the Kyoto International Community House in Kyoto, near Keage Station (5 min. by Tozai Line subway from Yamashina Station). The exhibition room was open from noon to 7 pm (till 5:30 pm on the 20th). We had a gathering on Nov. 19 (Sat.) at 5 pm – 7 pm and on Nov. 20 (Sun.) at 4 pm – 5:30 pm when the public was invited to meet the artists. Free admission.

The theme was “Home Sweet Hometown.” Many of us foreigners in Japan have lived here for so long that Japan has become our second hometown. We love our hometowns in Japan so much that we often photograph it. We shared some images of our beloved hometowns.

Featured Artists
Micah Gampel: “My Furukiyoki” self-portraits with friends in Kyoto. Very amusing collection of prints.
Peter Macintosh: Huge mural of Kyoto geisha photos taken over the past 10 years.
Motoyasu Matsutani: Pretty pictures of Kyoto.
Peter Miller: Copperplate photogravures of furusato scenes in Japan such as Shirakawa-go and Kamakura.
Philbert Ono: Introduction of Shiga’s hometown song, Lake Biwa Rowing Song. (Biwako Shuko no Uta) created by Kyoto University Rowing Club members in 1917.
Bruce Osborn: Maibara (Shiga Prefecture) Oyako (Parent-child) portraits taken in the four seasons.
John Wells: Mixed media (oil painting, sumie painting, etc.) of Kyoto scenes/objects.

KIPS 2011日本語 

The Japan Times inserted a nice announcement for our show in the Nov. 13, 2011 issue:

The Japan Times, Nov. 13, 2011, page 2 (National News)

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

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