Why You Need to Study Japanese
...So you can read Japanese camera magazines, of course. If your idea of a popular photography magazine is Popular Photography, you have no idea what you're missing. The big Japanese camera monthlies, Nippon Camera and Asahi Camera, are telephone book-sized treasuries of photographic goodies, typically 250-350 glossy pages, most of which is actual content—the ad section in the back is relatively small. Whatever you like in a camera magazine—portfolios, exhibit news and reviews, industry news, equipment news and reviews, lab tests, classic-camera nostalgia, how-tos, reader photo contests—the Japanese monthlies have lots more and better of it than you'll find in anything stateside.
The best way to get hold of a copy of one of these in the US is through a Japanese bookstore here. I get my subscription to Nippon Camera through Sasuga Japanese Bookstore.
The January 2006 issue is chock full of the usual good stuff. On the toy end of things, the most fun is a feature displaying a funky collection of prototype and limited edition cameras, some of which I'd seen before but many of which were surprises. Methinks the highlight is a fabulous Olympus OM-system prototype. No, not the well-known OM-1 labeled "M-1" before Leica beat them up; this one's a Hasselblad-style modular mirror-box-plus-interchangeable-everything.
The superstar portfolio for the month is a set of color snaps of the seedier side of Tokyo's Shinjuku district, taken with the new Ricoh GR Digital by grit-meister Daido Moriyama. There's an accompanying article in which Moriyama and photographer/pundit Chotoku Tanaka ruminate together over the deeper meaning of the GR Digital.
Alas, outside of the titles on the portfolios and the usual sprinkling of romaji labels here and there, there is very little English to be found. But although you do need to have some command of written Japanese, you can get quite a bit out of these publications—especially the equipment news and reviews—with a relatively modest, if carefully-selected, vocabulary. Besides, kanji are fun. Gambatte, ne!
Posted by: OREN GRAD