All posts tagged: learn photography in Tokyo

Tsukiji Fish Market Tokyo (4)

Box People at Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

I’m primarily a portrait photographer in Tokyo but I’ve been posting a lot of reportage lately, so here’s another one! For photographers in Tokyo, few places beat the amazing hustle and bustle of Tsukiji Fish Market. There’s always such a swirl of activity as the marketplace thunders along plying its trade, and the amount of visual interest surrounding you is close to overwhelming. No matter where you look, there’s always something interesting going on and it’s all authentic. Anyway with Tsukiji now officially closed and moved to a new location. I thought I’d share a fun little side project I did to try and get a fresh perspective on the the old fish market. In Tsukiji like any other market there are countless vendors, and each vendor has a cashier. What’s really interesting about Tsukiji cashiers is that they all sit in these really tiny boxes all morning filled with random paraphernalia accumulated from over the years. I find them really fun and interesting to photograph, so here are some of my favorites. As for gear I shot …

Japan Travel Photography: Sake Brewing for Air Canada Enroute Magazine

Around this time last year Enroute Magazine, Air Canada’s stellar inflight mag got in touch with me to shoot one of my favorite stories of the year – sake brewing in three different prefectures in Japan. The first city was a real treat – Tendo city in Yamagata, which is home of Dewazakura and Mitobe sake, both very famous but operating on vastly different scales. The combination of snow and steam from the rice and hot water made for some of my favorite sake brewing photographs ever, and I’ve photographed a lot of breweries! The next city was Nagoya, a major city in Japan but also home to some of the best breweries in the country. The first stop was Kuheiji Sake Brewery, whose owner believes in the idea that terroir has a great influence over the taste of sake, much like wine. He is also trying barrel-aged sake as a way of introducing something new to the market. Next in Nagoya we went to the absolutely magnificent Marutani sake bar and restaurant- a real …

Japanese Artisans: Ki-Oke Master Shuji Nakagawa

Despite being a Tokyo based photographer I often like to travel into the countryside to find interesting people to photograph, because I find that’s where some real gems can be found. Here is ki-oke (wooden bucket) artisan Nakagawa Shuji, who lives in Shiga Prefecture. Shuji Nakagawa’s workshop sits on a rise overlooking the glittering Lake Biwa – Japan’s largest lake. One wall holds every imaginable shape and size of kanna – Japanese wood planes which are capable of shaving mere microns off of an uneven surface. Other woodworking implements unique to ki-oke (wood bucket) making are lined up in the floor – crescent shaped blades with two handles meant for giving wood slats a concave inner surface so they can be fit together to form a bucket. Shuji Nakagawa is the third generation scion of his family’s business in crafting ki-oke, or wooden buckets. He comes from distinguished lineage – his grandfather spent forty years perfecting the craft before starting the company, and his father received the coveted ‘Living National Treasure of Japan’ award, which …

Travel Photography: Japanese Cormorant Fishers 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. In 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 that that project is officially over, I thought I’d repost some of that content on my blog. Enjoy! Along the banks of the Nagara River in Gifu city, there stands a centuries-old home. Its entrance is quite well hidden, a single unassuming stairway carved into the retaining wall, and you could easily miss it if you weren’t paying attention. Climb the stairs however and you’ll find yourself in a beautifully preserved Japanese villa from a different era. This is the ancestral home of the master cormorant fisher Yamashita Tetsuji, the 26th of his line.   Yamashita-sensei tells me that cormorant fishing has been occurring in the Nagara River area for …

Japanese Crafts: Ozeki Lantern in Gifu

Late last year I had the opportunity to travel to Gifu, Japan to photograph the superb craftsmen at the Ozeki lantern workshop. Not many people know this but during the Shogunate Gifu was a cultural and economical hub due to a combination of geography and high quality natural resources. Gifu is surprisingly famous for a large number of core crafts, including smithing, washi (paper) production, bamboo crafts and the like – and as a result a great deal of higher level crafts flourished in the city as well – such as lanterns, which used a combination of the high quality materials produced in the area. . For the most part, the lanterns made at Ozeki are decorative interior lanterns – different to the ones I photographed in Kyoto, which were mainly for outdoor use (a blog post for another time!). For this purpose, the lanterns needed to be compact and aesthetically pleasing, requiring a much more delicate approach and also an artistic design sensibility. The bamboo ribs are far more delicate and closer spaced than …

J-Rock Band Uverworld for Rockin’ On Japan

Late last year Tokyo based magazine Rockin’ On tapped me to photograph J-rock phenomenon Uverworld for an 8 page spread about their new album. We were to have an hour to fill those pages with some kind of shots, so we looked around Tokyo’s trendiest neighborhood Daikanyama for a good pot we could use. Luckily there was a nice photogenic abandoned lot right by their studio which we could use with impunity. Side note: it doesn’t matter who you’re photographing in Tokyo, if you choose your spot unwisely, some rentacop with no real authority will come up to you and tell you that you can’t shoot there. Anyway the guys were really nice, even being fine with me blanking on their names halfway through (6 new names all at one time is a LOT for me), and the lead singer Takuya seemed quite interested in me, grilling me with questions about my home country Australia while we were taking photos. Hope you enjoy the photos!

Photo of the Week: Asakusa, Tokyo

Just a photo of a guy cutting through Asakusa’s Sensoji Temple in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. Sensoji and its surrounds have become quite a tourist destination, to the point that navigating the shopping areas as a local can become somewhat of an ordeal. It’s worth remembering that the temple regains its solemnity and tranquility in the early hours of the morning, when the selfie stick toting hordes of tourists are still in bed. 

Shibari Portraits with Hajime Kinoko and Kasumi (Probably NSFW?)

I did a collaborative shoot with master shibari, or kinbaku practitioner Hajime Kinoko and the lovely model Kasumi (who I have photographed before here). Shibari, or the Japanese art of erotic rope binding, is a really big subculture here, and one that I have been meaning to dop my toe into a little more, hopefully I can find more people willing to work with me. For this shot I used a 4×5 Tachihara film camera, because these cameras are really awesome and should be used more. I wrote about the process of shooting 4×5 at length in a previous blog post here. Anyway enjoy the photos! And probably don’t open these at work! (Unless nudity is allowed at work, in which case we’re all jealous)

The Shikoku Files – Back to the Ehime

The next day we drove back up the western coast of Shikoku to the prefecture of Ehime, where I first started my journey. On the way back up we stopped at the town of Seiyo, where we visited a gentleman called Okuno-san who is a Japanese cooper. Being a cooper in Japan is an essential job even today, and involves making a variety of large and small buckets and barrels for pickling or making rice for sushi. Unfortunately most buckets these days are dirt cheap plastic ones made in China, so fewer and fewer artisans are able to stay in work. If making a perfectly round seamless bucket out of wooden slats sounds hard, that’s because it is. Large blocks of wood have to be chopped down to smaller blocks of wood, which then have to be painstakingly shaved down to whatever dimensions your bucket will have. After that, they need to be further shaved to have a convex and and concave surface so as to fit with the twenty or so other pieces that …

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 …