top コラムTokyo Photobook Tour25 Naoki Ishikawa "TOKYO The City Where I Was Born" 石川直樹『東京 ぼくの生まれた街』

Tokyo Photobook Tour

25 Naoki Ishikawa "TOKYO The City Where I Was Born"
石川直樹『東京 ぼくの生まれた街』

John Sypal

In 2008 photographer and mountaineer Naoki Ishikawa (b.1977) published an award-winning non-fiction book titled “The Last Adventurer”. It’s an account of his 2004 failed trans-pacific hot air balloon flight in that left him and a balloonist adrift in the sea 1,600km from Japan.  (Don’t worry, a nearby cargo ship picked them up after a few hours of floating.)  


That’s a bit of an adventure- but one of many in his career. At 17, Ishikawa made a solo trek to India, and few years later, in 2001, he participated on a 9-month, 32,970 km long expedition between the planet’s South and North poles. Before leaving on that journey, a newspaper editor, hoping for a series of articles about the trip, told him to shoot a roll of film a day. Ishikawa did, and the story goes that after he returned to Japan the same editor told him that his pictures were unusable. 

No one likes rejection- but listen to this- soon after, Ishikawa gets invited to a bar in Golden-Gai by none other than Daido Moriyama. He gives Ishikawa the encouragement he needs to become a photographer- and with that, he goes on traveling and climbing and photographing around the world. At age 23 he becomes the youngest person (at the time) to complete the Seven Summits. His photography starts being shown in photo exhibition after photo exhibition and in book after book, climbs more mountains, visits more remote islands, wins several photo awards, has his hot-air balloon adventure-and then writes an award-winning book about it.  During all of this he earns a Bachelor’s degree from Waseda University, followed by an MFA and then a Ph.D from the prestigious Tokyo University of the Arts. 


Pretty amazing, right?  


It’s even more so when you learn he accomplished all that by the time he was 31 years old.  


As of 2024, Ishikawa, now 47, has published over twenty-five photobooks. 

These range from collections of photographs of the Himalayas to a decade’s worth of photographs made across the entire Japanese archipelago. 

His work is a combination of landscapes that are striking in their emotional clarity and photographs of human customs he encounters. His photographs of people have a particular, straightforward charm of their own. Humanity or nature, all which he encounters on his travels are photographed with a simple (film) camera, a clear eye, a lack of predisposed ideas, and a genuine interest in Humanity as it is. 


How then might someone so well-traveled / well-adventured relate to their hometown? 

For Tokyo native Naoki Ishikawa, the approach is the same: An open eye and ready camera. 


In December of 2020, Errand Press published “TOKYO The City Where I Was Born”.  

Across some 200 pages, this book complies Ishikawa’s snapshots of Tokyo from the past several years. While a majority of the pictures seem to have been taken pre-pandemic, some were made in its early stages. Indeed, when the coronavirus pandemic restricting air travel in general and adventure in particular, Ishikawa, now confined to Tokyo, spent time in his archives or on the city streets with his camera. (Some of the results of these Shibuya “rat scramble” adventures appear here- but his definitive Tokyo Pandemic book is his hefty 288 page “STREETS ARE MINE”, published in 2022.)


I find “Tokyo: The City Where I Was Born” utterly charming.  It’s Tokyo alright, but not the Must-See locations that appear in glossy travel guides & well-curated Instagram feeds. It has a familiarity to it- and turning the pages feels like taking an amble through the city. No matter where on the planet they were taken, Ishikawa’s pictures enjoy a peculiar sense of lightness. I can’t explain it right but these Tokyo snapshots recall the kind of clarity- a freshness- that someone picking up a camera for the second time has. Ishikawa obviously never feels the need (or is unable) to impose himself on the pictures or his hometown. Looking through the viewfinder of his Makina 67, I suspect Ishikawa thinks not of composition but simply about what or who is there in front of him. There’s a directness in his work that comes from photography made as a quick reaction to a moment. I don’t suppose he does any fancy footwork angling for the best shot- what he saw where he was is what we get. This sense of transparency is to me the sign of a good photographer. What’s tested is not camerawork or technical skill but instead the sensitivity and intelligence of the person taking the picture. 


A few notes on construction: This book is an A5 sized paperback that utilizes a couple of interesting design ideas. The most immediate is its use of three different paper stocks. While the majority of images are printed in color on white paper, in the sections of yellow and grey paper stock the images are printed in monochrome. (I can’t figure out whether this is some sort of metaphor, but it makes for an interesting experience.) The dust jacket, too, is rather clever. Upon removing it, you can fold back the top part to reveal a map of Tokyo prefecture labeled with locations that appear in the book.  


Naoki Ishikawa has traveled and photographed more than most people on earth but “travel photographer” isn’t the right term to describe him. Likewise, both “Ethnographer” and “Photojournalist” fall short.  Open-eyed and with a genuine soul, and whether in the Himalayas or Shibuya alleyways, the most apt title is simple, “Adventurer”. 







その直後、森山大道さんが石川さんをゴールデン街のバーに誘い、激励してくれたのです。それをきっかけに石川さんは世界中を旅し、山を登り、写真を撮り続けました。そして23歳で当時最年少の七大陸最高峰登頂を達成します。石川さんの写真は写真展や書籍で次々と紹介されるようになっていきます。エベレストに数回、富士山にさらに数回登頂し、写真集を数冊出版し、写真賞を数回受賞し、熱気球での冒険を経験し、それについての受賞作を執筆する。 同時期に、彼は早稲田大学で学士号を取得し、東京藝術大学大学院で修士号、博士号を取得しました。


かなり驚くことですよね。 しかもそのすべてを成し遂げたのは、彼が31歳になるまでのことです。










2020年12月、石川さんはErrand Pressより『東京 ぼくの生まれた街』を出版しました。この本は、石川さんが過去数年間に撮影した東京のスナップショットを200ページにわたってまとめたもの。写真の大半はパンデミック前に撮影されたものと思われますが、中にはパンデミック初期に撮影されたものもあります。



新型コロナウイルスの大流行で空の旅が制限され、特に冒険が制限されたとき、石川さんは東京に閉じこもり、資料室や街角でカメラを持って過ごしました(石川さんが東京のパンデミックをとらえた本の決定版は、2022年に出版された288ページの分厚い『STREETS ARE MINE』です)。



個人的にも『東京 私が生まれた街』はすごく魅力的です。この本に収められた東京は、旅行ガイドブックや観光地で撮られたSNSの投稿と異なる親しみやすさがあり、ページをめくるたびに街をぶらぶら歩いているような気分になります。地球上のどこで撮影されたものであれ、石川さんの写真には独特の軽快さがあるのです。うまく説明できないのですが、これらの東京のスナップショットは、人生2周目にカメラを手にした人がもつような透明感と新鮮さを思い起こさせる気がするのです。














  • Naoki Ishikawa
  • "TOKYO The City Where I Was Born"
  • 石川直樹『東京 ぼくの生まれた街』
    出版:Errand Press(エランド・プレス)
  • 発売日:2020年12月21日
  • 仕様:A5判変形/ソフトカバー/208ページ


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