Instax Interview: Daisaku Nishimiya

I recently spent a month in Japan. I was there to make photos, but I also went to a lot of bookstores. Going into a bookstore in another country is complicated and quite funny since I was illiterate. My favorite find was a book titled, hi mi tsu ki chi, by Daisaku Nishimiya. Daisaku Nishimiya walked around Tokyo photographing children’s secret fortresses.

Along with these photos Daisaku Nishimiya also includes an aerial drawing of the location

I asked Daisaku Nishimiya a few questions about his work.

Carrie Thompson: Tell me a little about yourself, are you a full-time photographer? What projects have you made other then hi mi tsu ki chi?

Daisaku Nishimiya: Yes, I am a full-time photographer. The projects I have made other than hi mi tsu ki chi are “a man” in 2004 and “mocktail” in 2007. (see photos here)

CT: Can you tell me what hi mi tsu ki chi means in English?

DN: Well, “hi mi tsu ki chi” signifies “a secret and precious place” and also “a secret place only for me, or for us”. Literally, himitsu means a secret, and kichi means a base in Japanese. For children, himitsu kichi means a secret fortress or a secret hiding place.

CT: Why did you decided to make a book a children’s secret fortresses?

DN: I remember the feeling of deep emotion at the moment when I heard the word “himitsu kichi.” It awakened many memories, colors and scenes of my childhood, which must have become obscure and may be a fantasy I felt as I have grown up. I was deeply moved. The sound of the word “hi mi tsu ki chi” excited my imagination. If children of today, especially those in a large city of Tokyo, are still creating himitsu kichi, I want to record them with photos.

CT: When you were young did you have a secret fortress?

DN: Yes, I did have a secret fortress when I was a child. I think it was certainly nothing great like the ones seen in my book. Yet, it must have been a precious and comfortable place.

CT: I really enjoy the drawings in the book, did do the drawings? Why did you decide to add these drawing to the book?

DN: Adding the drawings of maps was the idea of the editor of the book. The book is made up of a combination of a photo of a scene in which a secret fortress is hiding and that of the secret fortress itself. It seemed nice to add a drawing of a map for each scenic photo to show the place of a secret fortress and marking with X. We (the editor, the art director and I) discussed size and density of each map as well as its position to be put in a page. We had the designer redraw the drawings from my rough sketches. I am glad that you enjoy the drawings, which I also enjoy.

CT: Can you tell me what you are working on now?

In my usual activities, I always take a photo of whatever appeals to me. Photos of any genre; snaps, portraits, natural scenes, etc. I have recently been taking photos of “kids, children” and “scenes of Tokyo and its suburbs” a lot. I would be very happy if I could connect various photos I am taking with a theme as I have done in “hi mi tsu ki chi”.

You can find hi mi tsu ki chi here and here

and more images here

6 Replies to “Instax Interview: Daisaku Nishimiya”

  1. Daisaku Nishimiya also asked me:

    “Did you have a secret fortress when you were young? I would very much like to know.”

  2. This is such a cool photo project. I love it! I was into building forts in the forest when I was a kid. I had a secret fortress in the woods when I was a young girl. It had all kinds of cool “house” things that I took from home to make it cozy. I spent a tone of time there. There was a community of forts in the woods where I had mine. There was an unspoken rule that no one messed with other peoples forts. I don’t think that would happen these days.

  3. Question: How long did it take Daisaku to compile his series? You can’t just google “secret fortress” and get a listing of kids’ forts in your area (for the record I did google “secret fortress” and you get an eclectic mix of hits). It must have taken him a while to find these things. And just walking up to kids and asking “can I see your secret fortress?” sure sounds like a fast track to the police station. I’m curious how he approached this. It’s a clever idea.

    I can appreciate your feeling of illiteracy in Japan. I remember wandering the streets near the New Otani hotel (where I was staying). The shops at street level easy were enough to understand — just look through the window and you could pretty much determine the type of business. But the shops not at street level were simply baffling. There would be a sign on the street, which I couldn’t read, pointing up a narrow stairway. What’s up there? It could be anything. It’s a very unsettling feeling.

    1. Tom,

      That’s funny…”can I see your secret fortress”!

      From personal experience there was no way I was divulging the location of my “secret fortress”. First of all it was the way I got way from my family/parents and found sanity. I am intrigue now and want to read the book.

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