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Raw and unabashed street photographs of Tokyo in the 1970s and 80s


Masatoshi Naito, the acclaimed Japanese photographer best known for his work with 1970s series Ba Ba Bakuhatsu (Grandma Explosion), is a passionate Tokyo local with an intense emotional relationship with the city.

Born in the city back in 1938, Naito graduated from Waseda University with a degree in applied sciences. Having then pushed himself to train as a research scientist, Naito felt the pull of photography too difficult to avoid. With a strong interest in the folkloric traditions of Japan, his early work has resulted in exhibitions in New York’s Museum of Modern Art and, later, London’s Barbican Centre.

While his earlier work focused on subjects such as the female shamans who invoke the spirits of the dead, Naito also began photographing the raw and sometimes debauched Tokyo street life. Between 1970 and 1975, the artist wandered the streets and captured everything he could find.

Eventually, Naito had enough images to create his book Tokyo: A Vision of Its Other Side which was first published in 1985. However, in a modern celebration of the work, publishers Super Labo has decided to reissue the book.

In the words of the man himself, pointed out via Vice, Masatoshi Naito wrote the following passage about the book: “It was from 1970 to 1985 when I intensively photographed Tokyo. Japan was radically changing as rapid economical growth was underway. Old houses and buildings were being destroyed and replaced by new ones including modern skyscrapers. Even today, Tokyo is still expanding.”

He added: “Nowadays, I see crowds of people flooding all over the Tokyo city area from morning to night. The crowds are always there, from the first train to the last train of the Yamanote Line, the Chuo Line, subways and various private railways. However, when the last trains are gone, along with the businessmen and women, students, and the workers of restaurants and bars, Tokyo is deserted, and the ‘other face of Tokyo’ emerges.

“Somebody gathers food dumped by bars and restaurants. Another one picks up cardboard boxes and cans that may sell. There are people sleeping on the street. Some of them are drinking alcohol. Homeless people begin to act lively. Exactly, Tokyo as a ‘huge life form’ reveals itself.”

Here’s a select few taken from the book:

(All images sourced via Vice, Masatoshi Naito and Super Labo)