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Taku Kinjo Photo Exhibition Southern Breath

Year after year, more and more tourists are making their way to Okinawa. Many people come not only from Japan but also from overseas. The increase in visitors has contributed greatly to the local economy, which has, in turn, spurred tourism development and infrastructure building virtually everywhere. Parallel to this, the warmhearted vibe that was known to Okinawa has seemingly grown faint to Taku Kinjo, a local native who was living in Tokyo until 2017, when he opted to return to Naha City for a job with a visual media company.

“Okinawa Kokusaidori Shopping Street” has been a popular spot with tourists for long time, and recognized as the visitor’s gateway to Okinawa. Tourists can be seen striding up and down the street in droves today just as they have been doing for decades. The only thing that has changed over the years is that the street has been developed and is more colorful now. The upgrades have come with the times and that goes for all tourist sites in Okinawa.
Even before he had left, Kinjo had a strange feeling - he recalls - that the laid-back aura that characterized the Okinawa, where he had grown up, was disappearing. Once upon a time, an a middle-aged guy cooling himself in the shade would have tossed a friendly word to passers-by as an empathetic gesture for the grueling heat those walking in the sun had to endure. This sensitivity to one’s surroundings and a warm-hearted demeanor were commonly shared not just with people but with all living things. But, as Kinjo sees it, because it demands efficiency, tourism development has caused a lot of rushing around and gradually suppressed the personable exchanges there used to be between people.

Naha is not the only place that has been transformed. As Kinjo describes it, even outlying areas look like they have piled on the makeup for the sake of promoting tourism. He went on to say, “Okinawa has changed considerably from the way it used to be. That’s what happens over time, so you can’t do anything about it. But, if you look carefully, the ‘good ole nature’ and ‘mood in those days’ that I knew all too well before leaving the island are still alive and kicking here and there across the city. I long for that warm nostalgic landscape and want to photograph it as much as I can before it vanishes completely.”

You can see the unmasked Okinawa in the works that Kinjo caringly produced.

There is an old man, obviously into his cups, enjoyably plucking a jamisen (a stringed instrument used for playing Okinawan folk songs and the like; also called “sanshin” literally ‘three strings’) in front of a sign that can be translated as “NO ENTRY : CONSTRUCTION PERSONNEL ONLY”. In another work, an electric rice cooker sits randomly on the side of a road, lid open and a plate of Chinese cabbage wedged - for whatever reason - inside of it. Pointing to these works, Kinjo laughs, “Scenes like these are the true Okinawa. While living in Tokyo long ago, I’ve never seen bizarre sights like these from the southern islands where no one keeps their store neat and tidy. I like how Okinawa can be tacky and I mean that in a good way.”
Come see the slow-paced look of an Okinawa unmasked, as captured by Taku Kinjo. You will be treated to a different world than the turquoise seas and white sandy beaches that everyone expects.

Taku Kinjo Profile

Native of the Shuri district of Naha, Okinawa. Graduated from a prefectural high school in Okinawa, studied video production at a film college in Tokyo, then returned to Okinawa and started photographing.