Continued: How Japan's mountain photographers ventured into the Himalaya
Meanwhile, Japan’s mountain photographers were venturing abroad. Two, indeed, reached the Himalaya more than a decade before the country’s alpinists did.
Ishizaki Kōyō (1884-1947) is remembered today mainly for his delicate paintings
in a traditional style, but his photography too was accomplished.
He started climbing mountains when he went up to Kyoto to study art, joining the Japanese Alpine Club in 1908.
It was Ishizaki who took the summit photo when, the following year, JAC members made the second ascent of Tsurugi in modern times, following in the footsteps of the Army surveyors
two years before.
|Summiting Tsurugi in 1909: photo by Ishizaki Koyo|
In 1916, Ishizaki travelled to India with the aim of visiting sites associated with the Buddha. In Kashmir, he climbed Mahadev Peak (3,966 metres). Some of the resulting prints are hand-tinted, colour film being in its infancy.
|Scene on Mahadev Peak, hand-tinted print by Ishizaki Koyo|
Another Himalayan traveller, Hasegawa Denjirō (1894-1976), earned his living as a furniture designer, numbering the Imperial court among his clients.
He was successful enough to take what would now be called a long sabbatical. In 1927, he traversed the Himalaya into Tibet and photographed the holy mountain of Kailash. Returning via Kashmir, he did the same for Nanga Parbat. A collection of these photos was published in 1932 as A Himalayan journey.
|The holy mountain of Kailash, by Hasegawa Denjiro|
At home, the promulgation of the national parks from 1931 onwards opened up a new market for travel and scenic photography. Two noted landscape photographers of this era were Okada Kōyō and Yamada Ōsui.
|Okada Koyo at work|
In later life, Okada earned himself the nickname of “Fuji no Kōyō” for his devotion to the iconic volcano. One of his images provided the basis for the elegant engraving of Mt Fuji on the old 500 yen note (you can visit the mountain where the photo was taken over on Ridgeline Images
) . Illustrations were also in demand from the new magazines starting to spring up from the late Taishō years. Asahi Camera
appeared in 1926, followed by Japan’s first mountaineering monthly, Yama-to-Keikoku
, in 1930.
|Two views of Mt Fuji, by Okada Koyo|
By now, photography had a mass following, thanks to light and convenient 4 x 6.5 format cameras with eight frames on a roll of film. In 1936, a “Camera Hiking Club” or CHC was founded in the Tokyo Shitamachi quarter. Photographers associated with this organisation included Funakoshi Yoshibumi, Miura Keizō, known for his skiing photography, and Kazami Takehide (1914-2003), who joined the CHC in 1936.
In 1939, Kazami, Funakoshi and other CHC members founded the Tokyo Mountain Photography Association, which morphed into the Japan Mountain Photography Association (日本山岳写真協会) in 1947 to reflect its increasingly national membership. Kazami’s career spanned a remarkable sixty years. He served in the Imperial Navy during the war, as a photographer. After being repatriated from New Guinea in 1946, he set up a photographic supplies shop in the Ginza. Etude of Alps
, his first photo collection, was published in 1953, followed by Going to the mountains
(山を行く) in 1957.
|Pages from Kazami Takehide's "Going to the mountains"|
The Alps, whether Japanese or European, were not enough for Kazami. In 1958, he accompanied Fukada Kyūya, the soon-to-be Hyakameizan author
, and two other mountaineers on an expedition to the Jugal Himal. Their objective was the Big White Peak (7,083m), so-called by three Scottish lady climbers. They didn’t get up it, but Kazami achieved the expedition’s high point on the east ridge by taking turns to break trail with a Sherpa companion. There the brown plains of Tibet were glimpsed through the clouds.
|The Big White Peak expedition team:|
Kazami Takehide (on the right), next to Fukada Kyuya
Kazami’s first visit to the Himalaya resulted in two books, the expedition journal, for which Fukada wrote the text, and a photo collection on the Jugal Himal. Nepal must have appealed to Kazami; he went back there in 1960, the year he closed his shop and went fully professional as a photographer. His photo collection on Nepal’s mountains and its people was translated into English
. After half a century, Japan’s Himalayan photographers had started to gain an international reputation.
|Senjogahara, by Hasegawa Denjiro|
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