Motoichi Kumagai

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Motoichi Kumagai
Native name
Born(1909-07-12)12 July 1909
Ōchi, Shimoina District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan
Died6 November 2010(2010-11-06) (aged 101)
Tokyo, Japan
OccupationPhotographer, Illustrator

Motoichi Kumagai (熊谷 元一, Kumagai Motoichi, 12 July 1909 – 6 November 2010) was a Japanese photographer and illustrator of books for children, known for his portrayal of rural and school life. He has illustrated numerous children's books, books containing his photography, and other works. His works have won prizes, beginning with a photography prize from the Mainichi Shimbun in 1955.


He is sometimes credited as Motokazu Kumagai or Motoiti Kumagai.


Kumagai was born on 12 July 1909 in the village of Ōchi (会地村, Ōchi-mura) (now part of Achi), Shimoina District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. His given name 元一 is generally romanized as "Motoichi", but is also sometimes written as "Motoiti" or "Motokazu". [lower-alpha 1]

From 1930 to 1933, Kumagai worked as a teacher. He had his first work for children published in the May 1932 issue of the magazine Kodomo no Kuni. [2] In 1936, he bought a Pearlette camera (a Konishiroku derivative of the Vest Pocket Kodak), with a simple meniscus lens, and started to use this to photograph village life. His first photograph collection was published two years later by Asahi Shinbunsha. [2]

He went to Tokyo in 1939 as a government photographer and was later sent three times to Manchukuo. After the war, he returned to teach in his village. [3] A book of photographs of school life published by Iwanami Shoten in 1955 won a photography prize from Mainichi Shimbun . [3]

Kumagai published books of works for children as well as books of photographs. His photographs are held in the permanent collection of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, [3] and a volume of the series Nihon no Shashinka is dedicated to his work. He received various honours for his work, especially since around 1990. [2] The village of Achi created a gallery, Kumagai Motoichi Shashin Dōgakan, for the permanent exhibition of his work. [2]

He died on 6 November 2010, in a nursing home in Tokyo, of natural causes. [4]


As illustrator

As illustrator and writer

As photographer


Awards and recognition


  1. "Motoichi" is the romanization according to the Biographic Dictionary of Japanese Photography (2005). [1] The website maintained by his hometown uses "Motoiti", an alternate romanization). [2] According to 328 Outstanding Japanese Photographers, the reading is "Motokazu". [3]

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  1. 日本の写真家[Biographic Dictionary of Japanese Photography] (in Japanese). Tokyo, Japan: Nichigai Associates. 2005. ISBN   4-8169-1948-1.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 プロフィール - 熊谷元一 写真童画館 [Profile - Kumagai Motoiti - Child Photography Hall] (in Japanese). 長野県阿智村公式ウェブサイト. 2013. Archived from the original on 29 February 2020. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 鈴木佳子 (Keiko Suzuki) (March 2000). "熊谷元一". Nihon Shashinka Jiten: Tōkyō-tō Shashin Bijutsukan Shozō Sakka日本写真家事典―東京都写真美術館所蔵作家[328 Outstanding Japanese Photographers]. By 東京都写真美術館 (Tokyo Shashin Bijutsukan) (in Japanese). Kyoto, Japan: Tankōsha. p. 114. ISBN   4473017508.
  4. 熊谷元一さんが死去 [Kumagai Motoichi's death] (in Japanese). Minami Shinshu. 9 November 2010.