(You can watch the video at a larger size at Japan Exposures’ page on Vimeo.)
Back by popular demand (I think!), I’ve created another video book review. The last proper one of these I did was over a year ago (somewhat ironic considering I created the first ones as a way to save the time it would take to do a proper written review), so it’s certainly about time to have another go at them.
This time I look at two books that collect material shot in the predominantly rural areas of Japan in the 1970s: Zokushin, by Hiromi Tsuchida, and Minyou Sanga, by Issei Suda. Both works — Zokushin a 2004 reprint of a bona fide classic (see Vartanian/Kaneko, Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and ’70s, p. 192-196), Minyou Sanga a relatively recent publication of source material shot in the late 70s — were part of a distinct trend among Japanese photographers such as Daido Moriyama, Shomei Tomatsu, Yutaka Takanashi, Masatoshi Naito and Kazuo Kitai, to name a few, who explored subjects and landscapes far removed from the urban centers of Japan.
As I explain in my commentary on the video, both books ostensibly look at the festivals and rituals of Japan, particularly in rural areas where festivals and folk traditions continue to this day to exert a strong influence and sense of community. Nevertheless, they are as far from a “The Festivals of Japan” coffee table book sensibility as you are likely to find. While these festivals are the backbone of both books, I would argue that the books are much more portraits of people and communities trying to maintain an identity and connection to the past amidst a rapidly developing and urbanized Japan of the 70s.
Photographs by Hiromi Tsuchida
Revised edition, published in 2004 by Tosei-sha; hardcover with dustcover; 240 pages, 115 b/w plates; 30cm x 30cm; photo captions, afterword essay by Kazuhiko Komatsu, cover flap reprint of 1976 text by Toshinobu Yasunaga, and Tsuchida biography — all in English and Japanese; Tsuchida’s short text on the occassion of the reprint in Japanese only. (Please note that obi shown in the video is no longer available as per the artist’s request.)
Photographs by Issei Suda
Published in 2007 by Tosei-sha; softcover with dustcover; 212 pages, 202 b/w plates; 19cm x 26cm; the book’s colophon is in both English and Japanese, but Suda’s two-page essay on the background of the project is in Japanese only. The photos are not captioned.
Both Zokushin and Minyou Sanga are available in the Japan Exposures bookstore.