The ultimate list of Japanese photography books. Not!

Books on Photography Books

In the last years the interest in Japanese photography books has jumped from non recognition to becoming a must have not only for specialized photo book collectors. Books which were completely unknown outside Japan except to a few well informed collectors and researchers are now sold at high prices by rare book dealers and at auctions.[1]The latest and most spectacular rare photobook auction was a few months ago at Christie’s in London. I know it is a little bit late, but nevertheless I will write a short report about the … Continue reading

It all began in 1999 with the exhibition catalogue “Fotografia Publica. Photography in Print 1919-1939”.

This was the first time that a publication and large scale exhibition concentrated not on photographic prints for the wall but on the media, magazines and books, in which the photographs were printed.But of course this was not the first time that magazines or books were in the center of an publication/ exhibition. For example Ute Eskildsen from Museum Folkwang, Essen, did two exhibitions catalogues on photography in German magazines of the Weimar Republic and after 1949 already two decades ago.

“Fotografia Publica” contains one Japanese book, Kiyoishi Koishi’s: “Early Summer Nerves”, 1937 and the two most important magazines from the 1930s: “Nippon” and “Kôga”. The magazine “Photo Times” is added as well, but even this magazine was very important for to promote and to spread the “New Photography” (Shinkô Shashin) in Japan, its design is not interesting at all. Additionally two photographers Masao Horino and Yasuzo Nojima are mentioned in “Fotografia Publica” with works published in western magazines. Unfortunatley “Fotografia Publica” misses Horino’s most praised series “The Character of Greater Tokyo” (Dai Tokyo no Seikaku), editied and designed by Takaho Itagaki and published 1931 in Chuokoron magazine, and “Flowing through the City – Sumida River Album” (Shutokanryu – Sumidagawa no Album), edited and designed by Tomoyoshi Murayama. Tomoyoshi Murayama was of vital importance for the Japanese art and photography scene. He introduced Dada to Japan in 1923 and founded the Dada group “Mavo”. 1925 he orgainzed a theatre where some of Japan’s first happenings and performance art took place and 1931 he brought the “seminal” travelling exhibition “Film und Foto” from Germany to Japan. The impact of this exhibition on Modern Japanese photography was extraordinary. For example it directly influenced a group of Japanese avant garde photographers and critics to found Kôga magazine, published in the same year in Hanzai Kagaku magazine.

Fotografia Publica: Photography in Print 199-1939

Then came Andrew Roth’s milestone publication “The Book of 101 Books. Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century”. This book established the photography book as a legitimate media, as an “objet d´art” itself, besides the printed photography. It lists four Japanese books: Eikoh Hosoe, “Killed by Roses”, 1963; Kikuji Kawada, “The Map”, 1965; Nobuyoshi Araki, “Sentimental Journey”, 1971; Daido Moriyama, “Bye Bye Photography [Farewell Photography]”, 1972. While I agree that these books are “seminal” and that in the 1960s and 1970s epochal photographs and books were produced, its a little bit strange that Andrew Roth only choose books published within a time frame of less of than ten years.

Book of 101 Books, The: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century

In 2004 two more books on photography books were published: “The Open Book. A history of the photographic book from 1878 to the present”, by the Hasselblad Center, which added more books from the 1960s to the 1980s. Like “The Book of 101 Books” it focuses on Japanese photographers from the same period of time: the “Vivo” and “Provoke” era with Domon Ken, Eikoh Hosoe, Daido Moriyama et al.

The Open Book

The second book published in 2004 by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, “The Photobook: A History. Vol. I” expands the list of Japanese books considerably. It shows Japanese books from the 1930s to the 1990s and it has a whole chapter devoted on post-war Japanese photography books. This book gives the most comprehensive outline of Japanese photography books, but it also misses the more recent publications from the last decade.

The Photobook: A History, Vol. 1

But this gap will be filled soon (partly) with the second volume of “The Photobook: A History” by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger, which will be available in a few days. This books lists besides obviously important books like Takashi Homma, “Tokyo Suburbia”, 1998 and Rinko Kawauchi “Utatane”, 2001, much less known books like Masafumi Sanai, “I Don’t Know”, 1998 (one of my favorite Japanese photobooks) and Kohei Yoshiyuki, “Document Park”, 1980 (a book I have never seen).

The Photobook: A History, Vol. 2

The “Ultimate” List of 54 Japanese Photography Books

My list of Japanese photography books contains all Japanese books from the above mentioned publications (including “The Photobook: A History, vol. II”), plus three books from the The History of Japanese Photography.

  1. Kiyoishi Koishi: Early Summer Nerves, (Shoka Shinkei), 1933
  2. Various Photographers: Nippon, 1937
  3. Yoshio Shimozato: Genus Mesemb: Surrealist Photography Collection (Mesemu Zoku: Chûgenjitusshugi Shashin-shu), 1940
  4. Ken Domon: Hiroshima, 1958
  5. Yasuhiro Ishimoto: Someday, Somewhere, (Aru Hi aru Tokoro] 1958
  6. Ken Domon: The Children of Chikuho, (Chikuo no Kodomotachi) 1960
  7. Shomei Tomatsu, Ken Domon: Hiroshima-Nagasaki Document, 1961
  8. Eikoh Hosoe: Man and Woman, (Otoko to Onna), 1961
  9. Eikoh Hosoe: Killed by Roses, (Barakei), 1963
  10. Kikuji Kawada: The Map, (Chizu), 1965
  11. Shomei Tomatsu: Nagasaki 11:02, 1966
  12. Daido Moriyama: Japan – A Photo Theatre (Nippon Gekijo Shashincho), 1968
  13. Eikoh Hosoe: Kamaitachi, 1969
  14. Yasuhiro Ishimoto: Chicago, Chicago, 1969
  15. Shomei Tomatsu: OO! Shinjuku, 1969
  16. Koji Taki: First Abandon The World of Certainty, 1970
  17. Nobuyoshi Araki: Photocopy Books, (Zerkkusu Shashincho), 1970
  18. Ken Ohara: One, 1970
  19. Takuma Nakahira: For a Language to Come, (Kitarubeki Kotoba no Tameni), 1970
  20. Nobuyoshi Araki: Sentimental Journey, (Senchimentaru na Tabi), 1971
  21. Daido Moriyama: Okinawa, 1971
  22. Eikoh Hosoe: Ordeal by Roses Re-edited, (Barakei Shinshuban), 1971
  23. Yoshio Takase: Toilet, (Benjo), 1971
  24. Nobuyoshi Araki, Yoshio Takase, Koji Yaehata, Naohosia Tabogami, Fukuo Ikeda, Tomoko Kamiguchi: Young Ladies in Bathing Suits, (Mizugi no Yangu Redii-Tachi), 1971
  25. Daido Moriyama: Farewell Photography [Bye Bye Photography], (Shashin yo Sayonara) 1972
  26. Daido Moriyama: Hunter, (Karuido), 1972
  27. Ihei Kimura: Pari, (Paris), 1974
  28. Daido Moriyama: Another Country in New York, (Mo Kuni New York), 1974
  29. Yutaka Takanashi: Towards the City, (Toshi-e), 1974
  30. Kishin Shinoyama: A Fine Day, (Hareta Hi), 1975
  31. Miyako Ishiuchi: Yokosuka Story, 1979
  32. Seiji Kurata: Flash Up: Street PhotoRandom Tokyo 1975-1979, 1980
  33. Kohei Yoshiyuki: Document Park, (Document Kôen) 1980
  34. Masahisa Fukase: Ravens, (Karasu) 1986
  35. George Hashiguchi: Seventeen’s Map, (Jûnanasai no chizu), 1988
  36. Nobuyoshi Araki: Tokyo Lucky Hole 1983-1985 Shinjuku Kabukicho, 1990
  37. Hiroshi Sugimoto: Time Exposed, 1991
  38. Keizo Kitajima: A.D. 1991, 1991
  39. Nobuyoshi Araki: The Banquet, (Shokuji), 1993
  40. Ryuji Miyamoto: Kobe 1995, 1995
  41. Hiromix: Girls Blue, 1996
  42. Tadanori Yokoo: Waterfall Rapture: Postcards of Falling Water My Addiction My Collection, 1996
  43. Hiroshi Sugimoto: Sea of Buddha, 1997
  44. Hiromix: Hiromix, 1998
  45. Masafumi Sanai: I Don´t Know, (Wakaranai), 1998
  46. Takashi Homma: Tokyo Suburbia, 1998
  47. Hiroshi Sugimoto: Theaters, 2000
  48. Mika Ninagawa: Sugar and Spice, 2000
  49. Yurie Nagashima: Pasttime Paradise, 2000
  50. Taiji Matsue: Taiji Matsue, 2001
  51. Rinko Kawauchi: Utatane, (Siesta), 2001
  52. Osamu Kanemura: Spider´s Strategy, 2001
  53. Daido Moriyama: ’71-NY, 2002
  54. Miyako Ishiuchi: Mothers, 2002

Some Modern Photography Books not Listed

But as I said in the headline, this is not the ultimate list of Japanese photography books. The reason is quite simple: All authors missed some “seminal” books, especially two books published in the 1920s/30s:

– Shinzo Fukuhara: Paris et la Seine, 1922
This is an important selection of works, photographed 1913 in Paris by Shinzo Fukuhara, a leading pictorialist artist.

Shinzo Fukukara: «Paris», 1913

Because almost all original works by Fukuhara from the 1910th and 1920s were lost during the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, the photobook Paris et la Seine is the main source for Fukuhara´s pictorialist photographs taken in Paris. The book is extremely rare and until now I have seen reproductions from the series just once in an exhibition at the Shoto Museum of Art in Tokyo. But a facsimile version of the book is due to be published by Kokoshukankokai in April 2007.

– Masao Horino: Camera: Eye x Steel: Composition, 1932
This book is a masterpiece of the New Vision (Shinkô Shashin) in Japan!

Maso Horino

In 1932 Masao Horino published a monograph “Camera, Eye x Iron, Construction” which is one of the most important works for Japanese modern photography. This monograph consists of photographs of ships and architectures made by steel, such as bridges tanks and towers, based on his own sense of beauty, “a beauty of machinery,” derived directly from art critic (photo critic) Takaho Itagaki’s thought, using, for example, close-up and looking-up. Therefore, this work can be said as corroborated work of Horino and Itagaki. This work is as important as a monograph “Métal” by Germaine Krull in terms of “a beauty of machinery.”
[Quote: Wikipedia]

Like “Paris et la Seine” the book “Camera: Eye x Steel: Composition” is available in a limited edition as a facsimile reprint, too. The editors of the facsimile reprints are the photo historians Ryuichi Kaneko, responsible for several excellent exhibitions and publications at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and Kotaro Iizawa a critic and publisher, who for example published (besides many other books on modern and contemporary photography) a 40 vol. series on Japanese photographers.
Kaneko and Iizawa did four other facsimile reprints since last year and only “Early Summer Nerves” was recognized in the photobook anthologies (in “Fotografia Publica” and “The Photobook, vol. 1”).

– Kiyoishi Koishi: Early Summer Nerves, (Shoka Shinkei), 1933.

Kiyoishi Koishi

The other three books by Kaneko and Iizawa which were ignored by the books on photobooks are:

– Ihee Kimura: Japan through a Leica, 1938

View product details at A Black Ship

– Tampei Photography Club: Light, (Hikari), 1940

Tampei Shashin Club

– Nakaji Yasui: The Photography Of Nakaji Yasui, 1942 (this is more a portfolio actually)

Nakaji Yasui

Some Contemporary Photography Books not Listed

Besides the missing Modern Photography books, some interesting photobooks from the last decade were ignored as well. Four books come into my mind immediately:

– Miyako Ishiuchi: 1947, 1990
This is a brilliant photographed and well printed conceptual book, showing the hands and feets of women born in 1947, the same year when Ishiuchi was born.
Miyako Ishiuchi: 1 9 4 7

– Kyoichi Tsuzuki: Tokyo Style, 1993
A bestseller in Japan. A straight documentary book depicting apartments in Tokyo at the lower end of the condo market accompanied by short notes on the tenants of the places. This book gives for the first time a comprehensive view on the living situation and life style of many (most?) Japanese. It’s a complete contradiction to all coffee table books showing empty Zen-like living spaces by Tadao Ando at al..

(new version from 2003)

– Kikuji Kawada: Globe Theater, 1998
The self published book in a translucent plastic slipcase is beautifully designed and well printed and was only published in an edition of 550 copies. I contains three series: “Los Capriccios” (1969-1981), “The Last Cosmology” (1979-1997) and “Car Maniac” (1991-1998).

Kikuji Kawada

– Mika Ninagawa: Liquid Dreams, 2003
This book was published in two versions with a black and a white vinyl cover covered with lamé. Both covers have a round image with goldfishes, which are moving slightly as your gaze slides over the image.Mika Ninagawa has a well done homepage with her books and a selection of images from her books. For this book Mika photographed Goldfishes in strong, eccentric colours. The book is pure pop, and it’s art. This kind of photobook you will only find in Japan.


PS: I am sure that others will miss other books as well, some books might be more obvious while other books might only be known to specialists in Japan. A book which came into my mind after I finished my post is Jun Morinaga’s River, its Shadow of Shadows, 1978.

Jun Morinaga: River, its Shadow of Shadows, 1978

Also it might be very interesting to look into the publications produced in Manchukuo. Manchukuo was a nominally independent puppet state set up by Japan in Manchuria (Northeastern China) which existed from 1931 to 1945. Several Japanese photographers went there and some years ago I have seen some interestesting magazines published in connection with this episode of Japanese imperialism…

Recommended books:
Ann Tucker, et al.: The History of Japanese Photography
Fotografia Publica: Photography in Print 1919-1939
Andrew Roth: The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century
Martin Parr, Gerry Badger: The Photobook: A History, Vol. 1
Martin Parr, Gerry Badger: The Photobook: A History, Vol. 2


1 The latest and most spectacular rare photobook auction was a few months ago at Christie’s in London. I know it is a little bit late, but nevertheless I will write a short report about the auction results in another post – after I have received the auction catalogue which I had to buy from a auction catalogue dealer in the US, since the catalogue was sold out weeks before the auction started….


  1. Hi !
    New person (coming from PHotobook guide)
    Apparently no Lime works of Hatakeyama…strange too, no ?
    And no winter sentimental journey by Araki.
    Two questions :
    Do you have any idea why the disgrace of Jun Morinaga’s book ?
    Do you include the box of ku in japanese photography or not ?
    thanks !


  2. Hello,

    I’d like to introduce myself as an art dealer in New York who also deals photo books especially by artists from Japan. Please take a look at my website (hopefully you can consider including in your photobook shop links), and let me know of your opinions. I enjoyed your ultimate list of photo books!!



  3. I recently obtained a copy of a rare photo book titled “Scenes in China, Series I, Kuling.”

    It is an alblum of 30 photos of the principle features of interest in Kuling China. Published by Banzai & Co., Kuling. Printed G. Nakayama & Co., Kobe.

    The cover is worn. The photos are in excellent shape.

    A digital copy of one or more photos, or the index, can be provided.

    I want to preserve this document and realize eventually it needs to be in either a museum or with a collector.


    1. Hi Scott, I just noticed this posting from 2006. What did you ever learn about the Scenes in China, Kuling publication you referenced. I also have one with the cover missing and want to get it to a collection somewhere. regards, MHD


  4. Hi Scott,
    This sounds very interesting and I would love to see the book. But I am not a book dealer and I don’t have many contacts to the rare photography book scene. Maybe you could contact some of the professional dealers like Maggs Bros Rare Books in London, or an auction house which could do an assessment of your book.


  5. Saludos.
    Soy leonidas de Guayaquil- Ecuaodor
    Soy estudiante de artes visuales estudio Medios degitales. por la razon que en mi pais no hay buenas escuelas de fotografia. su pagina me ayudado a nutrirme de su nueva mirada hacia la fotografia.
    Quisiera saber si me podrian fasilitar paginas donde me pudiera bajr articulos y ensayos sobre fotografia. Asiatica.


  6. There were three photograph books published about Steve McQueen – #1was released in 1972 – #2 in 1980 and #3 in 1985 – I would very much appreciate finding out where I could purchase copies or at least the publisher – really any infor to help me track these down. Thnak you very much for your time, Lori


  7. I am looking for a photography book published in 1972 “Stripped Guys”
    Daini Shobo. Does any one know where I can find a copy?
    Thank you


  8. Hi,

    You might find my first book about Japan interesting…

    ARIGATO GOZAIMASU 360 is a splendid book about Japan with a incredible variety of subjects. This book intends to be photographic at first sight but its Japanese graphic style and descriptions, experiences and anecdotes make it a work of beauty, well accomplished and full of passion. 17 iconic places in one of the most fascinating countries in the world along with 19 neighborhoods of Tokyo… a journey that you do not emerge unscathed.
    ARIGATO GOZAIMASU 360 is not just a guide nor just a beautiful photo book or even just a collection of experiences. It’s all of these !

    Please have a look on :

    I’m looking forward to read your comments, hope you will add my book on your list ;-)

    Thank you !


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