All posts tagged: 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 – Mountain Blacksmith and Steep Incline Farmers

What I love about Japan is that there are all types of craftsmen – some of whom are national treasures who create priceless works of art or architecture, and others who are little known but are essential to the society around them. Case in point is Omori-san, the village blacksmith of the remote settlements in the wide area of Tsurugi township. The term village blacksmith doesn’t really gain much traction in modern society but here in the mountains of Shikoku the settlements can be so remote that driving to a shop is actually a whole-day endeavor. If you’re a local farmer and you need a new pitchfork, you’d rather go to Omori-san’s shack up in the mountains where he’ll have a selection of special implements for the special type of farming they do up there, or he’ll make you a new one to order out of scavenged scrap metal. Need a filleting knife? He’ll make that, and just about anything you need. Omori-san’s little forge is located just off an unnamed mountain road with a …

The Shikoku Files – Scarecrow Village, Kazurabashi and Tsurugi Shrine

After an amazing breakfast at Kouya, it was time to bid farewell to that wonderful place and head out on the road again. Amongst the twisting mountain paths we came across the small town of Nagoro, a town famous for being populated by more scarecrows than people. There is kind of a sad story behind it – a resident of Nagoro, having lived somewhere else for a number of years, returned to her hometown to find that most of her friends had passed away or moved somewhere else. Beset by loneliness, she began to make the scarecrows to ‘replace’ the people who once populated the small town. It’s a sad story that shows the struggle of isolated Japanese towns to maintain their population, although Nagoro is now very well known across the world as one of those unique oddities that one can only find in Japan.  If you’re an outdoors type then it certainly would be a good idea for you to visit the Kazura bridges in the Iya Valley. The kazura bridges are essentially …

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 …

Japan Travel Photography: Uji Green Tea

Earlier in the year I was very privileged to join a press tour to Japan’s Uji area, in Nara prefecture. Uji is one of the premier locations for growing and refining green tea, especially matcha, which is said to be of the highest quality. I was excited to explore an area of Japan that I’ve only had the chance to superficially explore up until now. During the trip we were shown some of the oldest locations in Japan where tea leaves are still grown, as well as a variety of historical sites that denote areas where green tea was first introduced in Japan. The best part of course was visiting the remote terraced slopes where the tea leaves are grown en masse – the picturesque, fastidiously manicured hills are definitely a sight to be seen if you are into tea, photography or both, and they are definitely worth the effort to go the extra mile from the station. The other highlight of course, is tasting the matcha and wagashi (Japanese sweets) that are the product …

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 …

Tokyo Portraits: Ochiai Yoichi for Nature Index Mag

I photographed this portrait of Ochiai Yoichi in Tokyo in February, 2017 for the cover of Nature Index mag. For the brief, I was told that Ochiai, who is phD  is considered a ‘wizard’ at manipulating matter using computer-controlled invisible forces, such as waveforms or phase arrays. I’m not really sure what all that means, but it sounds impressive, and the editorial team wanted to keep the wizard/magic theme going in the images. Short of a pointy hat and a grey beard, I came up with a concept that Ochiai could have lights on his fingertips, which would give him the ability to lightpaint and ‘manipulate’ the matter around him at will. Also, the lights would look kind of like the wands from Harry Potter- wizards! Short of an actual, LED glove, I decided to make one myself. Using a bunch of cheap parts that I bought from Akiba (below), I constructed a really rudimentary but functional LED ‘finger light’ accessory, that I would tape to Ochiai’s arm, if he was ok with it. Luckily, …

Playstation VR Portraits

With Tokyo Game Show coming up this weekend I’d like to introduce some portraits I shot for the wonderful folks at Polygon, one of the world’s top websites dedicated to video game journalism. The article that these photos accompanied was about the long road of development of Playstation VR – the virtual reality headset for – you guessed it – the Playstation soon to be released around the world. The article itself is very in-depth and definitely worth a read; you can check it out on the Polygon website here: http://www.polygon.com/2016/3/9/11174194/the-making-of-playstation-vr. For my part – I was glad to meet Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment (that’s basically responsible for making the Playstations that I have frittered away so many hours of my life on), and although we were required to shoot all of the photos in the Sony Interactive Entertainment offices, I think I managed to get something interesting out of each portrait I made. Here’s Shuhei Yoshida with the headset. And of course we had to photograph him with it on. For those wondering, …