top コラムTokyo Photobook Tour23 山崎茂 『浅草1974』Shigeru Yamazaki "Asakusa 1974"

Tokyo Photobook Tour

23 山崎茂 『浅草1974』Shigeru Yamazaki "Asakusa 1974"

John Sypal

Alright, by now you have probably noticed a general theme in the kind of books I like to share here. If there’s a book of black and white pictures taken in eastern Tokyo decades ago, yeah, I’m going to want to take a look at it.


A good example is Shigeru Yamazaki’s book “The Station 1974-1977”, which I shared here a year ago. (


On a recent visit to Sokyusha, a book of his I hadn’t seen yet caught my eye- and my choice of it for this week’s column won’t come as a surprise.


Asakusa 1974.

Published by Place M in 2022, this is a collection of photos taken by Yamazaki in- you guessed it— Asakusa. In 1974. 


Located in eastern Tokyo, the Asakusa district has drawn crowds for centuries. Its centerpiece, a large Buddhist temple called Senso-ji, is said to have been founded in the year 645. From the Edo period Asakusa became a grand entertainment district with theaters and geisha and other amusements. Later came the movies, ero-guro culture, and, after being destroyed once by a quake in 1923, the area was rebuilt with more theaters, bars, dancing girl halls, and cafes.  After being leveled yet again in 1945, it was rebuilt along similar lines of amusement- yet postwar lost crowds to Ginza (Classier) and later, to the new gaudy districts of Shinjuku and Shibuya as the metropolis grew ever westward. 


For Asakusa the 1970s seemed to be a bit of a lull. But while the rest of Tokyo, or at least its growing middle class, was enjoying its Economic Miracle and skyscrapers and suburbs, Asakusa kept plugging along. Writer Edward Seidensticker noted that here: 


There is still something down-to-earth and carpe-diem about it that is not to be found in the humming centers of the High City, or in the stylish, affluent suburbs.

Yamazaki’s pictures suggest that he was drawn to the place by that “down to earth” feeling- something found in an irresistible combination of the people who would visit major religious site or a maze of grungy little backstreets and stalls.  


Asakusa is alive in these pages. 

Laborers manhandle the last of the old wooden-spoked push carts between young tourists and new Toyotas. Nearby families enjoy a Sunday afternoon with soda and balloons. Yamazaki found both stylish post-war born couples dressed in wide lapels and bellbottoms and withered, kimonoed elderly whom no doubt had recollections of Asakusa’s Taisho heydays. While the temple grounds are smoothly paved today, the Asakusa-spectacle which Yamazaki captured played out a stage of hard-packed dirt and busted-up concrete- or, on rainy days, plains of vast, muddy puddles.  


Asakusa 1974 has a leisurely pace to it. As with his book “The Station” Yamazaki’s pictures (shot around the same time) have a natural, unaffected feel to them. He didn’t scramble for angles- it was enough to look ahead, straight on at the life around him. While each picture has an identifiable shutter-motive, the photos as a whole are often not about any one thing or person in particular. In them- and across the pages- are moments of simple action and glances. 

One such glance is on the book’s cover. A young woman in a traditional hairstyle and kimono looks into the camera. Behind her a sign advertises “Commemorative Pictures”. Its use of anachronistic kanji could have been done for effect- or out of stubbornness. (Either way is very Asakusa.)


“Commemorative photos”. 


Photography like Yamazaki’s here is just that- commemorations of the everyday that, when grouped around a particular place (Asauksa) and time (1974), charmingly illustrate the past. 


As you can see, for this column I went to Asakusa to photograph the book pages in the same spots Yamazaki did. While much of the book is recognizable in spirit and street-corners, the details are missing. There’s no more grime, no more dirt. Or bellbottoms. 1974 is long gone. 

Still, the temple complex continues to draw crowds, albeit now mainly of international tourists.  This influx combined with the Instagramiffication of contemporary culture has had an effect on the face of Asakusa. Old stores and sagging buildings have been replaced with sleekly-styled cafes and bright souvenir shops. Rental kimonos are a must for west-Tokyo’s (or mainland China’s) urban young women who spend the afternoon here. On a noisy Sunday afternoon Sensoji merely a prop or backdrop for a social media post.  Japan-land! 


As much as I’d love a time machine and an afternoon or two to enjoy these mid-Seventies streets, maybe the fact that throngs of people still fill its streets shows it’s not so different after all. While the subject matter might have changed, the place remains fertile turf for photographers today. 

There is a lot to see- Asakusa lives on. 


Asakusa 1974 is available for purchase at Sokyusha or Place M in Shinjuku. 




1年前に紹介した山崎茂さんの『The Station 1974-77』がいい例かもしれません。

Recommended photobook:13




タイトルは『浅草1974』。2022年にPlace Mから出版されたこの写真集は、タイトルのとおり山崎さんが1974年に浅草で撮影した作品で構成されています。





  • 「浅草には、高層ビルが立ち並ぶ都心部や、スタイリッシュで豊かな郊外にはない、地に足の着いたカルペ・ディエムのようなものが残っている」
  • エドワード・G・サイデンステッカー

























  • Shigeru Yamazaki. “Asakusa 1974”
  • Publisher: Place M, 2022
  • 山崎茂写真集 『浅草1974』
  • 発行:Place M
  • 発行日:2022年1月15日


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