“We aren’t American. We aren’t Japanese. We are Bonin Islanders!”
— Stanley Minami, quoted in “The Bonin Islanders”
The Bonin Islands are an archipelago several hundred kilometers south of Japan’s largest island of Honshu. Lacking an airport, it takes 24 hours by boat to reach the islands from Tokyo. The archipelago used to be uninhabited for a long time (the name “Bonin Islands” goes back to the Japanese word for “uninhabited”), until a few Westerners and Pacific Islanders settled here in the early 19th century. The history of the islands is short but complicated.
In the late 2000s, Japanese photographer Shinichiro Nagasawa came across an old photograph in a travel magazine showing European- or American-looking people wearing kimonos. Intrigued by the archipelago’s history – something he hadn’t learned about in school – Nagasawa felt an urgent need to visit the islands and photograph its inhabitants.
His book “The Bonin Islanders” explores the complex history of these islands as well as questions of identity, culture, nationality and independence through earnest interest, curiosity and warmth.
“Nagasawa’s persistence in building meaningful relationships with the islanders and his developing understanding of their history and identity started a virtuous cycle that allowed him to create richer and more authentic portraits of people and the places that hold meaning for them.”
— from Harvard Art Museum director David Odo’s essay (included as an afterword in the book)
All texts included in Japanese and English.