top コラムTokyo Photobook Tour14 山崎弘義『路上の匂い』

Tokyo Photobook Tour

14 山崎弘義『路上の匂い』

John Sypal

The other day I stopped by Sokyusha in Shinjuku. While looking at the books, Michitaka Ota, the proprietor, mentioned that Hiroyoshi Yamazaki’s new book had just arrived. Sure enough, there before me was a pile of them. “Smell on the Street”.

I picked a book up and flipped through two or three pages. That was enough. I quickly closed it and, taking out my wallet, told Ota I had to have one.


With Yamazaki, there never was question as to whether it was worth getting.

Since his 2019 book “Crossroad”, a collection of richly populated monochromatic, panoramic Tokyo, remains one of my all-time favorite street photography books I knew this one had to be good. Early 90’s Tokyo in brilliant, era-correct color? Yes, please.  Just two or three pages (and that cover!) were more than enough to make the sale with me.  I handed Ota-san my cash, and wanting to properly savor it, didn’t open my copy until well after getting home that evening. Just like taking good photographs, the right time and place is essential for enjoying books of them.


It was worth the wait. Upon opening the cover and stepping inside Yamazaki’s world, I noticed the people and streets from Crossroad (taken 1990-1995) were all there- but in color, and closer. The work in both books mostly overlaps both in era- 1986 to 1994- and in location. Yamazaki was frequenting Tokyo’s richest spots for street spectacle: Shinjuku, Asakusa, and Ueno, among others. And, since it was the latter half of Tokyo’s bubble economy, the time was ripe. In his pictures there’s a sort of flair, a liveliness on Tokyo’s streets and in the people populating them. Well-dressed Tokyoites out and about- but often stepping around or even over others who lived (or literally slept) on these same streets. Indeed, while in the pictures new buildings go up, the some of the scuzz of the sixties and seventies linger. 


As a longtime resident of Tokyo, a lot of the locations in these pictures are immediately recognizable. I thought I’d go take a look at a few for this column.  With this book in my bag and thoughts of his pictures on my mind, I wandered around Ueno station, and later Shinjuku. What’s different now?  

Looking around, I noticed a class of signage missing from Yamazaki’s pages. Tokyo 2022 is awash with with warnings, rules, notifications: “Danger!”, “No Sitting”, “No Photography” ,  “Cameras in Operation”, “Stand Apart”, “No Smoking”, etc. 



As far as people go, certainly today the streets are just as crowded. Now everyone’s masked- well, ok.  I understand.  And of course now there’s lots of heads-down smartphone-looking. Screens as masks for the eyes. Fine. I hate it, but this is the age we live in now.


I guess that’s part of my attraction to older street photographs like Yamazaki’s street smells here- they’re not merely exciting as compositions of space and time, but also provide a glimpse into a world that’s a little less tidy, maybe a little less orderly- one with definitely more cigarette smoke- but one that also somehow looks maybe a little freer, a little brighter.  


Per usual for his books, Yamazaki concludes Smell on the Street with a heartful, beautiful bit of personal writing. In his afterward he has a nugget of truth regarding street photography-


“Street Photography is similar to the act of collecting jigsaw puzzle pieces. There is no guarantee that a grand picture can be created by gathering many pieces.”


I like this statement- it’s tempered with just the right amount of doubt to keep one going. If you could get it right the first time, why keep doing it? Continuing to pick up- or clip out- pieces is how the game is played. He concludes it with hope that viewers are able to see something from these fragments- I’d say that what he’s collected present a grand picture, indeed.


2022 has seen a plethora of photobooks done from negatives now decades old. Part of this could be due to the difficulty of making and publishing (and exhibiting) contemporary street photography- or it could be that thing how photographs tend to get better with age.  Since Yamazaki’s were already so good from the start, these are now just fantastic. I want to see more.


I can’t recommend this book enough- an absolute essential one for anyone interested in street photography. Like Crossroad, Smell on the Street is an instant classic.

Don’t miss this one!!




『路上の匂い』か… 面白そう…。
















東京に長年住んでいる私としては、これらの写真に写っている東京の場所の多くは、すぐにわかるものです。このコラムのために、現在の「道の香り」を少し確かめたくなって、 山崎さんの写真に思いを馳せながら、上野駅周辺、そして新宿をぶらぶらと歩いてみました。






「危険!」 「座り込み禁止」 「撮影禁止」 「カメラ作動中」

「ソーシャル・ディスタンス」 「禁煙」…




人物に関して言えば、確かに今日も街はいつものように混雑しています。でも、今はみんなマスクをしています…仕方ない。 また、スマートフォンを手に、下を向いている姿の人も多い。スクリーンは目のマスクか…。ソーシャル・ディスタンスはメンタル・ディスタンスかな…?









  • "ストリートフォトはジグソーパズルのピースの1ピースを収集する行為に近い。
  • たくさん集めたところで大きなイメージができる保証はない。"
















山崎弘義 写真集「路上の匂い」 








1990年9月にミノルタフォトスペース新宿で開催した写真展のタイトルである。撮影期間としては1987年(昭和62年)から1990年(平成2年)頃が中心、天皇崩御という歴史の転換点を含み、またバブル景気の危うさを感じながら乗らなきゃ損々という空気が充満していた時期でもある。なにか街の中がざわついていた印象を持っている。アジトに向かう途中にあった御蕎麦屋さんにスーツを着た一団が地上げ交渉に来ていたのを目撃したこともあった。 私の人生の中では一番、血の気が多い時期だったと思う。(あとがきより)



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