Zen Foto Gallery is pleased to announce “This is Our Land”, a group exhibition by photographers Hashimoto Shoko, Yamagata Tsutomu, and Kai Keijiro from October 22 to November 20.

Since ancient times in Japan, there has been a thriving faith in worshipping the gods of the land in which one lives, such as the jinushigami [tutelary deities] or chinjugami [guardian gods]. By enshrining the gods that protect their own land, people expect some kind of benefit from them. The relationship between people and the land and the form of beliefs that were nurtured over the years have changed over time — but even today — there are still places in Japan that have strong power, like a magnetic field that continues to attract people and create a great impact on the people. This exhibition will focus on the relationship between such places and people.

 Hashimoto Shoko’s “Goze”, which was filmed while traveling with a group of goze — blind shamisen entertainers who went performing in various places around central Niigata Prefecture, is a very detailed depiction of the lives of the people in the land abundant with nature and their relationship with the goze. This exhibition will coincide with the publication of his 204-page photo book “Goze”, a new complete edition that includes his diary and its English translation.

 After Yamagata Tsutomu’s father was diagnosed with cancer, he encountered and photographed people who gathered in Tamagawa Onsen, Akita Prefecture to find a cure for their disease in the powerful radiation emitted from the rocks buried in the mountains. Titled as “Ten Disciples”, these beautiful black and white prints were created with Yamagata’s own customized process. They depict a strange sight where the invisible and powerful energy coming out of the ground — considered harmful to living things — heals people who are ill.

 In the work “Wounded Bears”, Kai Keijiro photographed the Dosojin Festival, which has been held since ancient times in Nozawa Onsen, Nagano Prefecture, and is famous for its fierce battles using fire. While the festival was originally intended to ward off bad luck and pray for good matches, it is very impressive to see the facial expressions of the villagers challenging each other in the battles, as if they are being possessed by the rage of the gods.

Artist Profile

Shoko HASHIMOTO

Born in Ishinomaki in 1939, Hashimoto graduated from Nihon University, College of Art in 1964 specializing in photography. In 1974, he received the Newcomer Award from the Photographic Society of Japan with his photobook “Goze” (Nora-sha). In the same year, the series was selected in the “15 Photographers” exhibition at Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art. Hashimoto photographed Lee Dynasty folk paintings in Korea from 1979 to 1981, published in the book series Minga of the Lee Dynasty in 1982. Since 2011, he has been regularly returning to photograph his hometown, Ishinomaki, which was devastated by the tsunami.

Tsutomu YAMAGATA

Born in Tokyo in 1966. Graduated from Department of Law, Keio University. He is a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society and the Photographic Society of Japan. His major solo exhibitions so far include “Ten Disciples” at Zen Foto Gallery, 2016 and gallery 176, 2017, as well as “Thirteen Orphans” at Zen Foto Gallery, 2012 and Colorado Photographic Arts Center, 2013. His main publications include Thirteen Orphans (New Edition by Case Publishing & Zen Foto Gallery, 2017), Ten Disciples (Zen Foto Gallery, 2016), Thirteen Orphans (Zen Foto Gallery, 2012), and Bulgarian Rose (Private edition, 2011). Yamagata participated in the group exhibition “Pale Red Dot” at Athens Photo Festival in 2018. His works are included in the collections of University of New Mexico Art Museum, USA and Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai.

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. He also presented two of his series—”Shrove Tuesday” (2013) and “Wounded Bears” (2016)—with Totem Pole Photo Gallery. Kai published his latest photo book “Down to the Bone" (Shinjuku Shobo) in March 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.

Publications & Prints