What Is Photo Town Higashikawa?

Higashikawa Town is located in central Hokkaido, northernmost of Japan, and is a part of Japan’s largest national park “Daisetsuzan National Park” with Higashikawa’s eastern part forming a large-scale forest. Blessed with natural beauty, lots of places in Higashikawa have been the subjects of many photographs.

Higashikawa, firstly cultivated by a group of settlers in 1895, has a shorter history compared to that of photography invented in 1839. Higashikawa declared the “Town of Photography” in 1985 aiming to create a town of “being a good subject to be photographed” co-existing with beautiful nature inhabited by many species of animals and plants.

Higashikawa established the Higashikawa Awards in the same year and started the annual summer festival of photography with the idea of contributing to and fostering photographic culture as well as raising the cultural consciousness of Higashikawa residents. With a history of more than a quarter of a century, it has been the nation’s prestigious photography awards and the longest-running photography festival.

Higashikawa awards can also be noted in that it has rewarded overseas outstanding photographers such as Joel Sternfeld, Lewis Baltz and Jan Saudek as well as domestic photographers and introduced them to Japan. Through this, we meet people from abroad and exchange with them. By doing so, we believe we can entrust prayer for peace and our dreams to the future generation.

Higashikawa International Photo Festival

The Higashikawa International Photo Festival is organized annually to vitalize the town of Higashikawa, transforming it into a “photo town” according to the concepts outlined in the “Photo Town Manifesto.” Devoted to photography and people who love photography, it provides a yearly focus for the activities of Higashikawa’s citizens and suggests new directions for the future.

This festival is based on three main relationships, the relationships between photography and nature, photography and people, and photography and culture. Treating the field of photography as broadly as possible – from art photography to popular culture and recreational photography – it emphasizes expansion of possibilities in the world of photography and aims at contributing to international communication and culture through photography.

The entire festival lasts approximately one month with the main attractions being concentrated in a briefer period from the end of July through the beginning of August. The central event is the presentation of the Higashikawa Photography Awards but a variety of additional activities are planned to bring about fruitful encounters with photography. The many events include an exhibition and symposium for the award recipients, parties where it is possible to meet photographers, the Independent Photography Exhibition and portfolio review (which has become known as a launching pad for the careers of young photographers), the Street Photo Gallery involving photography fans and college students, and collaborations between photography and music.

Other exhibitions and workshops are scheduled before and after the main events, including photography lessons that encourage observation of nature, photography lectures for townspeople and amateurs, and citizens’ photography exhibition. This broad-ranging series of events and programs effectively conveys the fascination of photography to visitors and residents of Higashikawa. Another special program is Photography Koshien, a photography contest for high school photography clubs throughout Japan. With support from their local communities, high school students gather from all over the country and enthusiastically compete with each other in taking photographs in Hokkaido.