All posts tagged: 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 …

Photo Essay: Luxury Trains in Japan

Being a photographer in Japan has so many perks – not the least of which is the amazing, ultra reliable bullet train system that means I can zip from city to city with so much less effort being subjected to all sorts of cavity searches in order to board a flight. Japan’s trains are so good, clean and fast that once you’re used to them, it’s almost impossible for any other country to live up to them. Of course, Japan being Japan, they can’t leave well enough alone, and had to find some way to make the train experience even more sublime. Japan’s luxury train lineup is a serious droolfest for train nerds and luxury travelers alike, with berths on the most exclusive Shikishima train starting at around $7000 for a twin share. Not quite so expensive yet marvelous nonetheless is the Royal Express train, which I had the great pleasure of photographing for the Wall Street Journal late last year. The Royal Express runs from Yokohama down to the tip of the Izu peninsula …

Tokyo Portraits – Fumio Sasaki for The Times

Ok, this title is a bit of a lie, it may say Tokyo Portraits but I actually traveled to the outskirts of Kyoto to photograph Mr. Fumio Sasaki who is a famous Japanese minimalist and author of the extremely popular book Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism. While I suspect he may have had a residence in Tokyo at some point, on that particular day I met him he was staying on a university campus near Kyoto, in a tiny dorm room. True to his title, his room held nothing more than what he needed – not that it was completely devoid of anything but there was certainly no extra stuff, other than what the university had provided. A table, a chair, a bed and two drinking glasses were about the extent of what I could see. The shoot was a very quiet, genial affair, with me doing my best to maneuver my lightstands around his cramped (despite containing very little) apartment, and I made these images with a Sony A7rII. Many thanks to The …

Tokyo Portraits – Yuusaku Maezawa for Wall Street Journal

Being an English and Japanese speaking photographer based in Tokyo, I’m lucky enough to be able to get editorial jobs that require someone who can operate without a costly translator. However, when I get the opportunity to photograph the same person multiple times in the same year for various outlets, I definitely know I have found my place in the market. The person in question is Zozotown CEO Yuusaku Maezawa, an avid art collector who was definitely the man of the hour having purchased a Basquiat for a record sum at auction last year. I had photographed him earlier in the year for Forbes and now the wonderful people at the Wall Street Journal gave me another opportunity to photograph him, this time at his luxurious apartment in the heart of Tokyo. Mr. Maezawa certainly remembered me from our last encounter and this shoot was much more relaxed and fun than the other one, due to our familiarity. With so much expensive artworks lying around I was a little nervous about bumping into anything, but …

Tokyo Portraits: Marie Kondo for The Times

A few years back I had the opportunity to photograph author and lifestyle consultant Marie Kondo in her Tokyo office. Now in case you don’t know who Marie Kondo is, she basically rewrote the book for organizing your life, and her method of cleaning out your life so that the only possessions you own are the ones most dear to you has become so popular that her name has become part of the zeitgeist, in the form of the word ‘konmari’.  For people in the know, to konmari your life means to get your shit together and start ditching baggage – both physical and nonphysical – in order to make room for yourself to breathe. She’s basically one of the newest household names to come out of Japan. Marie-san herself was small, both in stature and in voice, but she was an absolute joy to photograph despite her newfound international celebrity status. This article appeared in The Times, and was later syndicated for use in The Australian Sunday Edition – here are a couple of …

Japan Portraits: Shuho Hananofu – Ikebana Master

Around December last year I did a little photo portrait project with the wonderful folks at Kyoto Journal, centering around profiling entrepreneurial women in Kyoto. Here’s one of the amazing ladies that I photographed, which incidentally made the cover of Kyoto Journal issue 89, a very handsome magazine which is available now. Here is an excerpt from the very top of the article, written by the talented Elle Murrell, one of the most fun writers I’ve ever had the privilege of working with: “Hananofu Shuho is an ikebana master who was in charge of flower study section at Jisho-ji, better known as Ginkakuji, the ‘Silver Pavilion’ – one of Kyoto’s most famous temples – for 10 years. Since leaving the Center for Cultural Studies (Jisho-ji Kenshu dojo) there in 2015, she continues teaching her art form, leading several classes per month in Kyoto, Tokyo and Kyushu. Her students come from all over Japan and even from China for these intimate sessions.’ I’ve seen Shuho-san do ikebana performances on several occasions, and I’m always struck by …

Tokyo Portraits – Maezawa Yuusaku for Forbes

Earlier this year I was commissioned by Forbes to photograph a portrait of Maezawa Yuusaku, the billionaire CEO of Zozotown and art collector who has gained notoriety recently for dropping a record amount of money on an original Basquait. Unfortunately at the time of shooting the Basquait wasn’t available to be photographed alongside Mr Maezawa, so here he is pictured alongside his original Picasso in one of his offices at his Chiba headquarters. When I first entered the office the wooden wall really struck my fancy as I knew it would look gorgeous lit with my strobes, however there wasn’t anywhere to hang the Picasso. This meant that they would have to knock some holes into that beautiful wooden wall in order to hang the painting for the photos – something which I was loathe to ask for, however once I checked out every other area I could use for photos I became convinced that this was my spot. A little bit of polite wheedling and assurances that the photos would be worth the effort, …

Japan Portraits: Kumiko Otsuka

Sometime it’s good to post some good old executive portraits because because I sure as hell manage to photograph a lot of these here in Tokyo. Being able to reliably make good portraits of executives in a tight time frame with all of their minders and PR staff hanging around is a skill worth learning in order to keep the jobs coming and the cash flowing. With that in mind here’s the first in a series of CEOs of major Japanese companies that I’ve photographed recently for Forbes, the first one being Kumiko Otsuka, CEO of Otsuka Furniture. Recently she’s been in the news over the acrimonious power struggle with her father over the right to lead the company. Under her leadership she has turned the company around and managed to bring it out of the red. Forbes sent me in to grab the portrait on a media junket day when every news outlet was covering the redesigned look of their flagship Shinjuku store, so I knew that I’d be little more than a blip in …

Japanese Artisans: Koinobori in Gujo Hachiman

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 Carp Streamers of Gujo Hachiman from Irwin Wong | Photographer on Vimeo. Carp Swimming up a Winter Stream As I write this I am sitting in a trendy cafe in Gujo Hachiman watching the snow pile down outside in swirling flurries. My hands and toes have been frozen two days of standing in a river taking photos …

Commercial: TYKU Sake photographs

I consider myself primarily a portrait photographer here in Japan, but sometimes commercial work rolls in from overseas and I am more than happy to take it. In this case, TYKU sake wanted myself and a video team to go shoot some promotional content for their brand in New York. TYKU sake is actually brewed at Umenoyado Shuzo, one of the oldest breweries in Nara prefecture, so now you know you’re getting authentic sake when you buy TYKU. We went down there in February, the chilliest month in Japan, and my job was to shoot some portraits of the various people working there, as well as document the brewing process, and shoot some of the new packaging on the bottles in authentic Japanese locations. Straightforward, but this has to have been one of my favorite jobs this year, just due to the team and the awesome location and immense amount of creative freedom we had from the client. The shoot was over two days with one travel day and the photos have been used on …