An Exploration of the Scarcity of Asian Images in Morimura Yasumasa’s Oeuvre, 1991–2010

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Of the several hundred images Morimura Yasumasa (b. 1951, Osaka) produced thus far, only three represent Asian men: Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Zedong and Eddie Adams photograph of “the shooting on Saigon street.” While the Vietnamese image is famous for photographic and political implications, the two Asian leaders, were famous and influential. Quetioning why did Morimura create such a small number of Asian figures, and the possible meaning of this absence in relation to Japanese Orientalism and racism, within the context of Japan's position in the global context and its relations with Asia. Using Iwabuchi's concept of “Trans-Asia”, and Stefan Tanaka's writings in “Japan's Orient”, I position Morimura's work in this context. I argue that Morimura's numerous representations of Western icons is part of Japan’s dedication to following Western values, as part of the long process, from Meiji Restoration onwards, in which through the association with Western values, Japan alienates Asia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-590
Number of pages22
JournalThird Text
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021


  • Ayelet Zohar
  • colonial mimicry
  • contemporary Japanese photography
  • Eddie Adams
  • Japanese Orientalism
  • Mahatma Gandhi (portrait)
  • Mao Zedong (Mao Tsetong毛泽东) (portrait)
  • Margaret Bourke-White
  • Morimura Yasumasa
  • re-enactment
  • Requiem to the 20 Century series
  • Zhang Zhenshi (Chang Chenshih 张振仕) (painter)
  • Contemporary Photography
  • Japanese visual culture
  • Japanese Photography


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