Issue Index

  Mini Features
  Cultural Features
  Life in Japan
  Big in Japan
  Rant & Rave
  Cars & Bikes
  Health & Beauty
  Money Talks
  Tokyo Tech
  Web Watch
  Food & Drink
  Restaurant Reviews
  Bar Reviews
  Word of Mouth
  Travel Features
  Japan Travel
  International Travel
  Tokyo Talk
  In Store
  Japan Beat
  CD Reviews
  In Person



Since the late 19th century, Japanese art has been schizophrenically split into yoga (Western-style) and nihonga (Japanese-style). The latter arose as a self-conscious response to the inroads of the former. Nevertheless, when nihonga took up the challenge of Western art, it was unable to avoid borrowing some of its ideas, most notably the romantically inflated concept of the “divine” artist. But instead of Michelangelo or van Gogh, nihonga found its role models in the elite artist/craftsmen of the Rinpa school. The Yamatane Museum of Art’s exhibition What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa? uses 50 mainly large works to look at echoes of the school in the works of 20th-century nihonga artists. Particularly worth seeing is Kaii Higashiyama’s vast seascape Rising Tide and Gyoshu Hayami’s Falling Camellias.

Through Dec 25. See exhibition listings (Ginza/ Kyobashi/ Tokyo) for details. CBL

Metropolis is offering readers ten free tickets to “What Did Nihonga Learn from Rinpa?” For your chance to see this excellent exhibition, email the following information by Wednesday, December 17, to

1. Name; 2. Address; 3. Age; 4. Home country; 5. Last exhibition you visited

Include the text “Nihonga” in the subject line. Winners will be selected at random.


499: Hunter of Light: Daido Moriyama 1965-2003
498: Pierre-Joseph Redouté: Court Painter of Roses
497: Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
496: Zon Ito
495: Prosperity of Edo: Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo and other Landscape Works
494: Happy Trail
493: Girl! Girl! Girl!
492: The Renault Collection: Contemporary French Art
491: Hideaki Uchiyama: Japan Underground II
490: Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2003: Human Beings as Part of Nature
489: Traum von Wien: Graphic Art in Vienna around 1900
488: The Sound of Water
487: Shintaro Miyake: Sweet Summer
486: Thomas Demand
485: Neresi? Burasi?: Turkish Art Today
484: Another World Museum
483: Kamakura: The Art of Zen Buddhism
482: The Dignity of Humble People: Jean-Francois Millet and Naturalism in Europe
481: Araki by Araki
480: Akira Yamaguchi Exhibition Exhibition
479: E.A.T.: The story of Experiments in Art and Technology
478: Tadao Ando: Regeneration-Surroundings and Architecture
477: Girls Don't Cry
476: Gerhard Richter: Survey
475: Kyu Iwasaki-tei Gardens
474: Complex
473: GA Houses Project 2003
472: Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Fantasized Persons and Taped Conversations Tabaimo: ODORO ODORO
471: Shimabuku Watching the River Flow
470: Space Invaders: Emerging UK Architecture
469: Arts Initiative Tokyo
468: Shinichiro Kobayashi: Japan New Map
467: Henry Darger: In the Realm of the Unreal
466: Transparent Windows: Politics of Landscape
465: Shinkawa Gallery Complex
464: We Love Painting
463: Wolfgang Laib
462: Emily Carr/Jack Shadbolt: Heart of Darkness
461: Picasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
460: Under Construction: New Dimensions in Asian Art
459: Life/Art '02
457/8: End-of-the-Year Review and 2003 Preview
456: Elmgreen & Dragset: Suspended Space
455: Art by the book
454: Art of Mathura, India/The Art of Gandhara, Pakistan
453: A Perspective on Contemporary Art: Continuity/Transgression
452: Konstantin Melnikov: 1920s-30s
451: Emotional Site
450: Twelve Japanese Artists from the Venice Biennale 1952-2001

Issues 500+
Issues 449-
Issues 399-

By John McGee

Hunter of Light: Daido Moriyama 1965-2003

Silent Theater, 1965, gelatin silver print, 24.9x17.9cm

The Fotomat guy would have probably thought Daido Moriyama was hopeless. Most of his photos were either jerky, out-of-focus, blurred, off-center, blown out, or too dark. But that's just the way the artist wanted them.

One of Japan's best-known photographers, Moriyama (b. 1938) first made a name for himself in the late '60s and early '70s with this expressionist style of street photography that came to be called are, bure, boke (grainy, blurry, out-of-focus). In one of his most reproduced images, a scruffy, low-slung black loaf of dog turns to give the camera a weary "You talkin' to me?" look (Dog Town, 1971).

Though Moriyama's work has appeared in numerous exhibitions, photo journals and books, this is his first retrospective in Japan (in 1999 the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art organized a separate retrospective which toured the US and Europe). It covers Moriyama's nearly 40-year career chronologically-from his 1965 Silent Theater series to new work in the Shinjuku series-through 240 vintage prints (nearly all black-and-white) and 80 books, magazines, posters, paintings and other materials.

At the age of 21, Moriyama moved from his hometown of Osaka to Tokyo. He lucked into a job as assistant to noted photographer Eikoh Hosoe. Soon, Moriyama was wandering the streets, developing his "no finder" (shoot from the hip), snapshot style.

Japan Theater (1967-68) was Moriyama's first important collection. The mish-mash of scenes includes backstage views of popular entertainment-a hairy-chested geisha, cosmetics-strewn tatami. But it also captures some of the novelties wrought by the Economic Miracle-a cool, gray-on-gray corporate interior with a lump of black-suited salarymen standing next to a closet-sized computer and a Grant Wood parody in which a young Stepford couple, arms around an unopened box of laundry detergent and a sealed bag of groceries, stand in front of a row of anonymous apartment blocks.

Dog Town, 1971, 30.8x40.4cm

Around this time, Moriyama experienced the work of a trio of American artists-William Klein's blurred photos of New York street life, Andy Warhol's silkscreened reproductions, and Jack Kerouac's free-spirited travel writing-that inspired some of the themes the photographer pursued from 1968-76. He shot from the jittery window of a speeding car for the series Tokyo Ringway Route 16 'On the Road' (1968-69). For Accidents (1969), Moriyama re-photographed media images: grainy car crashes seen on traffic safety posters, halftone celebrity scandals from cheap tabloids, and fuzzy views of dropping bombs on the TV news. In Farewell Photography (1972), his images became even more broken, often obliterated into washes of light and dark.

The exhibition also emphasizes Moriyama's activities in the photographic community throughout this period. He worked on the photo magazine PROVOKE (1969-70), established the Workshop Photography School with Nobuyoshi Araki and others (1974-76), and opened the gallery CAMP (1976-81).

With Light and Shadow (1981-90) and later series, Moriyama's style changed. Small, unstable snapshots were replaced by large, mostly static prints of, for instance, a fedora or a pair of trash cans.

Moriyama considers a camera "a machine that copies reality." His diverse oeuvre is hard to summarize succinctly because his images, like reality, are imperfect and fleeting. "No matter how many pictures I take," says the photographer, "I can never capture the vast number of fragments of the world that cross with the irreplaceable moments of my life."

Kawasaki City Museum Until Nov 3. Also showing, New Perspectives: Six Photographers Look at the Landscape of Southern France. Until Nov 24. Musashi-Kosugi stn (Tokyu Toyoko line, JR Nambu line). Todoroki Green, Kawasaki. Tue-Sun 9:30am-5pm. Tel: 044-754-4500. Adm: Moriyama-Adults ¥800, students ¥500, seniors and children free. Perspectives-Adults ¥500, students ¥300, seniors and children free.

Photo credits: ©Daido Moriyama