Japanese photographer Kazuyoshi Usui (born 1975 in Tokyo, Japan) began his Showa project series in the early 2000s, in the midst of Japan’s Heisei era. His Showa trilogy, released from 2012 to 2019, consists of three photobooks, Showa 88, Showa 92 and Showa 96. Usui’s series imagines a world in which Japan’s Showa era did not end in 1989 but continued until today.
Shōwa period, in Japanese history, the period (1926–89) corresponding to the reign of the emperor Hirohito.
The Shōwa period was preceded by the Taishō period (1912–26) and was followed by the Heisei period (1989–2019). The first part of the Shōwa, from Hirohito’s enthronement in 1926 to the end of World War II in 1945, is known as the early Shōwa period. It is noted principally for the rise of militarism in Japan, Japanese aggression in China and elsewhere in East and Southeast Asia, and the country’s wartime defeat.
The postwar Shōwa decades were marked by Japan’s spectacular recovery and its rise as a global economic powerhouse second only to the United States, its former enemy and subsequent closest ally.
(1) Showa 88 (Zen Foto Gallery, 2012)
My use of the word “Showa” in the series’ title should not be misunderstood as interest of mine in exploiting feelings of nostalgia. I created a daydream, on my own terms, with the use of simple tools that are incapable of capturing anything but reality—cameras.
“Showa” to me means “the power to survive.”
What would the world look like if Japan’s Showa era (1926–1989) were still alive today? That’s the fantasy I allowed myself to indulge in three photobooks, the third and final entry having been published at the very end of Japan’s Heisei era (1989–2019).
(2) Showa 92 (Zen Foto Gallery, 2015)
Photographing the trilogy lead me to visit the following places:
A travelling circus’s hut in Osaka’s Nishinari district, Tobita Shinchi, Tsuruhashi, Kyoto’s Gojo-Rakuen, Sakaemachi in Chiba Prefecture, a road in Otsuchi in Iwate, a tanker in Kamaishi in Iwate, a sex museum in Saga, a dog fight in Shizuoka, Kawakurasainokawarajizoson temple in Goshogawara in Aomori, Osorezan, Shinjuku’s Nichome, Kabukicho, a freak show in Hanazono shrine, a shamisen performance of former yakuza gangsters in Okinawa, Hyakkendana area in Shibuya, Ueno Zoo, a haunted house production company in Saga, a rice field planting festival in Ise, the New National Stadium.