Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

from Photographers' Blog:

Samurais in South Africa

I arrived in South Africa with the Japan team filled with excitement and an acute feeling of anxiety. Never mind that I would be on the scene to cover the world's biggest sporting event, and never mind that I would be competing against the top sports photographers from around the globe to get the best pictures. For a Reuters photographer like myself dedicated to a single team, when your team drops out of the competition, you're finished. Like the defeated team, you go back to the hotel, pack your bags and spend the long flight home wondering what went wrong. Based on Japan's lackluster showing in the East Asia Soccer Championship my expectation for Japan was three defeats in a row and no victories. Mine would be a short stay in South Africa.

A Japanese boy living in South Africa reacts as he watches Japan's national soccer team depart from South Africa at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg June 30, 2010. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

But during Japan's first match against Cameroon the Samurai Blue seemed to transform themselves in front of my eyes with Keisuke Honda’s goal being the catalyst. Japan was defeated by the Netherlands in their second match but the Samurais demonstrated the unity of the team in their performance and they were victorious against Denmark in their third match. In doing so they completely wiped out the image that I held of the Japan team before going into the competition. I was covering the world's biggest sporting event, and I was going up against the top sports photographers, but in this World Cup Japan's victory meant that the formidable teams of France and Italy and the even more formidable photographers accompanying them were going home. Not me.

Japan's Shinji Okazaki hugs Keisuke Honda (18) as they celebrate their victory against Denmark after their 2010 World Cup Group E soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 24, 2010. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

On June 29, 2010, Japan faced Paraguay in World Cup match 55. Even after extra time the game remained scoreless and a penalty shoot-out would determine the outcome. I moved into position according to the instructions of Chief Photographer UK and Ireland Dylan Martinez, the leader of the Reuters photographers for this match.

A penalty shoot-out is all about luck. The psychologically intense method of deciding a match seems especially hard on the players, but it's just as tough on the photographers with a split second making the difference between front pages around the world or a postage stamp-sized picture on page S15. Both the players and the photographers tuned out the screaming of the crowd and focused with tense stillness on the battle between the penalty kicker and the goalkeeper. My position was on the opposite side of the pitch allowing me to see the face of the goalkeeper. Japan’s goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, who had saved many shots up to then, clearly showed the strain. Following the two successful shots by both teams it was Yuichi Komano, Japan’s third kicker’s turn.

Buff, bronze and beautiful



For the national holiday, Sports Day, I had a fitting assignment –  a women’s bodybuilding competition in Tokyo.

It was my first time to cover bodybuilding, and as soon as I entered the venue I heard  cheers from the 1,500 spectators eyeing 68 athletes from across Japan.

from Photographers' Blog:

Japanese women celebrate pregnancy with maternity nudes

Tokyo-based photography Kim Kyung-Hoon gains access to pregnant women being photographed for nude maternity portraits, a trend that's on the rise in Japan.

Three years ago, a poster of a nude and heavily pregnant Britney Spears sparked concern in Japan before it was displayed in Tokyo's subways because it was considered "too stimulating" for young commuters.

Farewell to photogenic Aso



Japan’s voters may have overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Taro Aso at the polls last week, but he and my camera got along just fine.

The 68-year-old makes vigorous gestures with his hands and strong facial expressions. His crooked smirk and his eyes that sometimes seem to be  popping out of his head always gave me a lot of interesting photo choices.

Elections, obstructions and duct tape



When you pack scores of journalists into a room and they’re all trying to listen to, photograph, and film one person – like the head of a political party – it’s easy to get blocked by the people and things in front of you.

For a photographer, this is the kiss of death. It means not getting a picture. Next, your phone rings with an angry editor on the other end - a brief conversation is followed by a lengthy period of woe and despair. For this and other reasons, photographers go to great lengths to get a good photo position.

Japan expats clean up Paris



“Japan syndrome” hits about 10 Japanese tourists to Paris a year. The victims are so disappointed at the dirty streets and rude waiters that they succumb to a nervous breakdown at the idea of having wasted a week of leave and savings on a trip to the City of Lights.

There is said to be a psychologist, Japanese of course, who treats these despondent compatriots at the embassy. So when I read about a group of Japanese volunteers who gather once a month to clean the famously cobbled streets of Paris I saw a story.

Geriatric porn star at work



As photographers, we’re always looking for quirky and exceptional feature items, so when we got a chance to shoot Japan’s oldest porno star on the job, we knew we couldn’t miss it.

It took six months to open the door to this underground industry before we got to meet 75-year-old Shigeo Tokuda at work this week.