top コラムRecommended photobook13 Shigeru Yamazaki "The Station 1974-77" 山崎茂『The Station 1974-77』

Recommended photobook

13 Shigeru Yamazaki "The Station 1974-77"
山崎茂『The Station 1974-77』

John Sypal

Despite being released in 2019, this week’s book is, in terms of existing copies, perhaps the rarest one in my collection. Of course, this is mostly by default- the photographer only had 25 copies printed. 


Published under the Place M imprint, “The Station 1974-77” is a fantastic collection of photographs taken in and around Japanese train stations by Shigeru Yamazaki between- you guessed it- 1974 and 1977.


Mass transit hubs like airports and train stations have long been photographic goldmines (silvermines?) for human spectacle and drama- the stuff of interesting pictures. Here even the banal is heightened- there’s a difference between someone sitting alone in a park compared to one sitting alone on an empty station platform bench.


In the 70s, Yamazaki, then just 23, saw Tokyo’s train stations as stages- self-generating plays where each and every element was cast in an important, irreplaceable part. With camera in hand he explored the peculiar phenomena found within them. Here he discovered an ecosystem of concrete and trains but also societal rules and small economies and the actions and gestures of its human inhabitants. Not limiting himself to the station proper, Yamazaki also wandered from station exits out into the surrounding mazes of bars and shops and alleys. His pictures are populated by a menagerie commuting salarymen, noodle-shop cooks, bargirls, newsstands, fortune tellers, unattended children, housewives, stooped elderly, out of towners, forlorn travelers, bored smokers, readers of every sort, and shoe shiners. (Where did they all go?)


These “actors” are folks with places to go and people to be- often in home or the office- but caught within his frames are people whom inhabit an in-between sort of dimension. The average salaryman might consider the station as merely a tolerable part of his commute, but, making his way through it he nevertheless passes others who are on longer journeys. In a station is by nature a sort of midway point- it’s neither here nor there- well, “here”, I suppose- but not the “there” which these people are headed.  This sense of limbo is palatable in large stations like these. Many in Yamazaki’s pictures break this time up with a book or bowl of noodles but others sit with a pensive stillness- one which I suppose most people feel in these moments- something which wavers between boredom and apprehension. The book’s cover image illustrates well how such places allow the eyes and mind wander.


Many of the stations in the book are readily identifiable. Ueno station, the major terminal for Northern Japan to enter Tokyo, makes many appearances in these pages. Upon my first viewings of the book, I thought that every photo was of Ueno. Upon closer inspection I could make out Shinjuku and Shibuya stations as well. As you turn the pages, all of these massive, sprawling stations meld together. Their individuality (which they each truly possess) are negated by similarities of the people who use them. In a sense, Yamazaki photographed but one Station, a wheezing, sometime slippery and always noisy gigantic maze of hallways, a never-ending complex peppered with cafes, impossibly small shops, and railway platforms all coated in that 1970’s era patina of dusty grime and cigarette butts.


Trains themselves make appearances in the pages but they’re rarely the focus- and never romanticized. Of course, I say this as a photographer myself- and one admittedly uninterested in trains as symbols. The fact that this book isn’t a direct documentation of the trains themselves turn away railway aficionados but I can imagine the book being of great interest to postwar-era social historians and any Japanese 65 and older. The past comes alive- the scenes and locations here are places many passed, but few photographed.


You’ve probably noticed by now in my columns that the stuff in this book is right up my alley- postwar Japanese black and white photography of the social-landscape sort, by a relatively unknown photographer- glimpses into a recent past, one with looser rules and better-looking cars and fashion.  What else is different here than these places today?

I feel there’s a roughness in these photos- but it’s not on the part of the photographer, as his lens is curious if not kind. It’s not that the subjects as individuals are rough (well, some could be) but rather perhaps it’s the mood of society at that time. This was an age before security cameras and roving security staff asking people to stop sitting on the floor- the war had only ended some thirty years prior. With any book from the post-war era, I can’t help but reflect on the fact that anyone in these pages over 35 or 40 experienced World War 2 and the following hard years of the nation’s reconstruction.   (This would be the 1990’s to 2022…)


Since “rephotography” is a hobby of mine, I couldn’t help but make a quick trip to Ueno station to re-photo two images from this book. The ramp down to the Hibiya & Ginza lines was obvious- the correct pillar in the second pic only took a little bit of searching for. Sadly it was blocked off with construction barriers. I’d like to find more locations in this book in the future.


As I said in the intro- I was told that The Station 1974-77 was printed in a single run of 25 through an on-demand printing company in Tokyo. The reproductions can be a bit muddy at times, but their soul shines through. The printing is adequate, but a larger run with a skilled offset printing director would no doubt result in a book that would be of interest to photographers and lovers of Tokyo around the world. 


Finally, despite the fact that Yamazaki took these images in his early 20s, his biography at the end of the book lists that his first solo show wasn’t until he exhibited another series, “The Gentlemen and Ladies of Downtown”, at the Nikon Salon in 2013. He was 62.

I know that there’s got to be more great photography out there still- in Yamazaki’s archives as well as the albums and closets of older photographers all across Japan.


It’s my hope that photography is able to be further enrichened with more pictures- and photographers- coming to light.





Place Mから出版された『The Station 1974-77』は、山崎茂が1974年から1977年にかけて日本の駅とその周辺で撮影した素晴らしい写真集です。
















ページをめくると、さまざまな駅の写真が「The Station」となっています。ある意味山崎氏はひとつの駅を撮影したのです。喘ぐように、時に水溜りで滑りやすく、常に騒がしい巨大な廊下の迷路、カフェやどうしようもなく小さな店、駅のプラットフォームが散りばめられた、1970年代の埃とタバコの吸殻に覆われた複合施設。










私の趣味のひとつは「Re Photo(リーフォト)」なので、この本の中の2枚の写真を撮り直すために、上野駅へ急行しました。日比谷線と銀座線に降りるスロープは分かりやすかったです。













  • Shigeru Yamazaki "The Station 1974-77" 
    Published by Place M, 2019
  • 山崎 茂『THE STATION 1974-77』
  • 発行:PlaceM
    判型:W297mm x H220mm 写真62点
    ISBN:978-4-905360-27-8 C0072


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