Twenty-Fifth Annual Japan Studies Association Conference


Thursday, January 3, 2019, 2:45pm


Honolulu, Hawaii

Paper: Place, Image, Identity: Nagasawa Shinichiro’s photographs of the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands

Panel: To Seek, To See, To Find, To Create a Place

Abstract: When Tokyo-based commercial photographer Nagasawa Shinichiro first visited Japan’s Ogasawara Islands more than a decade ago on assignment for a travel magazine, he was struck by the subtropical archipelago’s natural beauty. But as he learned more about the islands, he became fascinated by Ogasawara’s complicated history. Ogasawara, originally called the Bonin Islands, were first settled by a cosmopolitan group of people from Hawaii (and other Pacific islands), the US, and Europe, who left Honolulu in 1830 to establish a whaling colony. In the Meiji Period, the Bonins were the site of the first Japanese government expedition to include an officially-commissioned photographer, and it was the subject of numerous subsequent visual studies during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Fierce battles were fought there during WWII, they were occupied by the US Navy after the war, and finally, were reverted to Japanese control in 1968, and remain so to this day.

Out of this fascinating history has emerged an ethnically diverse contemporary island society embedded within a larger society typically (and mistakenly) described as homogeneous. This paper will explore the islands of today as imaged by Nagasawa, contextualized within the rich history of photographic entanglement between Japanese photographers and the Islanders.