Toyoko Tokiwa

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Toyoko Tokiwa (常盤 とよ子, Tokiwa Toyoko) (1928 [1] – 24 December 2019 [2] ) was a Japanese photographer best known for her 1957 book of text and photographs Kiken na Adabana (危険な毒花), and particularly for its portrayal of the red-light district of post-occupation Yokohama, with US servicemen. [3]


Life and career

Toyoko Tokiwa (常盤 トヨ子) was born in Yokohama in 1928. [n 1] (As a photographer, she would later spell "toyo" in hiragana rather than the original katakana . [n 2] ) Her family ran a liquor wholesaler at Kanagawa-dōri 4-chōme in Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama, where she lived until the building was burnt down in the American firebombing of 29 May 1945, an event in which her father sustained fatal burns. [4] [5] Her elder brother had used a Rolleicord camera and a darkroom, and this combined with a desire to work among men led Tokiwa to want to work as a photographer, even before she had used a camera herself. [4]

Tokiwa graduated from Tokyo Kasei-Gakuin (the predecessor of Tokyo Kasei-Gakuin Junior College) in 1951. [3] She started work as an announcer but dreamt of being a photographer instead, joining the women-only Shirayuri Camera Club (白百合カメラクラブ, Shirayuri Kamera Kurabu); [6] she was influenced by the realism of Japanese photography at the time (led by Ken Domon). [3]

Some of Tokiwa's earliest photographs are of Ōsanbashi, the pier in Yokohama at which American ships docked and that was thus the site of emotional partings and reunions of American military families. She was able to photograph close up without attracting any comment, and greatly enjoyed the work. [4] But she quickly moved to her main interest, working women. Despite an initial hatred of the American military, prompted in particular by her father's death, and revulsion at prostitution, she simply invited herself into the akasen (red-light area) of Yokohama, asked the girls whether she might photograph, and was accepted. [5]

Tokiwa would later marry an amateur photographer, Taikō Okumura  [ Wikidata ] (奥村泰宏, 1914–1995) [7] [8] – whose photography of postwar Japan appears with hers in a 1996 book – and work as both housewife and photojournalist. [3]

She was a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society [9] and chaired the Kanagawa Prefectural Photographers Association (神奈川県写真作家協会, Kanagawa-ken shashin-sakka kyōkai). [4] [10]

Kiken na Adabana

Front cover of Tokiwa's 1957 book Kiken na Adabana. Tokiwa is holding a Canon rangefinder camera with Nikkor-P 8.5cm f/2 lens, superimposed on which is a detail of the final photograph within the book (p.226). The red obi, partly covering the black-and-white dust jacket, advertises 100 photographs. Toyoko Tokiwa Dangerous Poisonous Flowers.jpg
Front cover of Tokiwa's 1957 book Kiken na Adabana. Tokiwa is holding a Canon rangefinder camera with Nikkor-P 8.5cm f/2 lens, superimposed on which is a detail of the final photograph within the book (p.226). The red obi, partly covering the black-and-white dust jacket, advertises 100 photographs.

In 1956 Tokiwa held an exhibition titled Hataraku Josei (働く女性, Working women) at the Konishiroku Photo Gallery (Tokyo) that won high acclaim. The exhibition showed pro wrestlers, models, ama, nurses and prostitutes. [3]

In 1957, her book Kiken na Adabana (危険な毒花, literally "Dangerous toxic/fruitless flowers"), [n 3] was published by Mikasa Shobō. Its text is divided into three parts:

Each of these is further subdivided into short essays. The text is in the first person and often about Tokiwa herself: the (composite) cover photograph and the photograph in the frontispiece both show Tokiwa holding a Canon rangefinder camera, in a period when photography was very much a male pursuit in Japan. [n 4]

The text of the book is interrupted by four sections of photographs, taken between 1952 and 1957 (captions and technical data appear on pp. 242–241 [n 5] ). There is a title on the first photograph of each; these are:

Kōtarō Iizawa calls the book "the strongest, most compassionate work by female photographer of that era." [11]

Television work

From 1962 to 1965 Tokiwa produced the television series Hataraku Josei-tachi (働く女性たち, Working women). [3]

Other photography and publications

Tokiwa photographed around US military bases in Yokosuka (1958) and the Ryūkyū islands (1960), the Soviet Union (1974, and Taiwan and Malaysia (1975–80). Since 1985, she worked on issues involving the elderly. [5]

No book has yet (early 2010) been devoted to the later work of Tokiwa, but from the 1950s until the 1970s her work appeared in the magazines Asahi Camera, Camera Mainichi, Nippon Camera, Sankei Camera, and Shashin Salon  [ Wikidata ]. [3]

In November 2010, when she spoke (on the 23rd) to the Japan Professional Photographers Society's 60th anniversary photo exhibition "Women" in Yokohama [12] to an audience of about a hundred on her early days as a photographer, she was living in Yokohama and working on photographing people with Alzheimer's disease. [13]

Other work

In 1967 Tokiwa joined a committee choosing work for exhibition by Kanagawa Prefecture, and in 1987 she taught at Fujisawa Bunka Sentā (Fujisawa, Kanagawa). [14]


In 1957, Tokiwa joined Tōmatsu, Narahara and others in the first exhibition of Jūnin no Me (10人の目, The Eyes of Ten). Until 1960, Tokiwa presented her work in several exhibitions, at least once together with Hisae Imai. [3] [14]

The 3rd Month of Photography Tokyo showcased a variety of photograph exhibitions at various galleries in Tokyo in 1998. The main theme was "The Eye of Women Photographers" (Josei Shashinka no Manazashi), and it exhibited photographs by Tokiwa and other established Japanese women photographers of the 1945–1997 period. [15]

Tokiwa joined the Yokohama Photo Triangle exhibition in 2009, held as a part of the 150th anniversary of the opening of the port of Yokohama, where she also organized a civic participation program. [6]

Permanent collections

Books by Tokiwa

Further reading


  1. As stated in an Asahi Shinbun article cited above; additionally, the Kanagawa Shinbun Kanaroko article cited above states that she was 91 at the time of her death. However, Moriyama (Nihon shashinka jiten) says 15 January 1930. A birth year of 1930 is widely stated, even in at least one academic paper devoted to Tokiwa (三浦雅弘 (24 March 2014). "常盤とよ子の視線". 応用社会学研究. Rikkyo University. 56: 63–70.). 「常盤 とよ子」, pp.341–342 within 東京都写真美術館監修, 『現代写真人名事典』 (Tokyo: Nichigai Associates, 2005; ISBN   978-4-8169-1949-7), which might be expected to be authoritative, is silent about the year, let alone date, of birth. (An alternative, English-language title, Biographic Dictionary of Contemporary Japanese Photography, appears within the latter book, whose content is in Japanese only.)
  2. Source for 常盤 トヨ子 is 「常盤 とよ子」, pp.341–342 within 東京都写真美術館監修, 『現代写真人名事典』. Tokyo: Nichigai Associates, 2005. ISBN   978-4-8169-1949-7. In Nihon Shashinka Jiten (2000), Moriyama instead states that it was 常盤 刀洋子. As both books were edited under the supervision of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, it seems likely that the newer one was compiled with knowledge of the older one and thus that it is more reliable.
  3. 1 2 The title of this book abounds in complications. The first (a trivial one) is that it appears as 危險な毒花 (with the older form of the character for ken) on the front and spine of the dust jacket and on the title page, but as 危険な毒花 (with the newer form) on the spine itself, the half title, the colophon, and the front of the obi. Secondly, the reading of the last two characters of the title is problematic. The book itself does not appear to specify the reading anywhere (even though its colophon gives the reading "Tokiwa"). Japanese dictionaries of Sino-Japanese do not include the combination 毒花; dictionaries of Japanese such as Kōjien do not list it under any of its more obvious readings: dokubana, dokuhana, dokuka or dokka. Accounts in Japanese of this book, such as Moriyama's piece in Nihon Shashinka Jiten or Nihon Shashinshi Gaisetsu (日本写真史概説; Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1999; ISBN   4-00-008381-3) do not give the reading. Therefore somebody who has to provide a reading for the title will normally just guess or depend on others' guesses, and Kiken na Dokubana and Kiken na Kokuka are attested in OPACs, bibliographic databases and so forth. However, the "ruby" あだばな (i.e. adabana) is provided for the title in the potted chronology for Tokiwa on p.159 of Yokohama Saigen (see "Books by Tokiwa"), and it is highly unlikely that this was done without consultation with Tokiwa herself. Both Kōtarō Iizawa and Luisa Orto specify adabana, although without comment. Iizawa, "The evolution of postwar photography", in Anne Wilkes Tucker et al., The History of Japanese Photography (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003; ISBN   0-300-09925-8), p.217; Orto, "Toyoko Tokiwa", in Orto and Matsuda Takako, "Artist Profiles", in Tucker et al., p.364. The third problem is of how to gloss the title in English. Iizawa and Orto do so as "Dangerous fruitless flowers". Adabana indeed means "fruitless flower(s)", but it is normally written 徒花 and does not imply toxicity. By metaphorical extension, it can mean "prostitute(s)". Adabana is sometimes written 仇花, in which the character for ada means "harm" or "malice" (in addition to "enemy", etc.). Meanwhile, the character does mean "toxicity". Thus the title means "Dangerous fruitless flowers", "Dangerous prostitutes", "Dangerous toxic flowers", or similar.
  4. "Until the 1980s there were few successful female photographers [in Japan]." Anne Wilkes Tucker, "Introduction", Tucker et al., p.12. Tucker then mentions and alludes to several who preceded Tokiwa.
  5. Not a mistake; as this is a two-page island of horizontal writing within a book whose text is otherwise vertical, it is paginated backwards.
  6. This is reprinted in for example Iizawa, "The evolution of postwar photography", in Tucker et al., p.236.
  7. As implied by her inclusion, without a qualifying note, within the book Nihon Shashinka Jiten / 328 Outstanding Japanese Photographers.
  8. Another problematic title. All three ingredients appear on the cover, the title page, and the colophon, but the question of which way around they should go is unclear. In this list, they follow the order in the colophon.

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  1. 松沢奈々子, 戦後占領下の横浜を活写 横浜で常盤とよ子さん追悼展 , Asahi Shinbun, 13 September 2020. Accessed 10 August 2021.
  2. 常盤とよ子さん死去 91歳 女性写真家の草分け, Kanagawa Shinbun Kanaroko, 26 December 2019. Accessed 10 August 2021.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Tomoe Moriyama (森山朋絵), "Tokiwa Toyoko", Nihon Shashinka Jiten (日本写真家事典) / 328 Outstanding Japanese Photographers (Kyoto: Tankōsha, 2000; ISBN   4-473-01750-8), p.221. (in Japanese) Despite the English-language alternative title, in English only.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Interview with Tokiwa, Nakahō Nyūsu (中法ニュース) no. 5435 (March 2004), Yokohama Naka Hōjinkai. (in Japanese) Accessed 9 January 2011.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Noriko Tsutatani (蔦谷典子), "Tokiwa Toyoko", in Kōtarō Iizawa, ed., Nihon no Shashinka 101 (日本の写真家101; Tokyo: Shinshokan, 2008; ISBN   978-4-403-25095-8), pp. 92–93.
  6. 1 2 "Yokohama kaikō 150-shūnen kinen: Yokohama Foto Toraianguru: Kaikō kara mirai e" (横浜開港150周年記念 ヨコハマ・フォト・トライアングル 開港から未来へ), Art Yokohama (Yokohama Civic Art Gallery), vol. 40, 1 October 2009, p.5. (in Japanese) Accessed 9 January 2011.
  7. Nihon no shashinka: Kindai shashinshi o irodotta hito to denki, sakuhinshū mokuroku (日本の写真家 近代写真史を彩った人と伝記・作品集目録) / Biographic Dictionary of Japanese Photography (Tokyo: Nichigai Associates, 2005; ISBN   4-8169-1948-1), p.105. (in Japanese) In Japanese only, despite the English title.
  8. Hatsuo Ueno (上野初雄), "Okumura Taikō shashinchō: Hama no shashin no monogatari Archived 2012-07-23 at " (奥村泰宏写真帳 ハマの写真の物語), General Affairs Bureau, Yokohama City, November 1990. (in Japanese) Accessed 9 January 2011.
  9. Toyoko Tokiwa - Copyright holder profile Archived 2011-07-22 at the Wayback Machine (常盤とよ子 - 著作権者プロフィール), Japan Photographic Copyright Association. (in Japanese) Accessed 9 January 2011.
  10. Page about the Association Archived 2011-07-23 at the Wayback Machine , Kanagawa Pioneer Station, Kanagawa Prefectural Government. (in Japanese) Accessed 9 January 2011.
  11. Iizawa, "The evolution of postwar photography", in Tucker et al., p.217.
  12. The event, Nihon Shashinka Kyōkai sōritsu 60-shūnen kinen shashinten "Onna: Tachidomaranai josei-tachi" (日本写真家協会創立60周年記念写真展「おんな――立ち止まらない女性たち」), is described here and here within the website of the Japan Professional Photographers Society. Both pages accessed 9 January 2011.
  13. "Yokohama zaijū no shashinka Tokiwa Toyoko san" (横浜在住の写真家・常盤とよ子さん), Mainichi Shimbun -Kanagawa, 24 November 2010. (in Japanese) Available here within the site of Asakura Dezain Kōbō (朝倉デザイン工房). Accessed 9 January 2011.
  14. 1 2 Shashinka wa Nani o Mita ka: 1945–1960 (写真家はなにを見たか1945~1960, What did photographers see: 1945–1960; Tokyo: Konica Plaza, 1991), pp. 122–123. (in Japanese) OCLC 47616918, National Diet Library 000002144030
  15. Philbert Ono, "PhotoHistory 1998",  (in English) Accessed 9 March 2009.
  16. Iizawa, "The evolution of postwar photography", in Tucker et al., pp. 236–37.
  17. Norihiko Matsumoto, ed., Nihon no Bijutsukan to Shashin Korekushon (日本の美術館と写真コレクション, Japan's art galleries and photography collections; Kyoto: Tankōsha, 2002; ISBN   4-473-01894-6), p.163. (in Japanese)
  18. List of 2003 exhibits from the gallery's collection Archived 2012-12-20 at , Yokohama Civic Art Gallery.  (in Japanese) Accessed 9 January 2011.