Individual-Japan and Japanese : 日本と日本人

“Seventeen’s Map” 1988 (Bungeishunju) : 『17歳の地図』1988年 (文藝春秋)

“Seventeen” 2007 (Sangyohenshu-center ; New Edition) : 『17歳』2007年 (産業編集センター;新装版)

From March 1987 to January 1988, I travelled almost the whole of Japan, up north to the Rebun Island in Hokkaido, and down south to the Yonakuni Island in Okinawa. This is a collection of the pictures of the 17-year olds at the moment when I met them and pressed the shutter of my camera, I did not care who my models were. In return for letting me photograph them, I decided not to pick and choose, but to put them all into this book.

I wanted to see with my own eyes, and check in my own way, the Japan today where everything in society seemed about to flow forth in one direction. I wondered whether there wasn’t a common factor with which to get a cross section of Japan. The answer was, again, teenagers. Having worked with teenagers, I had the feeling that 17 was an important time in determining one’s future life. By coming face-to-face with 177-year olds, by representing them in their own surroundings through photography, I wondered if I couldn’t express the differences among the 17-year olds of Japan, and thereby get a picture of Japan today. This was how this work got started.



Shooting date: Mar.1987- Jan.1988, 102 people in total






“Father” 1990 (Bungeishunju) : 『Father』1990年 (文藝春秋)

“Father” 2007 (Sangyohenshu-center;New Edition) : 『Father』2007年 (産業編集センター;新装版)

At least since beginning work on “Seventeen” I have come to notice that while mothers in Japan are often talked about by their children, father seem to be spoken of very little. And although Japan continues to be called a “male-centered” society, the males referred to in that expression tend to be the men of organizations and companies, not men as individuals. In addition, while one can see many depictions of ordinary wives in the pages of magazines and in other media, descriptions of fathers are strangely absent.

As a result, while Japan continues to be viewed as a “man’s society”, solitary fathers, or individual men in their working prime, are virtually estranged from social consciousness.

Value judgements aside, within Japan’s current social structure, there exists an image of the father as a dedicated “working warrior”, but it seems rebellion begins before we really get to know the existence of our fathers, and we lose the opportunity of confronting them genuinely as individual human beings. At the same time, I am also impressed with the feeling that fathers themselves do not speak their own minds, but bury their real feelings deep within as the years mount.

And this fact holds true not only with respect to relationships within the family, but with regard to the society as a whole. In that respect, I cannot help thinking that the failure to portray the genuine human image of those people living the most crucial roles within Japan’s social structure is a minus for those of all generations. And it is from these kinds of thoughts that this collection, “Father” began.

In addition to the questions I had previously prepared at the time of my “Seventeen” trip, I also added four new items, inquiring about income, children, pastimes, and their dreams for the future.






Shooting date: Jun. 1989- Sep.1990, 112 people in total

“Couple” 1992 (Bungeishunju) :『Couple』1992年 (文藝春秋)

“Couple” 2007 (Sangyohenshu-center; New Edition): 『Couple』2007年(産業編集センター;新装版)

“WORK 1991-1995” 1996 (MEDIA FACTORY) : 『職 1991-1995』1996年 (メディアファクトリー)

“Dream” 1997 (MEDIA FACTORY) :『夢』1997年 (メディアファクトリー)

For the work of Dream, I visited people who had lived through the four most recent eras of Japanese history, extending from the Meiji period (1867-1912) through the Taisho (1912-1926), Showa (1926-1989) and into the current Heisei (1989-2019) period; in the same way as for the preceding four volumes, I walked around everywhere, from Hokkaido’s Shakotan Peninsula in the north, to Okinawa’s Yaeyama island and Kuroshima in the south.

Like earlier volumes, Dream is composed of each subject’s responses to a number of set questions, together with the subject’s portrait taken against the backdrop of the scenes and environment in which each person lives. In this volume, however, I added several new questions to my inquiries which I had not included in previous volumes. These questions included, “What places have you lived till now?” “What kinds of work have you done?” And last, “If you could be reborn, what kind of life would you want to live?”

I asked my first two questions since I thought that the personal life and work histories of these people might help me understand the nature of this modern period which Japan has experienced over the last one-hundred years. My final question was based on the hope of understanding how these people had confronted and come to accept their own lives.




Shooting date: Dec.1993- Mar.1997, 97 people in total

“Children’s Time” 1999 (Shogakukan) : 『子供たちの時間』1999年 (小学館)

The opportunity which inspired me to publish this collection of photographs was a request for cover shots for a small magazine called “Sukusuku Shogakusei”(Raising Healthy Grade School Students)targeting the mothers of fifth and sixth grade students and published by Bennesse Corporation.

During the two years of serial publication, I got the impression that sixth grade students have something inside them which is significantly different from fifth graders. In other words, I felt the existence of a human individuality as well as a characteristic sense of self in the sixth grade students. I myself, of course, have always believed that the self exists inside the individual since his or her birth without distinction of sex or age, but self can not exist until the human himself is aware of its existence. I felt that the sixth grade students had started to become aware of themselves in that way.



Shooting date: Jan.1996- Sep.1999, 105 people in total