Zen Foto Gallery is pleased to present “Clothed in Sunny Finery”, an exhibition of works by Keijiro Kai from March 25th to April 22nd, 2023. For many years, Kai has been photographing traditional fighting and sporting festivals in and out of Japan, and in 2020, he released the photobook “Down to the Bone” (Shinjuku Shobo), a compilation of his photographs taken at the festivals. This is our first solo presentation of Kai’s works to commemorate our new photobook publication which features his photographs taken at the naked festivals in different locations around Japan. The exhibition will present a fine selection of his works from the new photobook under the same title.

“What is revealed through Keijiro Kai’s lens is the fervor of hare, extraordinary nights. While this photobook is an invaluable documentation of traditional events that have continued from ancient times, there is a different dimension that goes beyond that. It makes us think about the relationship between the individual and the crowd, and the unknowable realm surrounding the act of photography. In short, it is an anthropological dimension in the way that it deals with human behavior.” — Excerpt from “Towards the Depths of Darkness”, contribution essay by Chihiro Minato

“As you can see, the participants are naked. Casting off their clothes and gaining control of their body, the naked participants roar, dance, spill their sweat and odour upon each other and collide with each other flesh against flesh. I throw myself into the chaos and shoot frantically. In the crowd, it is difficult to identify where the body odour comes from, so it has a strange presence that is eerier than the roaring voices and the sweat. When the sweat-soaked skin touches another and the smell of body odour engulfs the crowd, a sense of discomfort and fear appears. The sense of discomfort and fear sharpens the senses of the people in the crowd and awakens their bodies — a body stripped of consciousness and ego that is and isn’t one’s own. The meaning and purpose of living in society (while being unsure whether that exists in the first place) are blown away, and the wildness of human nature is exposed.” — Excerpt from the afterword by Keijiro Kai

Artist Profile

Keijiro KAI

Born in Fukuoka, 1974. Kai graduated from Tokyo College of Photography in 2002. His works take the viewer into the crowds of traditional fighting or sporting rituals all around the world that predate our modern concept of “sport”. By taking a close-up look at human interaction in these traditional settings, Kai’s photographs offer us an insight into the very essence of human life. He participated in group exhibitions at the Daegu Photo Biennale (South Korea, 2016), Taipei Photo (Taiwan, 2018), and the Noorderlicht International Photography Festival (Nederlands, 2019), and has held numerous solo exhibitions in Japan. His photobook publications include ”Shrove Tuesday” (Totem Pole Photo Gallery, 2013), “Wounded Bears” (Totem Pole Photo Gallery, 2016), and “Down to the Bone" (Shinjuku Shobo, 2020). He won the 28th Society of Photography Award for “Wounded Bears” and “Down to the Bone” in 2016; the 20th Sagamihara photography Award for his book “Down to the Bone” in 2020; and the 45th Nobuo Ina Award for his exhibition “Down to the Bone” at Nikon Salon in 2021.