PhotoHistory 1999

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Chronological history of photography in Japan in 1999 (Heisei 11)

Researched and compiled by Philbert Ono

Since Dec. 1998, major league baseball player Mark McGwire, who slammed a record 70 home runs for the St. Loius Cardinals in the past season, starts appearing in TV commercials and magazine ads for Konica's new Centuria color negative film.

On Feb. 3, Minolta Co. President Osamu Kanaya announces that it will post its first sales and profit losses in five years for the current fiscal year ending on March 31. The company expects sales to drop by 2.1 percent from the preceding year to 295 billion yen and a pretax profit drop of 10 percent to 11.6 billion yen.

On Feb. 23, the Supreme Court upholds lower court rulings supporting customs inspectors who forbid a Tokyo company president from importing into Japan a photo book by the late Robert Mapplethorpe. The Court's five-judge No. 3 petty bench deemed the book obscene because it contained photos "emphasizing male genitals." Justices Yukinobu Ozaki and Toshifumi Motohara, the two judges in the minority, supported the plaintiff's view that opinions can vary on what is obscene. They said, "Ideas about obscenity have changed widely," in reference to the display of pubic hair in magazines in Japan. "It is virtual censorship, which is prohibited by the Constitution, for customs inspectors to unilaterally examine books whose level of obscenity cannot be easily agreed upon." "It is not easy for customs inspectors, who are not judicial experts, to decide what is obscene and what is not."

The plaintiff bought the book in the U.S. and shipped it to Japan in Aug. 1992. But the Tokyo Customhouse prohibited its import into Japan saying it can "corrupt public morals." The company president filed a lawsuit against the customhouse and government to cancel the ban. He declared that Mapplethorpe's works were recognized as highly artistic and since the book was to be for his personal appreciation, it should not cause any harm to public morals. Ironically, the book in question has been sold in Japan. In Dec. 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional for customs inspectors to ban imports of magazines because of their obscenity. Justice Itsuo Sonobe, who was in the majority opinion, stated in a supplementary opinion that the import ban should not apply to photos "already on display at famous museums and contained in a catalog that is widely sold, and if the purpose of the import is clearly for personal use." (Editor's note: Always remember that Japan is a country full of contradictions and irony.)

Photo Expo '99 (consisting of the Japan Camera Show and Photo & Video Accessory Show) held in Tokyo on Mar. 5-7 was attended by 130,100 people compared to 112,000 the year before.

The mass-consumer digital camera market moves up to the 2-megapixel plane with Sony introducing in April the Cybershot DSC-F55K digital camera (115,000 yen retail) with 2.22 million pixels and Fuji Photo Film offering 2.3 million-pixel FinePix 2700 (94,800 yen retail) in March. Other makers are expected to follow suit.

by ICHIKI Shiro, 1857 In April, a daguerreotype portrait of Lord SHIMAZU Nariakira taken by ICHIKI Shiro in 1857 is designated as an "Important Cultural Property" by the Japanese government. It was the first photograph in Japan to be so designated. The photo is thought to be the oldest surviving daguerreotype taken by a Japanese photographer. It was discovered in 1975 by the Shimazu family in a warehouse.

From April 17 to July 4, ARAKI Nobuyoshi holds his first solo exhibition organized by a public museum (Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo) in Japan. Titled "ARAKI Nobuyoshi: Sentimental Photography, Sentimental Life," the exhibition takes full advantage of the museum's huge exhibition space. The exhibition starts with photos of his honeymoon with wife Yoko taken from "Sentimental Journey." Then you see many poster-size photos of flowers, nude married women, male company workers, and other subjects gracing the museum's huge walls. A huge pillar is also plastered with hundreds of Polaroid shots. Over 1,000 photos from Araki's 22 major series are shown in the museum located in Kiba Park (Koto Ward), Tokyo.

From April 3 to June 6, Art Tower Mito (in Mito, Ibaraki Pref.) holds the Private Room II photo exhibition featuring ten young women photographers: KANNO Jun, SHIRAI Satomi, NAGASHIMA Yurie, NAKANO Aiko, NINAGAWA Mika, NOGUCHI Rika, NOMURA Keiko, HARA Mikiko, MIYASHITA Maki, and YAMAMOTO Kaori. Notably absent from the exhibition was HIROMIX. (See an <a href="" target="window">exhibition review by Monty DiPietro.</a>)

Young Japan On May 3, Time magazine issues a special double issue titled "Young Japan" for its Asia edition. The issue focuses on Japan's youth with articles mainly about fads, fashion, and trends. One of the articles, titled "Snap Shots," gave 85 Japanese teenagers in Tokyo and Wakayama city the opportunity to photograph their daily routine with single-use (called "disposable" in the article) cameras provided by the magazine. Out of the 2,700 photos the magazine received, only 25 were published on four pages. The photos were mostly of family, friends, pets, food, and random scenes. The article concluded that they found a "refreshing overall innocence."

On May 18, a bill banning child prostitution and child pornography is enacted and approved by the Lower House of the National Diet. Besides prohibiting Japanese from going on overseas child sex tours and engaging in "enjo kosai" (sex with a minor [17 or younger] for money or gifts), the law bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of obscene photographs, videos, and Internet images. The law is designed to help crack down on child pornography on the Internet. Distributing or selling child pornography invites a punishment of up to three years in prison or a fine up to 3 million yen. The law applies to crimes committed in Japan and to Japanese nationals overseas. The law took effect later in the year on Nov. 1.

On the same day, the Publishing Ethics Council released a statement saying that the new law banning child prostitution and child pornography may lead to censorship of publishers. Since the law defines child pornography in vague terms, the council feared that authorities could very well restrict and punish the sale and distribution of certain art or photography books. (The new law defines child pornography as pictures, videos, and other visual materials showing sexual intercourse and related activities with minors.) The council urged the government to be careful not to violate the freedom of speech and the publication rights of citizens when implementing and interpreting the new law. The council is comprised of the Japan Magazine Publishers Association, Japan Book Publishers Association, Japan Publication Wholesalers Association, and the Japan Federation of Commercial Cooperatives of Bookstores.

The latest fad among high school girls is Heaven's Passport. This is a passport-size notebook with spaces for 100 Print Club-type photo stickers. Each time the passport owner does a good deed like picking up litter, she affixes a photo sticker in her Heaven's Passport. When it is filled with 100 photo stickers, her dream is to come true.

Focus magazine (published by Shinchosha) publishes a grainy photo of a grinning Masumi Hayashi escorted by guards at her first courtroom appearance in Nov. 1998 despite protests from her attorney. (Taking pictures during courtroom proceedings is banned in Japan.) The accompanying article is titled, "First-time court trial for Masumi jeering at the court." Hayashi was accused of poisoning a vat of curry with arsenic killing four people and sickening over 60 at a local festival in Sonobe, Wakayama Pref. in July 1998. She later decides to file a libel suit against the publisher.

On June 9, the Osaka District Court ordered publisher Shinchosha to pay 2.5 million yen in damages to to a 20-year-old man for publishing his name and photo in the March 1998 issue of monthly magazine Shincho 45. The man had been indicted for murdering a 5-year-old girl allegedly committed in Jan. 1998 while he was still a minor at age 19. He also allegedly stabbed and seriously injured the girl's mother and a high school girl. During his criminal trial, he admitted guilt, but his lawyers claimed temporary insanity because he sniffed paint thinner the night before. According to the Juvenile Law, the identity of arrested criminals and suspects under 20 years old must be withheld by the press. The magazine's chief editor, Takashi Ishii, said that the ruling went against common sense because compensation (originally 22 million yen) was demanded by a man who allegedly killed a young girl. The court's decision to award money to such a man should not be accepted, said Ishii. He added that the decision to publish the names and photos of minors should be up to journalists, and that the Juvenile Law does not stipulate any penalties for violators. The publisher plans to appeal.

The annual Month of Photography, Tokyo is held in May and June. This year's main theme was "Tokyo, Giant City." The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography held the "Tokyo 60/90 17 Contemporary Photographers" exhibition showing photos of Tokyo taken in the 1960s and 1990s by 17 photographers such as TOMIYAMA Haruo, TANUMA Takeyoshi, NAGANO Shigeichi, NAGASHIMA Yurie, and HOMMA Takashi. The Museum also held eight separate slide show lectures featuring a different photographer each time. They included TAKEUCHI Toshinobu (landscapes), HAGA Hideo (festivals), and SHIRAHATA Shiro (alpine). The Shinjuku Park Tower also displayed 467 photos by amateur female photographers. As usual, the Konica Plaza gallery in Shinjuku showed photos taken by foreign Asian students studying in Japan.

Witnesses (Mokugeki-sha) is the title of a major photo exhibition held at the Bunkamura's The Museum in Shibuya, Tokyo from June 11 to July 25 and later in Osaka and Hiroshima. The exhibition showed documentary photos tracing the major historical events during the 20th century in the world and in Japan. Photos of wars (WWI, II, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, etc.), famine, Chernobyl, earthquakes, and other sad and depressing events made up thje majority. Sponsored by Asahi Shimbun Newspapers to commemorate their 120th anniversary of its founding.

On the morning of June 26, pop idol Ryoko Hirosue belatedly (the school year started in April) attended classes at Waseda University for the first time since was accepted as a freshman. Pictures of her entering the university made the front pages of the day's evening editions of most major Japanese newspapers. However, all the photos were obscure profile or back shots because her female escort (a record company employee) got in the way between Hirosue and the line of press photographers. The photographers complained and demanded that she backtrack and enter the university again without the escort. Their demands were denied by the university. However, after her classes ended (including English which she is good at), she posed for a photo session on campus surrounded by a ogling crowd of 1,000 or so.

On June 28, police arrested Nobuyuki Miyaji, a 34-year-old freelance photographer, in connection with about 30 similar cases of sexual assault against primary school girls in Tokyo. The cases have been reported since 1997. His modus operandi was to wait until the girl unlocked the door to her home, and then he pushed her inside and threatened her with a knife and fondled her body. Police also confiscated photo negatives of his victims during a search of his house.

In early July, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi protests against Time magazine's choice of photograph accompanying his nomination of the late Emperor Showa (Hirohito) as one of the most influential people of the 20th century. He complained that his message of peace in his nomination statement did not match the photo of the late Emperor wearing a military outfit.

Time's Tokyo Bureau chief replied that the photograph would not pose a problem since what the late Emperor was wearing "wouldn't seem to change who he was." One of the prime minister's aides remarked that Time had not notified them as to which photo would be used and that they now felt betrayed after submitting the nomination in good faith. The Time magazine issue (Asia edition) in question went on sale on July 6.

In early Aug., it was reported that Masumi Hayashi, accused of poisoning curry with arsenic which indiscriminately killed four people at a local festival in Sonobe, Wakayama Pref., decided to file a 10 million-yen libel suit against Shinchosha, publisher of Focus magazine, and the magazine's chief editor. The magazine had published a photo of her in court in the May 26, 1999 issue. It would be the first suit involving a photo taken illegally in court and published in Japan. The publisher admitted that the photo was taken without authorization, but published it anyway.

In Sept., Nikon markets the Nikon D1 digital SLR camera with a price tag of 650,000 yen (body only) which is the cheapest yet for a camera in this class. The large, 2.74-megapixel CCD measures 23.7 x 15.6 mm which is the same as the APS format's C size. The camera design is based on the Nikon F5 and F100, and the D1 is compatible with Nikkor SLR lenses.

From Sept. 30 to Oct. 24, the 5th International Photo Festival Herten was held in the Ruhr District of Germany. Held every two years since 1991, the festival 's theme centers on a certain country each time, and this year it was Japan. There were high-quality exhibitions, workshops, seminars, presentations and events dealing with every aspect of photography. It was held in conjunction with the first ever Month of Photography in the Ruhr District with numerous museums and institutions from the region participating. Works by over 50 Japanese photographers such as Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Issei Suda and Kikuji Kawada, Daido Moriyama, Toshio Shibata, Shoji Ueda, Eiji Ina, Ryuji Miyamoto, Hiroshi Miyamoto, Norio Kobayashi, George Hashiguchi, Nobuyoshi Araki, and Hiromi Tsuchida were displayed. The exhibitions were held with the cooperation of the following galleries in Japan: JCII Photo Salon, Photo Gallery International, Zeit Photo Salon, and the Kawasaki City Museum.

In late Sept., Daido Moriyama's two photo exhibitions open in New York. "Stray Dog" is the title of the exhibition at the Japan Society Gallery. It featured 130 photos taken from the 1960s to the 1990s. Another exhibition is titled "Hunter" featuring 40 photos at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibitions run until Jan. 2, 2000.

During Oct. 7-16, a photo exhibition titled "My Favorite Spot in Japan Through Diplomats' Eyes" was held at Printemps department store in Tokyo's Ginza. The exhibited photos of Japan were taken by 43 foreign diplomats (representing 33 countries) in Japan such as the Canadian ambassador, the Bolivian ambassador, the Second Secretary of the US Embassy, the Russian ambassador, and Pierre Gramega, the Ambassador of Luxembourg who served as the chairman of the planning committee. Seventy-one photos were selected from among over 500 by a panel of judges headed by former Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto who is also an avid shutterbug. It was the second exhibition of its kind and an exhibition catalog was also published. The first, titled "Tokyo Through Diplomats' Eyes," was held the year before in the same month and place.

TIPS '99 Program On Oct. 23, PhotoGuide Japan held its first public event called Tokyo International Photo Showcase 1999 (TIPS '99) at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography Hall. It featured five American and Japanese photographers who showed and explained their work with slide presentations. The highly successful event targeted Tokyo's English-speaking community and attracted an international audience of over 130 people. For more details and photos, see

On Nov. 1, the child pornography law enacted in May took effect. It prohibits Japanese from going on overseas child sex tours and engaging in "enjo kosai" (sex with a minor [17 or younger] for money or gifts), and bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of obscene photographs, videos, and Internet images. Depictions of nude or partially nude juveniles under age 18 are also unlawful. Photo books showing child nudes like Shinwa Shojo by Kishin Shinoyama and photo books and videos by Sumiko Kiyooka disappeared from bookstores overnight.

The Tachikawa International Art Festival '99 featured over 50 Japanese and foreign artists exhibiting their work at multiple venues centering on the Tachikawa Station Building from Oct. 3 to Nov. 23. Among them were fourteen young and progessive photographers from China.

In Nov., the Japan Post Office started selling New Year's postcards. One of the four designs offered was a small photo of Mt. Fuji taken at dawn by famed mountaineer photographer Shiro SHIRAHATA. The photo's title was "Mt. Fuji in a Sea of Clouds." The postcards with this design promptly sold out along with the postcards featuring a painting of a dragon (2000 is the year of the dragon).

Weekly fashion magazine an an devotes its Nov. 12 issue to photography. It includes a number of feature articles providing a well-rounded view of photography--how to take better pictures, pictures by Japanese celebrities, selecting a camera, and the work of the most promising Japanese women photographers. Actor Masaharu Fukuyama holding a camera is on the magazine's cover.

On Dec. 15, a fictionalized TV movie of the life of Kyoichi Sawada airs during prime time on Asahi TV. Sawada photographed the Vietnam War and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1965 for his Family Flee to Safety to Escape Bombs photo which showed two mothers and their children crossing a river.

In 1999, Epson, Canon, and Hewlett-Packard introduce new top-of-the-line, ink-jet printers which boast nearly true photographic-quality printing. The Epson PM-800 inkjet printer even offers a roll-paper option which enables borderless printing of regular-size photographs.

In 1999, the Kobe Camera Museum was closed. Much of the camera collection was transferred to the Kobe Science Museum (Kobe-shiritsu Seishonen Kagaku-kan) on Port Island.

In fiscal 1998, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography had expenses totaling 680 million yen while income from admission fees, etc., was only 44.15 million yen.

The Japan Electronic Industry Development Association reports that about 1.45 million digital cameras were sold in Japan in 1999, a 21 percent increase from 1998. Meanwhile, the Japan Camera Industry Association reveals that domestic sales of film-based cameras in fiscal 1999 fell by 4.5 percent to 4.18 million units.

In the case of Nikon, digital camera sales account for 30 percent of its total camera sales. It is also spending about half its R&D budget on digital cameras.

1999's most memorable photo books (random order): Tokyo Suburbia by Takashi Homma, Tale of Two Cities by Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Stray Dog by Daido Moriyama, sitai no aru 20 no hukei (A Corpse in 20 Scenes) by IZIMA Kaoru, Deep South by Keiko Nomura, The Cosplayer by Akihiro Matsumoto, Yokohama & Kanagawa 100 Years Ago by Yurindo, E-Mode</i> (ESUMI Makiko) by Hiroshi Nonami, Live (INOUE Harumi) by Kishin Shinoyama, Trip to Taro Okamoto by Nobuyoshi Araki (See for book reviews.)

Next: PhotoHistory 2000

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