All posts filed under: Tokyo

Street Photography For Shiseido

Early last year I was very lucky to do a quick gig with Japanese makeup giant Shiseido for their online global content. The job itself had very little to do with makeup – in fact the shoot was more about capturing the feel of Tokyo’s most upscale neighborhood Ginza. It was an absolute delight to spend a chilly but sunny February afternoon people watching and shooting photos on my Leica, and for a great company no less. Because it was to be used for promotional purposes on the web, the brief stipulated that no faces were to be recognizable, a no easy feat on a crowded Sunday afternoon but a fun limitation to shoot around. Here is the link to the finished article on the web: I thought I’d post up a selection of my personal favorites photos from the afternoon including ones that weren’t used.

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!

Tokyo Portraits: Kengo Kuma, again

Recently I was asked to photograph a portrait of renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma for the third time, and it was to be at his office in Gaienmae again too. I definitely wanted to try something different to the first two times I had photographed him, and also wanted to have him pictured with bamboo, which is a medium he draws a lot of inspiration from. We shot at a bamboo grove at a shrine across the road from his office (which he helped design, incidentally), and he was a wonderful subject as always, barely batting an eyelid when I asked him to pop his head in between the two stalks of bamboo. Kengo Kuma is the man behind the design of the 2020 Olympic Stadium currently being built in Gaien. Hope I get to sit in it in 2020!

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 …

Carl Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 – User Review

I’ve been using the Carl Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 for over 2 months now and I’m going to be sad to return it. The Sony E-mount has been sorely missing a 135mm lens in its line-up and Zeiss has finally delivered in convincing style. I’m going to go into detail a little bit here about why I’ve enjoyed using this lens so much, and provide some sample photos for you all to gander at. First of all, it has to be noted that with the Batis series Carl Zeiss has gone and done something a little different to their usual approach to lenses. The Batis series is completely autofocus friendly, which is good news if you’re not comfortable with purely manual focus lenses (although I have a whole diatribe on why MF is back in a big way – here). Paired with the Sony A series’ rather excellent focus and eye tracking system, this makes the latest Batis an impressive lens indeed for all sorts of applications, which we’ll get to. Firstly however, I want …

Youtube Superstar: Kurt Hugo Schneider

A while ago I had the opportunity to photograph Youtube musician and producer Kurt Hugo Schneider when he was visiting Tokyo. For those of you who haven’t heard of him (although you probably have), Kurt is possibly what you would call a new media superstar – he’s the king of Youtube music with an incredible 7 million+ followers on his channel, he’s an amazing musician and producer, been on Ellen, Oprah, worked with Aviicii, been featured in WIRED magazine, and that’s not to mention his raw talent and ability to get things done. Did you I mention he’s also a super nice guy on top of all that? Strangely enough, the first time I came across Hugo’s work was not via his wildly successful Youtube channel – in fact it was on a Starcraft II gaming channel called HuskyStarcraft in which he does a parody of Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ called ‘Banelings’. In case you don’t know what a Baneling is a Zerg unit in Starcraft that sprays acid everywhere after it runs up to you …

CEO Portraits: Masaaki Kanai of MUJI

Quick post today guys; this one is a portrait of MUJI CEO Masaaki Kanai that I photographed back in 2014. Japan is known as an exporter of many things but Nordic-style furniture is not one of them. That’s where furniture and lifestyle juggernaut MUJI come in – their empire of natural fibers and wood grains has expanded across the globe in an explosive fashion over the last few years. I met Mr. Kanai at the MUJI headquarters in Japan for about twenty minutes and was able to make a variety of portraits before my time was up. On a side note this is the photo shoot that made me decide to give Nikon the boot once and for all – I used my Nikon D4 (quite a high end camera I’d say) and the number of back focused and otherwise unusable shots due to under-performing auto focus made me so fed up that I sold the whole system and bought a into the mirrorless system instead. But that’s a story for another day!

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 …