Yasui Nakaji 1903-1942: Photographs

Yasui Nakaji 1903-1942: Photographs

Friday, February 23 - Sunday, April 14

Mondays (except April 8)
10:00 am to 6:00 pm (8:00 pm on Fridays)
Last admission is 30 minutes before closing time.

Exhibition Overview

The Legendary Photographer of Modern Japanese Photography

This exhibition is the first in 20 years of Yasui Nakaji [1903-1942], an outstanding figure of the modern Japanese photography. During 1910s to 1930s was a fruitful and a highpoint in the history of Japanese photography because of the vigorous exploration of amateur photographers. The leading figure of this period was Yasui Nakaji. Until he died at 38 of illness, Yasui produced remarkably various works throughout his short career as a photographer. Those works were praised by the photographers of the time and the later, such as Domon Ken and Moriyama Daido.

Photography is freedom! Collection of Yasui’s masterpieces with his glow of variations and insights

Yasui boldly took on the challenge using wide-ranging techniques and styles and turned the camera on various subjects. However, sincere attitude and sensitivity towards the world penetrates those works. Various thoughts and feelings will come and go through one’s mind when immersed in what Yasui saw and what he tried to show. His works are full of his wonder and excitement finding the hidden “secrets of the world” in nondescript scene with his compassionate gaze towards small, hideous, and ignored things. Yasui’s works still attracts us after 100 years of production. This exhibition aim to retrospect the whole picture of Yasui Nakaji through more than 200 works. Various materials including approximately 140 vintage prints which survived the war, about 60 negatives and contact prints produced on the basis of research are exhibited. The exhibition traces Yasui's activities empirically and brings back to life the work of the great artist who opened up the possibilities of photography in the present day.

What makes Yasui so “great”? The secret of his outstanding expression

Yasui Nakaji was born in Osaka and joined the Naniwa Photography Club, the long-established club in Osaka for amateur photographers when he was eighteen. He quickly emerged as a prominent photographer and was known all over Japan. Yasui quickly understood and accepted the advanced photography expressions and methods of Western countries and produced new style one after another by adapting them. However that is not the only reason Yasui was an outstanding figure in photography world at that time. It was Yasui’s sensitivity to find unique subject that makes him irreplaceable to others. Yasui's outstanding sense for turning his camera to a chaotic corner of the world and extracting the beauty hidden there earned him high praise from amateur photographers across Japan. Furthermore, Yasui's expression, which was at the forefront of pre-war Japanese photography, later blindsided such renowned photographers as well as critics and historians of photography, such as Moriyama Daido and Fukushima Tatsuo. Thus, the name of Nakaji Yasui was engraved in the history of Japanese photography.


The “May Day” series

The series of photographs of May Day taken at Osaka Nakanoshima. The bold cropping and collage convey various aspects of the dynamic scene.

The “Displaced Jews” series

The series of photographs of Jewish fled from persecution in Europe to Kobe during the World War II. Beyond reportage, the dramatic shading and composition leave a deep impression on the viewer.


Yasui described his method of combining still life subjects in an improvised manner at his shooting locations, using the term “semi-still-life”. Yasui enjoyed the moment as if he touched the hidden “secrets of the world”.

The “Yamane Circus” series

This series features the humor and pathos of the members of an itinerant circus group. It portrays various stories within the entertainers.


Admission Fees
Adults: 1,300 (1,100) yen, High school and University students: 1,100 (900) yen
Junior high-school students and younger: Free
  • *Prices in (  ) indicate the advance ticket prices.
  • *Advance tickets are available online from January 15 to February 22, 2024.
  • *Persons with disability certificate or similar receive a 100 yen discount, and one accompanying helper is admitted free.
  • *Students must present student ID upon entrance to the museum.
Buy Tickets

Where to Buy Tickets:

  • At Online
  • ・At the Entrance of Tokyo Station Gallery
  • *Please purchase tickets online in advance to ensure smooth entry.
  • *Please purchase tickets at the museum if you wish to receive a discount by presenting a coupon or membership card. Please note that you may be asked to wait to enter during congested times.
Organized by
Tokyo Station Gallery [East Japan Railway Culture Foundation], Kyodo News
With the cooperation of
Ginyudo, PGI, Aflo Co., Ltd.
With the sponsorship of
T&D Insurance Group
With the grant from
Pola Art Foundation