All posts tagged: japan

Hanafubuki Ryokan for 1843 mag

Hanafubuki Ryokan is a super nice place to stay on the coast of the Izu peninsula. Izu is a beach and mountain paradise for hikers and surfers located about 30 minutes by bullet train west of Tokyo. Take a local train further down the east side of the peninsula for some of the more secluded, premium accommodation options, like Hanafubuki. I photographed this wonderful hot spring hideaway for 1843, the Economist’s lifestyle magazine last year. Hanafubuki is not a single big hotel building, it’s rather a collection of smaller cottages linked together via wooden walkways. Its open air plan and proximity to the forests make it a great place to recharge after a grueling spell in the city. The air is beautiful, crisp and filled only with the sounds of nature, and there are some short forest walks adjoining the property that allows you to do some shinrinyoku, or ‘forest bathing’, which is a fancy way of saying you can sit by yourself in the unspoiled tranquility of nature for a bit. Don’t knock it …

Nanbu Tekki (Iron Kettle) artisans

My book on traditional crafts in Japan – Handmade in Japan, published by Gestalten, will be out in September this year (hopefully – this covid thing is keeping everyone on their toes), so I thought I would share some of the crafts that I had photographed but for one reason or the other could not be included in the book. Originally the book was slated to run at under 300 pages but we ended up extending it to 340 pages and there still wasn’t enough space for all of the awesome crafts in Japan. Nanbu Tekki is the kettle you want. It is a solid cast iron piece that – according to tea experts from China to London – apparently makes the water boiled inside very delicious, due to an infusion of iron into the water. Nanbu Tekki is of course handmade and very time consuming, requiring clay and sand molds to be created before a specialized craftsman presses an intricate design into it. The clay mold for the spout and body are combined before …

Japanese Handicrafts – Bunraku Puppets

In my travels across Japan photographing artisans – one of my absolute favorites was the Bunraku puppet artisan Hishida-san in Osaka. I am absolutely gutted that it didn’t make the book so I’d like to introduce him here. Bunraku is a type of theatre in Japan that uses articulated puppets in conjunction with an orchestra and chanters to tell as story. The technical prowess required from the puppeteers is daunting; three puppeteers are responsible for moving one doll; one to control the right hand and head, one to control the left hand and one to control the feet and legs. The makers of these magnificent puppets are called ningyoushi, and are declining in numbers nationwide.  Hishida Masayuki, 58, has been making puppets for Bunraku for over forty years, in the artform’s hometown of Osaka.  ‘Bunraku was a way for people to speak out against the Shogunate without fear of persecution,’ says Hishida-san. Because puppeteers traditionally wore black outfits with black masks, the identities of the troupe were often difficult to divine and thus arrest. Bunraku’s …

Japanese Handicrafts – Kokeshi

In my travels around Japan photographing artisans and craftsmen for my upcoming book, I met Abo-san, a Kokeshi craftsman. His workshop and art was absolutely splendid however we weren’t able to include him in the book for space reasons, so I am going to introduce him here. Kokeshi are a type of decorative wooden doll that is popular in the northern regions of Japan. They served as toys for children hundreds of years ago and now are valued as folk craft items that bring good luck. Although the prefecture of Miyagi is famed for having the highest quality kokeshi, Abo-san is from Aomori, and his dolls have been praised as some of the best in Japan. Watching him work it is very clear that Abo-san is a true master, as he transforms a featureless block of wood into a smooth and shiny kokeshi figure within minutes using a variety of well-worn chisels. The ground is littered with wooden shavings around his feet, which controls the spinning wheel. Painting the doll looks deceptively simple – Abo-san …

Japanese Handicrafts – Kanayama pottery

I have been touring Japan photographing craftspeople and artisans for my upcoming book to be published by Gestalten this year. In total I managed to photograph some 70 artisans, all of them wonderful, however due to space constraints in the book not all of them were able to make it into the final cut. I plan to introduce some of the ones that we unfortunately couldn’t include here, so I hope you’re in the mood to learn about some crafts! Kanayama-yaki, or Kanayama pottery is a very recent type of earthenware in Japan’s very long and rich history of pottery. It was established in the 1960s in Aomori prefecture, the second Northern-most prefecture in Japan, when the clay in a particular marsh near the town of Hirosaki was discovered to be extremely good for pottery. Now, there is a large wood-fired kiln as well as extensive pottery facilities for young artists to come and take advantage of. Foreign potters are often in residence in the huts behind the kiln. There’s even a charming pizzeria for …

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 …

Portraits: Nakai Akira – Rauh Welt Begriff (RWB)

So I meet a lot of people as a portrait photographer – it’s part of the job. Another part of the job is that the people who end up in front of my lens are generally pretty interesting people, which makes a lot of sense, because there are not many magazines out there who will pay me good money to go and photograph a regular someone who no one wants to read about. This fact notwithstanding however, there are a lot of times when I’ve gotten an email or a call about a job to go photograph someone, and I’ve never heard of that person or their company. This is not particularly unusual, because there are a lot of interesting people in the world and they each have their own thing going in their personal circle of influence, which just hasn’t happened to intersect my own yet. Exploring all of these circles that add up together to create the vast and varied weave of humanity is what keeps this job interesting and fun. So when I got a call to …

Motorhead + Carhartt

In my last post I mentioned that I was doing some photos for a Japanese car magazine called Motorhead – these guys are definitely doing some of the most creative and interesting stuff in the Japanese auto-mag world. Here’s hoping I have a chance to travel for one of their features soon. I’d like Finland please. Anyway! The magazine and a certain apparel label called Carhartt were doing a special giveaway of specially-designed jackets bearing the Motorhead logo. Pretty expensive stuff, as the jackets themselves weren’t cheap, so I don’t want to imagine how much the custom logo was. No chance of me picking up a freebie this time, so I’ll have to be content looking at the promo images I shot for the magazine.  The model you see there is Andre, a good friend of mine – he’ll be appearing in other posts in the near future, I wager :D.  The car is a beastly V8 Range Rover, which was a joy to ride around in the whole day as spacious cars in Tokyo …

He loves the lamentations of the auditors

My latest movie poster parody featuring random salary men from Tokyo!  For the other ones in the series (and even a making-of video!) check here and here. As you can see this poster is based on the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian, which to me is an immensely enjoyable film, and I’m happy to be able to spoof it in this way. Scroll down for a very brief overview of how it was lit and put together. So, here’s the original shot I had to work with – as you can see due to my lack of a studio I was forced to shoot it in a nearby park. Here’s the breakdown of the lighting: Light A and B were both Profoto  1D Airs, with no modifiers. Since they already come with that nice frosted glass covering over the flash tube they give off a nice quality of light even without the extra diffusion. On the left side of light B I had taped a small gobo just to control the spread of light enough …