Japan Modern | Places


The modern city, with its increasing density, mass culture, and changing family and community values, led photographers Tsuchida Hiromi and Kitai Kazuo to travel throughout Japan in the late 1960s and 1970s. Tsuchida photographed folklife in Aomori and other less developed areas for his series Zokushin (Gods of the Earth). Published in 1976, his black-and-white portraits and scenes of life in sun-filled landscapes proposed a counterpoint to the fast-paced, color television age. The candid image taken outside a teahouse in the sixteenth-century castle town of Hirosaki exemplifies Tsuchida’s approach to observing people and capturing the spontaneity and struggle of daily life.

Exhausted by the student riots in Tokyo, Kitai Kazuo also sought a simpler way of life reminiscent of his childhood. Far from nostalgic, however, Kitai’s images capture places made desolate by the population shift to growing cities, as in the photograph taken in a village in Tsugaru. Serialized in a magazine from 1974 to 1977, his work called attention to the plight of the villages and the diminishing sense of community as Japan rushed toward economic prosperity.

While some parts of the country experienced extraordinary economic growth after World War II, Aomori’s economy struggled. Many young men and women began leaving the region in the 1960s to work in Tokyo and Osaka. The population of the area, known for rice and apple farming as well as music and dance festivals, has been steadily aging.