Kaze no tabibito

The Japanese economy continues to stumble; a nuclear power plant still emits radioactive material, the boss of Tokyo is now somebody whose history book is published by Viz and who was groomed by a far-right fantasist, while the bosses of Osaka and Japan are themselves far-right fantasists.

Ah, but the head of Yokohama (now Japan’s second city) is a woman. In Japan, batshit nationalism seems less common among women (or less often emitted by them). There’s still hope.

And in the world of Japanese photography too, good things are happening. Not only have there recently been plenty of photobooks worth examination, but the magazine Kaze no tabibito (風の旅人) is back.

A bit of background. The recent “10×10” show at ICP featured three Japanese photomagazines (we’re told): Ima, Asphalt and Phat photo. The covers of Asphalt look familiar so I must have looked inside them, but I have no memory of the content; anyway, the magazine’s web page suggests that it has reached issue 10 and thereby ended. The issue or two of Phat photo I glanced at didn’t much interest me. Ima hadn’t actually launched: the event showed issue zero, which was excellently printed and had a very good sample from Watabe’s A criminal investigation but little else to retain my attention. (In general, it looked like a briefing book for smalltalk at an art-photography cocktail party that I’d happily skip.)

There have been good Japanese photo magazines. Even recent issues of Asahi camera and Nippon camera reliably have something of interest in each issue. But these two are primarily cameraporn. Other magazines (I can’t remember the titles) are generally worse: one subgenre suggests that a camera — preferably lomographic or otherwise somehow “retro” — is a passport to a soft, feminine world of pastels, babies and kittens.

There have been magazines that concentrated less on hardware and fashion than on photos. They include Déja vu, Natural glow, and yes, Kaze no tabibito. This started in April 2003, coming out once every two months. It was published by a travel company, and the final section of the magazine had what looked like sponsored “editorial” pages, to which I never paid any attention and which I assumed financed the entire enterprise. Each issue would have a vague title in kind-of English: “Find the root”, “Own life”, etc. But it had plenty of photo-essays. Not all were to my taste, but they spared the “snapshot aesthetic” and superflattery (both very worthy, I’m sure). Contributors included Arimoto Shin’ya, Ishimoto Yasuhiro, Kazama Kensuke, Kikai Hiroh, Nakafuji Takehiko. . . .

Mrs microcord would buy at least two copies of each issue, but presumably not enough other people did, and the intervals between issues became longer and longer until what was announced as the final issue, about a year ago. But months ago I heard rumours that it would reappear.

And yes, issue 45 arrived yesterday. It’s from a new company, Kazetabi-sha (かぜたび舎).

The primarily photographic features in this issue are:

  • Kawada Kikuji, “2011 – phenomena” (pp. 7–30). What’s got into Kawada’s head? There are “arty” digital artifacts straight out of the kind of zine that nobody wants to buy, and even HDR. “At a glance,” writes Dan Abbe, “this series looks terrible”; and I won’t argue with that. But yes there might be something to it; and here’s your economical introduction to it.
  • Mizukoshi Takeshi, forests (pp. 33–48). Fans of nature photography will be interested, non-fans should take a look anyway. Some of these photos seem conventional but others are almost abstract. As for the photo of birds in flight, a much feebler version might appear on the cover of some book published in an edition of 300 and destined to be the talk of the blogs. In short, this is good stuff; I’ll take it over the Kawada.
  • Okahara Kōsuke, Fukushima (pp. 59–74). An unfamiliar name to me, though I should have recognized it (see below). Photos in and near the deserted area. We’ve seen this kind of thing before but Okahara does it well. I want to see more of his work.
  • Koga Eriko, Mt Kōya (pp. 79–92). The creator of Asakusa zenzai is this time up a sacred mountain (and working very differently). For my taste, a bit heavy on the colour filters — or conceivably, if it’s film, not heavy enough — but still attractive.
  • Uchiyama Hideaki, “Underground” (pp. 97–110). More revelling in underground machinery from the poet of underground machinery. My inner fourteen-year-old loves his photos.
  • Ōyama Yukio, Kathmandu (pp. 113–127). Here’s a surprise. When I Google this man I find calendar photography of beautiful Mt Fuji and so forth: highly respectable but strongly soporific. His night scenes of Kathmandu aren’t of scenery and they’re hardly suitable for calendars. I’ll look in his books when next in the photobook library.

In short, a pretty good collection.

Scheduled to come out twice a year, the magazine is all in Japanese. (For each photostory, the photographer and title are given in roman letters. But that’s it.) The website is all in Japanese. However, Paypal is accepted (unusual for a Japanese publisher or retailer), and the world outside Japan is recognized. (Tip of the hat to Andrew for pointing this out, in the comment below.)

This page gives the options for the wider world. Issue 1 is:

  • 3000 yen for Asia as far west as India (but excluding what used to be the Soviet Union), Guam and Saipan
  • 3300 yen for north and central America, Europe, the middle east, and Australasia
  • 3800 yen for Africa and south America

I’m simplifying quite a bit. For example, “Africa” means just South Africa, Morocco and Tunisia; and Namibia and Tanzania remain mysterious. To check for details, run the page through a translation service. And/or write (concisely and simply, please) to kazesaeki@gmail.com. (Additionally, I’m not going to return there in search of changes, and what’s said above is likely to go out of date.)

NB Japanese business sleeps from the end of December to 6 or 8 January or so; don’t expect any response during this period.

I’m indebted to Andrew and Sean (below) for pointing out two goofs in the original version of this post, both now (I hope) fixed. (Clearly I was far too sleepy when I posted the original.)

Here’s a third: above, I don’t describe the magazine.

Kaze no tabibito not a magazine either about or of photography, but instead one that combines photography and text. And the goal isn’t art (however defined) but instead something like encouraging people to think seriously about issues that merit thinking about seriously. This may make it sound dull, and in truth it’s hardly an exciting magazine. But almost all other Japanese magazines (exceptions including Days Japan and Kin’yōbi) concentrate so much on junk stories — personal (non-)issues in domestic politics (the Ozawa Ichirō soap opera, etc), fear/envy of Japan’s neighbours, electronic gizmos, looking good, buying more crap (often to look good), expensive-crap-porn (million-yen “designer” wristwatches, etc), celeb tittle-tattle, prettily dressed popsters (epitomized by AKB48 and Arashi), girls in (or not in) bikinis, etc — that seriousness is actually a refreshing change, or anyway it can be when it comes with good photos as here. (And the magazine isn’t fuelled by some religion, either.)


5 Comments on “Kaze no tabibito”

  1. Breslin Sean says:

    Kousuke Okahara (岡原功祐) is a good friend. He spent a long time abroad shooting stories in Columbia and Thailand and for the New York Times among others. He’s probably best known for his project Ibasyo on self-injury among the Japanese.

    Together with a few other photographers he’s set up a photography workspace project in Tokyo called the Backyard Project. He is also one of the instructors at the Tokyo Documentary Photography Workshop which I attended last year run with Yumi Goto and James Whitlow Delano.

    His personal website – http://www.kosukeokahara.com/stories/index-j.htm

    Backyard project – http://www.backyard.ph/jpn/

    Hope this helps.

    • microcord says:

      Duh. So yes, add “use of a search engine” to the list of my incompetences. His website even looks familiar: I think I looked at it some months ago.

      I’ll fix the text above a little later. (I’m laboriously typing this with one thumb, in a train.)

      PS Fixed (I hope).

      • Breslin Sean says:

        I think they’ve started a photobook library at the Backyard project too. Maybe you should head over and take a look…

        By the way Kaze no Tabibito looks great. Just ordered a secondhand back issue from Amazon.jp for ¥300.


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