OHKURA Shunji 大倉 舜二 (1937.5.3-) Tokyo. Prominent photographer with diverse themes, from fashion to street photography.

Major themes Fashion, glamour, food, insects, ikebana flowers, stage performances, and commercial work.

Education Graduated Dokkyo High School.

Career Studied basic photography under TOMINARI Tadao, a botanical photographer. Apprenticed under MIKI Jun (3 days), and studied fashion photography under SATO Akira.

Turned freelance at age 22. Photographer of a wide variety of subjects including fashion, food, insects, ikebana flowers, stage performances, and commercial work. Photographed kabuki actor BANDO Tamasaburo. Photographer of MATSUZAKA Keiko nude photo book in 1984. Photo book Tokyo X in late 2000. (2001.6.24)

Awards Kodansha Publishing Culture Award, 1971; Photographic Society of Japan's Award of the Year, 1987.

Tokyo X

Reviewed on: 2001.06.24 Last modified: 2005-04-04

Black-and-white street photos of Tokyo at the turn of the new century.


Published: 2000.12.21 Publisher: Kodansha International ISBN: 4770027389 Price in Japan: ¥3,990 Qualities: Soft cover, B/W photos Size: A4, 259 pp. Language: Japanese and English

The book's title is kind of puzzling, which is what the photographer intended. Tokyo just cannot be fully understood. According to the photographer, "Tokyo X" is also the name of a new breed of pig that took seven years to develop through an international cross-breeding program. The pig is now recognized as a source of high-quality gourmet pork. This tidbit is probably irrevelant, but the name appealed to the photographer so he used it for the book's title.

It has a large collection of B/W street photos taken in Tokyo. (A few were taken outside Tokyo.) Most are full-page shots for maximum impact. The pictures are very urban with mostly people or cityscapes or both. There are no nature or wildlife shots (except for crows, pigeons and cherry blossoms).

The photographer attempted to record the various "messages" being transmitted in this "alien" city of Tokyo that he had never noticed before.

He seemed to have gravitated toward Tokyo's youth. Lots of shots of high school teens and 20-somethings. They certainly reflect the current times of Tokyo's streets and street fashion. And through fashion and other means, there are many subtle messages that these people transmit.

A dark-tanned girl in miniskirt is sitting in the middle of the top of the stairs leading to the basement at Shinjuku's Alta shopping complex. She's brushing on her eye shadow as people pass by not minding her obstruction. There are lots of photos taken in Shibuya, Harajuku, and Jingubashi, the meccas of young people in Tokyo. At Jingubashi, near Meiji Shrine, he shows numerous portraits of girls dressed in gaudy make-up and costume. This place is a major tourist attraction.

He also shows the negative side of the city with photos of garbage, adult video vending machines, strip joints (in Shinjuku's Kabuki-cho of course), and the homeless. They all have a message for people.

There are also obvious things which try to convey a message: Small advertising stickers (mostly for consumer loans) in a phone booth, shop signs and billboards, advertisements, an electronic board showing the current stock prices, surveillance cameras perched on high places, men bowing to each other, men pointing at something, white-collar workers napping on a park bench, barbed-wire fence at the base of Tokyo Tower, and a couple kissing on the street.

Wherever we go, we are bombarded by numerous messages. But fortunately, we are able to filter out or ignore most of them and just concentrate on those we need to receive. And one strong, inadvertent message this book gives me is that Tokyo is a street photographer's paradise. I knew that all along, but this book has made me more conscious of it. (Reviewed by Philbert Ono)