This book turned up in the bookshops and I thought it was quite well done and funny. “Oyabaka” means “foolish parent” and the parent behind has really put his son in some odd situations — using Photoshopping skills. It turns out the director, Ryutaro Tano, and photographer, Kojiro Murakami, are actually holding workshops in Tokyo on how you can do the same (click the photo to reach their blog).

I get the idea this could be a hit, because it somehow fits the time and place — when you think that most of the miniscule rise in the Japanese birthrate is taking place in Tokyo. Thematically it stakes out the same territory as the winner of last year’s Kimura Ihee photo prize, Masashi Asada, and his family photos.

rack focus

camera magChange comes slowly to Japan’s world of photography, but it’s evident now that been a huge hormonal shift in the darkroom, if you will, that’s been going on for quite some time now.  You just have to look at the titles on the photo magazine rack for proof.

Back in the day, when photography was a manly pursuit, each man, be he gadget freak or trainspotter, idol fan or amateur bikini beauty shooter, had his own niche title.

That hasn’t changed. But now sharing shelf space are mags and “mooks” (magazine books) like Mama’s Camera (seen on the right), Phat Photo, Love Camera or Cute Photographer, which are clearly directed at young women.

More shutter-snapping, gender whatever, is a good thing —  if each clicker shares a unique vision of the world. But I am generally wary of these publications — and not because I suspect the majority of editors who choose the photos for them are men. Rather, I don’t like the way they set out to limit the objects in a woman’s world.

Open any one of these magazines up and you’ll find the same sort of pictures: cats and cupcakes, pastel-colored bottles of rinse and shampoo, daisies or one’s own fingers or toes. Could these really be the things girls are made of? I’ve no way of knowing, but what these images have in common is that they generally are gathered from just an arm’s length away, often in the home, with the greater world out of the frame. Maybe these photos do show how many young female photographers see the world, or rather don’t. What’s more likely, they are what clued in young photographers, well aware of editors’ tastes, know will get published.

why this tree?

You can now see these posters in JR train stations, encouraging people to try out for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Force. There’s nothing wrong with recruiting, but why use this tree as an inspirational image? It’s completely surrounded by concrete and set before a public toilet.

As it turns out, I happen to know this tree. It stands in the middle of Meiji Koen park on “Killer Street,” which serves on various weekends as a flea market venue, a parking lot for soccer fans, and a rallying area for rightists, pedigree dog traders and koi wholesalers.

The last time I walked by it there was a kite caught in its branches and someone roped to a pole beside it by a couple of guys (small photo). Maybe it was part of some police initiation thing, but I didn’t want to get too close.

end of showa, part X

I found this in a newspaper a couple of days ago, although the person it’s about actually died late last year. Kuwabara has always been one of my favorite Japanese photographers, and one of the reasons I also take photos here. I’ve always wanted to take the sort of photos he took — or rather, I wanted to photograph the Tokyo of jazz cafes and milk bars that he saw.

Most Japanese don’t see beyond cannonized masters –Ken Domon and Iheii Kimura — when they look back on prewar photography. Yet I’ve never found their images that interesting: They are records of clothing, places and events, fine for what they are, but never aspire to impressions. They capture external appearances, without making you think of how they resonate for the person that took them. Kuwabara’s photographs —almost of them taken in Tokyo — to me seem really about himself experiencing the life of the city.

Domon and Kimura were big names who worked constantly for magazines and, during the war, for the government. Kuwabara edited a photography magazine for amateurs, which is probably why his photos are personal: pros always have photogenic scenes before them, Kuwabara had to decide himself what mattered to him.

Actually I met him once several years ago. He said he used a Leica, so he must have been rich, since the camera cost as much as a Japanese house back in the 1930s. He brought out yellowed scrapbooks of photos and old contact sheets cut into strips. They seemed like artifacts from a lost world — which is what they really were — yet I could easily imagine the places they depicted, as if I was walking from frame to frame. Because they looked to me exactly like the same places and scenes that would catch my eye — had I been walking around in wooden clogs, and with a Leica around my neck, over a half-century ago. 

Not really related, but: http://www.dissacration.com/2008/01/26/yoshinao-satoh-papers/

shinjuku gyoen park

I’ve always wanted to climb the fence into Shinjuku Gyoen and walk around inside at nighrt. Then I saw this in the newspaper: The Japan Self Defense Force seems to be testing its anti-missile system in there –that’s the NTT fake skyscraper in the background– and in other places around town. Maybe I’ll wait until the heat is off before I infiltrate inside.

double-page ad

This interesting double-page ad in this morning’s Asahi Shimbun. Using old pictures from the the 1950’s Showa era is not new to advertising, but using them to pitch Final Fantsy XI Online is. The copy basically means “Back then, we were always playing tag,” as the photo shows. Those words come from a Baby-Boomer, but most seniors I’ve met don’t get online except to trade, read emails, or build homepages devoted to whatever they care about–usually some hobby or craft or something to do with the past.

“When we were kids we valued out spinning tops and minicars,” it sontinues. “”But now we realize that our real tresures were our friends. “That golden time we delved into, is now online, where there are now 500,000 friends.” Maybe this ad isn’t really a pitch for senior citizens to join in on the action, so much as put their minds at ease about what their grandchildren are up to?