This issue, entitled Black Sun, presents an unprecedented portrait of postwar Japan through the eyes of the nation's most significant photographers. It encompasses and connects ancient Japanese myths, the terror of atomic destruction, and the results of swift and massive westernization.
Special thanks are extended to Tatsuo Fukushima, who has acted as a special advisor to this project from its conception, and to the photographers Eikoh Hosoe, Shomei Tomatsu, Masahisa Fukase, and Daido Moriyama for their generosity and cooperation at all times.
The last few minutes of a flight, when you stare from a window to gauge the landscape of a new territory, are strangely deceptive. International airports carry the names of great global centers, yet their runways cross open country miles from urban landmarks.
THE giant video screen is visible from the platforms of Shinjuku Station. Its sepia tones glow over the adjacent square. The screen projects a contortion of giant bodies beside a backdrop of buildings and a bombardment of advertising. The walls of Shinjuku can be consumed like the visions of Times Square or the surfaces of a Calvin Klein mural.
WHEN Toyo Miyatake was sent to Manzanar Camp in California, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, a young student of Japanese descent who had been born in San Francisco, was relocated to a camp in Amach, Colorado, where he studied photography. In 1952 Ishimoto graduated from the Institute of Design in Chicago, where he had studied under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind.
A legend still exists in country districts of Japan concerning the demon called Kamaitachi—a weasel that haunts the rice fields. The demon is said to slash his victims as if with razors. Eikoh Hosoe learned of this myth from the farmers in the far north when in 1944, as an eleven-year-old child, he was evacuated from Tokyo.
THERE is a photograph by Shomei Tomatsu of a watch that stopped at 11:02 A.M. on August 9, 1945, at Nagasaki. The circular watch face at the center of a square photograph has iconographic form, a fragment framed like a mandala. It was taken more than a decade and a half after the event.
SOUTH of Kyushu is the small volcanic chain of the Amami Islands, which spread down toward Okinawa and the Ryukus. Gary Snyder has described this chain of islands in Earth House Hold (1969) as stepping stones for paleolithic travelers en route to Japan.
Daido Moriyama was born in Osaka in October 1938, the month the Japanese imperial army invaded Canton. When he was nine his family moved to Urawa City, where he first saw the American troops as they drove by in their jeeps tossing chewing gum to the children.
Until recently, the story of Hiroshima has been told primarily in type. From the earliest newspaper accounts to John Hersey's classic Hiroshima to scores of historical, biographical, and medical books about the bombing, images of Hiroshima have remained firmly attached to often inadequate words.
On August 6, 1945, all of the darkrooms in Hiroshima were destroyed by the atomic bomb. Yoshito Matsushige had to wait until nightfall to develop the historic photographs he had taken earlier that same day. "I had to do it in the most primitive way," Matsushige says.
As it appears in the recently published book A Day in the Life of Japan, the invitational letter to "one hundred of the world's best photographers" is both modest and extravagant in its ambition. Reproduced surrounded by the stuff of world-traveling photojournalists—camera, hotel key, American Express card, film, press card—the letter reads in part: "On Friday May 31, 1985, you and photojournalists from twenty countries will arrive in Tokyo.
The emergence of Tokyo as a great cultural force, and the links between contemporary Tokyo and the city's original Edo culture will be presented this spring in Tokyo: Form and Spirit, a Japanese exhibition of unprecedented scale and ambition at the Walker Art Center.
MASAHISA FUKASE was born in 1934 and published his first book Homo Ludence in 1971. His work was included in the exhibition New Japanese Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1974. Much of a long narrative series of "Crow" was included in his book Yokho (1978).
The quotes in this text are reprinted through the kind permission of their publishers: p. 16 Auden, W. H. and Christopher Isherwood. Journey to a War. London: Faber & Faber, 1939; p. 33 Tomatsu, Shomei. Shomei Tomatsu. Graz: Edition Camera Austria, 1984; p. 48 Sakaki, Nanao.