top コラムRecommended photobook29 Mitsugu Ohnishi 大西みつぐ『TOKYO EAST WAVES』

Recommended photobook

29 Mitsugu Ohnishi 大西みつぐ『TOKYO EAST WAVES』

John Sypal

In Japanese media and popular culture, the bubble economy era (1986-1991) is collectively, visually and, in the 2020s, wistfully portrayed as a heyday of wild corporate success- think stacks of money and Japan Inc. grey suits and wild new products by day- with neon nights of mirrored nightclubs, Ferraris, and wealthy youth in bright suit jackets with large shoulder pads. A time of new-money consumption, excess and over the top positivity and confidence.


Rather than document the trendy, gaudy excess, Mitsugu Ohnishi spent the late 80’s and early 90’s not in Roppongi or Shinjuku where all the obvious flashy action was, but instead wandered around Tokyo’s growing eastern suburban sprawl with his Makina 670 medium format camera.


Out here in the sleepy villages on the outer Eastern edges of Tokyo pre-war tiled homes and rusty, industrial shacks of suddenly found themselves in the shadows of new housing developments and shiny post-modern pachinko parlors. Rivers were straightened and, with their banks securely concreted, landscaped into a park. The coastline of Tokyo Bay too, home to fishermen for centuries was further filled out and built up. Upon these the vast expanses of fresh seafront property Sim-City-like condominium developments grew. The environment was ripe for land development and photographs.


What Ohnishi discovered were, in addition to the changes to the landscape, the people themselves- ordinary families and individuals caught in a mixture of tradition and leisure. People are at ease- but in the vastness of the newly manicured suburban landscape they are at times apart.  Through a sense of distance Ohnishi’s photographs cleverly balance wry, slightly surrealist moments with a tinge of pathos. Artificial things abound- a fake elephant, an inflated play castle, goldfish catching ponds (childhood fun, goldfish hell), a cowgirl with her Shetland pony- Ohnishi’s interest isn’t strictly of these kitschy things themselves but rather the slight mismatch- a gap- between their implied intention and how they exist in daily (or photographic) reality.



Ripples of this sort of mismatch, this tension is, found not just in festivals or amusement but in human connections as well. Many earlier pictures portray a group-oriented approach to leisure- but as the pages are turned more people are alone, together, often in new modern pursuits like oily sunbathing and leisure sail boating. The final image- one of my favorites in the book- is of six couples at various distances walking on an unfinished expanse of manmade dry land- on the horizon are new condo complexes, gleaming in the setting winter sun.

The bubble’s popped- time to go home.


Tokyo East Waves collects three series of Ohnishi’s work- together they make for a fascinating book, and one that’s well-designed. The vinyl jacket is an interesting touch- I assumed at first that its waterproof nature was a tongue-in-cheek reference to all the beaches and pools which appear in the book but at the opening reception was told its vinyl gleam was intended to echo the oil on the glistening sunbathers in the book.

The printing nicely captures Ohnishi’s sense of Blue- and the book concludes with short essays by photographers Ken Ohyama, Hiromi Tsuchida, and Ohnishi himself.


Tokyo East Waves will definitely be on my Favorite Photobooks List of 2024. I absolutely recommend this book is for anyone interested in this era of Japanese history, or color street photography in general. An instant classic!






















写真集『TOKYO EAST WAVES』は、「河口の町・江東ゼロメートル地帯84」「周縁の町から」「NEWCOAST」の3シリーズが合わさって構成されたことで、より魅力的な本になっています。本を包むビニールのジャケットも面白いデザインです。







『TOKYO EAST WAVES』は、2024年の私のお気に入り写真集リストに間違いなく入るでしょう。日本史の中でのこの時代、あるいは一般的なカラー・ストリート写真に興味がある人には、絶対にお勧めの一冊。インスタント・クラシックだ!


  • Mistugu Ohnishi "Tokyo East Waves"
  • 発行所:ふげん社
  • 発行日:2024年3月20日
  • 寄稿:大山顕、土田ヒロミ
  • デザイン:宮添浩司
  • 仕様:A4変型(280×200mm)、144頁、PUR並製本、ビニールカバー
  • 定価:6,600円(税込)


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