All posts filed under: Photojournalism

The Shikoku Files – Experience Crafts in Mima, Tokushima

That afternoon we drove down from the mountains of Tokushima back into civilization – where we visited the old traditional streets of Mima, which I found to be absolutely lovely. In addition to beautifully preserved old Japanese buildings with cafes and shops built into them, there were several spots in which you could try your hand at some traditional crafts, one of them being making Wagasa, Japanese umbrellas. Having photographed a few wagasa workshops around Japan, I was surprised to find that Tokushima prefecture also had a history of making them, as the main centers of production are typically said to be Gifu, Kyoto, Kanazawa and Yodoe. There is a small workshop in Mima that is keeping the tradition alive by a thread though, and it’s only here that you can get hands on with making paper umbrellas. A short way down the street is a small indigo dyeing workshop where you can make your very own scarf or handkerchief dyed with all-natural indigo dye – said to be the most resilient color in nature …

The Shikoku Files – Kominka Koya and Making Soba in Iya Valley

Despite having been a photographer in Japan for almost 10 years, until this year I never had a chance to visit Shikoku, which is one of the 4 main islands that make up the country. Last month, thanks to Japan Rail Shikoku and Rod Walters of Shikoku Tours, I finally had the opportunity to go, and I couldn’t be happier. Shikoku is the smallest of 4 main islands but is packed with rich history and tradition. We started out on a trip to explore some of the traditional crafts of Shikoku as well as to discover less often visited gems in the countryside. The first port of call was Iya valley, an area in the mountainous interior of Tokushima with some beautiful rivers and hiking trails. We stopped in at a small restaurant where a wonderful lady called Tsuzuki-san will teach you how to weave baskets from local vine, as well as teach you how to make buckwheat soba.   The next place we visited was our accommodation for the night; a place called Kominka …

Japan Travel: Farm to Table Wasabi for Korean Air

When you least expect it, some stories become some of the most memorable ones of the year. In this case was the time I was assigned to photograph wasabi from farm to table in Shizuoka, two hours outside of Tokyo. What makes wasabi such a unique produce is that it requires exacting conditions in order to thrive. For one, it requires constant flowing fresh water. On top of that the water has to be just the right temperature – not too hot, not too cold. Even in the many mountainous ranges of Japan there are few areas suited to the large scale cultivation of wasabi. Utogi, in Shizuoka prefecture is one such place. The fresh water requirements of wasabi require farming villages to be nestled in the midst of remote mountains. Although only an hour away from Shizuoka city central, the town of Utogi is located after enduring some dizzying mountain switchback roads. Upon arriving at the town you will see a plinth inscribed with the words: ‘Utogi – The Birthplace of Wasabi’. Utogi was …

The Umbrellas of Yodoe

Although I am primarily a photographer based in Tokyo, you’ll often find me traveling to random cities and towns to find artisans and craftsmen to photograph as part of my ongoing personal project to document as many as possible. Here is one of many that I have met along the way! The Umbrellas of Yodoe from Irwin Wong | Photographer on Vimeo. It’s a long journey to Tottori Prefecture from Tokyo. My assistant Hamish and I are well into our alcoholic beverages by the time the bullet train pulls into Okayama Station. From there we will sleep the night and the next morning drive nearly three hours through mountain ranges to the opposite coast, where our destination awaits. Tottori Prefecture definitely gets an award for Most Off The Beaten Track’ in Japan. It’s one of the least populated prefectures in Japan with only 500,000 residents. It also gets the fewest tourists out of any prefecture, and it isn’t surprising; it’s really hard to get to. Nevertheless, Tottori has a ton of history and tradition, and …

Yokohama and Sydney Chinatown for Cathay Pacific Discovery

Being a photographer in Tokyo is not always easy. There are some jobs where I find myself navigating overcrowded subways with unfeasible amounts of gear, lugging them up and down staircases and enduring dirty stares from fellow commuters. Other times I have to maneuver my lights inside a tiny rabbit hole of a location, or contend with the dreadful lighting and drab interiors of the typical Tokyo office locale. Blessedly, there come jobs that are the complete opposite – such as this one from Cathay Pacific’s Discovery magazine, which was a feature on Chinatowns around the world. Luckily for me I got to photograph two of them – Yokohama and Sydney. My job was to be present, observe and capture the vibe of both locations, and nothing is more satisfying to a photographer than a good excuse to step away from the computer and spend some time roaming the streets. I also shot two videos for them: Yokohama Chinatown for Silkroad from Irwin Wong | Photographer on Vimeo. Sydney Chinatown for Silkroad from Irwin Wong …

Japanese Masters: The Blacksmiths of Sakai

Although I am primarily a photographer based in Tokyo, you’ll often find me traveling to random cities and towns to find artisans and craftsmen to photograph as part of my ongoing personal project to document as many as possible. Here is one of many that I have met along the way! The Knives of Sakai from Irwin Wong | Photographer on Vimeo. The city of Sakai is a mere thirty minute drive from the neon-soaked streets of central Osaka – so close in fact that it feels like I never left. Still, the streets of Sakai are markedly different from the gaudy and brazen Osaka fare – there are fewer shops and zero tourists. A light rail trundles through the main thoroughfare. I notice other things as I drive towards my destination: a high frequency of workshops that advertise some kind of metal-working trade – polishing, smithing or sharpening. A high percentage of the shops are shuttered, their buildings too aged and run down to be operational. There are a few still open. I pull …

Japanese Masters: The Last Maiko in Gifu

Although I am primarily a photographer based in Tokyo, you’ll often find me traveling to random cities and towns to find artisans and craftsmen to photograph as part of my ongoing personal project to document as many as possible. Since the beginning of 2017, Zeiss has partnered with me to produce a series of videos, photos and text for their newly updated Lenspire blog. Now with this year coming to a close, I’ve decided to post the start of the series on my blog to show you folks where it all started. Please visit the original piece here where there are many more links to nearly a whole year’s worth of master artisans. Anyway, here’s the article below, enjoy! The Last Maiko in Gifu from Irwin Wong | Photographer on Vimeo. It’s twilight in Gifu, and the lights of the city sparkle prettily on the Nagara River. My assistant Will and I are standing on the bridge closest to where the boats dock, and as we watch, several pleasure boats peel lazily away from the harbor and …

Tokyo Bars – Bar Ben Fiddich in Shinjuku

Tokyo is a great place to be a photographer. In a city this big you’re going to find a lot of world class institutions, and one such institution that Tokyo is not lacking in is cocktail bars. In this post, budget airline carrier Jetstar commissioned me to photograph one certain Bar Ben Fiddich for their in-flight magazine、and let me tell you, photographing bars are some of the shoots that I most look forward to. Mainly because you get to drink the subject matter afterwards! Bar Ben Fiddich is located in Shinjuku, and would have been impossible to find if I hadn’t been told about it. The feel when you walk in is similar to that of an apothecary or the potions room in Harry Potter – the shelves behind the bar are lined with big glass jars filled with all manner of exotic spices and seasonings. The owner Kayama-san is actually a big absinthe fan, and studied in Switzerland in order to learn how to make it himself. I tasted a little of his home-brewed absinthe …

Irwin Wong - Tokyo Plastic Food (13)

Maizuru Plastic Food Company – Tokyo

Hello all! I’m back with another blog post detailing some my (paid and unpaid) photographic adventures in Japan. As a professional photographer in Tokyo I often get to visit some of the more wacky and interesting places on this side of Asia and this time was no exception. Today we have a bit of documentary and editorial photography of one of Tokyo’s most famous plastic food sample makers, Maizuru Plastic Food Company. Earlier this year Australian-based magazine Smith Journal contacted me to go photograph them for one of their features and I was all to happy to go. A bit of introduction to what the folks at Maizuru do – they hand make all of the plastic food samples that you’ll often see in the windows of Tokyo restaurants or cafes. That’s right – everything is hand made, right down to the molds and as such at the end of the day not a single food sample is identical, kind of just like actual food. Walking through the factory is a little surreal at times because there …

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong - Nissan Design Center (34)

Car Stuff: Nissan Design Center in Atsugi, Japan

Back in the day, when I was a young whippersnapper in Australia, my friends and I used to have dreams of owning a sweet import Japanese sports car so we could go drifting in the Dandenongs and pretend we were in some mountain drift racing group. We were fucking stupid, now that I think about it. Years later the impulse towards suicidal driving is gone but the love of Japanese cars still remains. Cars like the Toyota Supra or MR-2, Mazda RX-7, Honda S2000 or NSX, Mitsubishi Evo, Subaru WRX, all such automobiles as to set the pulse racing with thoughts of irresponsible speeding and reckless endangerment of other motorists on the rubber-streaked roads of Melbourne, Victoria. High amongst them all though, were the offerings from Nissan: the turbocharged Silvia and the 180SX, the svelte Fairlady Z or best of all, the mighty Godzilla itself, the venerable GTR Skyline. The mere thought of owning such street machines was enough to bring a hotheaded youth to full tumescence. To us, Nissan was the company that made cool, fun, daring …