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Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

  • Located deep in the countryside of rural Tottori Prefecture in Western Japan, the Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography is a fascinating glimpse into the work and life of one of the area’s most celebrated sons, Shoji Ueda (1913-2000). The internationally renowned photographer was born in Tottori, and throughout his life he took photos depicting places and people in the region, including the well-known Tottori Sand Dunes which are buffeted by the Sea of Japan along the scenic San’In coast.

    Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

    Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

    Ueda enjoyed taking photos as a youngster and went on to study photography in Tokyo. He then moved back to Tottori and worked as a professional photographer, opening a studio and camera shop in Yonago in 1965, before moving to a bigger premises nearby eight years later. His works mostly combined surrealist elements in realistic scenarios, and he gained critical and popular recognition from the mid-seventies following a year travelling around Europe and the release of several photo book collections.

    Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

    Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

    The Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography was opened in 1995 in the place of the photographer’s birth, Hoki-cho just south of Yonago. Designed by the famous Japanese architect Shin Takamatsu, the sharp, clean angles of the concrete building give it a stark, modern look in vivid contrast to the surrounding landscape of endlessly flat farmland and distant mountains. It is the striking contrast that embodies Ueda’s works in many ways.

    Inside the museum there are many spots where the structure’s clean lines perfectly frame the view outside, much like one of Ueda’s photographs. In fact the San’In region’s most famous mountain, Mt. Daisen, is brilliantly framed by the building’s concrete walls, as if the peak itself were an exhibit.

    Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

    Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

    The museum possesses around 12,000 of Ueda’s photographs and a fascinating selection of them are on display throughout the year. The exhibits vary by theme and include photos in the ‘Ueda Cho’ style, a term coined in France where he was particularly revered. These avant-garde photographs tend to use the sand dunes of Tottori as a backdrop, often with the photographer’s friends and family in monochrome in the foreground to create powerful images which still resonate today.

    Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

    Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

    The museum has English displays providing background notes on the photographer and his works, while the building’s crowning feature is a large space made to mimic the inside of a huge camera. Live footage of Mt. Daisen is projected through a 600mm, 625kg lens, making it the biggest camera lens in the world and a perfect homage to Ueda’s love of the land.

    To reach the museum, take a train from Yonago on the JR Hakubi Line to reach Kishimoto Station in about 15 minutes. The museum is just five minutes from the station by taxi. Flights from Tokyo’s Haneda airport to Yonago Kitaro airport take approximately one hour and 15 minutes, with regular trains from the airport to Yonago Station.

    Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

    Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography

    Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography
    Address
    Tottori Pref. Saihakugunhoukichou Sumura 353-3
    Phone
    0859398000
    Yonago
    Address
    Tottori Pref. Yonagoshi Yayoichou
    Phone
    Kishimoto
    Address
    Tottori Pref. Saihakugunhoukichou Osaeguchi
    Phone
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