Shinjuku Guntoden, 1965-1973, by Katsumi Watanabe


 

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The full title of this book is Shinjuku Guntoden, 1965-1973: The Story of the Shinjuku Thieves, and it is a reworking of Katsumi Watanabe's first book published in 1973 (itself reworked in 1982).

From 1965-1972 Watanabe made his way by being what he calls (in the English translation) a "drifting photographer" or what others have called an "itinerant photographer" -- that is, photographers who would walk the streets taking portraits in exchange for money. In those years Shinjuku was quite a different place from what it is now, although elements remain, as indeed Watanabe was to remain for most of his career. He writes about Shinjuku in a wonderfully matter-of-fact essay from the 1982 book that is included here with an English translation:

When I started my "drifting photographer" thing, gay boys came very much alive inside my finder, putting their hands to their cheeks just like Kabuki actors striking impressive poses. The yakuza looked gallant and made grim faces. Those we call vagabonds clinched their fists and threw out their chests so they won't be mocked at. They were all players in the "Shinjuku theater", and in my view their mere presence was enough to make the "Shinjuku theater" such a fascinating place. On the program here were real human dramas, performed by a bunch of truly unique individuals.

Hardcover, with slipcase. 30.5cm x 20.5cm, 304 pages, 236 b/w reproductions. Essay by Watanabe from 1982, list of works, and chronology of Watanabe's life included in both Japanese and English. Published in October, 2013, in a printing of 500. Each book is numbered.