Fukushima Samurai

Fukushima Samurai

Books Kinokuniya is pleased to welcome photographer Noriko Takasugi to Wedge Gallery as part of the 2018 Head On Photo Festival


The Samurai warriors portrayed here were once residents in the area close to the FukushimaDaiichi nuclear plant.  They are no longer allowed to live there*. Each of them stands firmly with their subtle but impressive expression at sites in their hometown that had a personal meaning for them.

Since 2011, I have devoted my time to capturing the survivors of 3.11.  These photos are part of my long-term project that differs from the major news stories or other projects about the disaster, having been investigating the evacuees not as victims, but as part of a 1000 years old folk culture of the area and representative of Japanese identity, examining how they are surviving and fighting their fate to retain their sense of self.

Soma Nomaoi is an annual celebration of Samurai culture in Fukushima that is more than 1000 years old.  About 1600 people died in Fukushima due to 3.11, Most of them were from the area where the Soma Nomaoi is held.  Despite the harsh conditions, the majority of surviving Nomaoi Samurai warriors agreed to hold the gathering in 2011, just a few months after the disaster.

This series of portraits serve as a study in identity and human resilience. At the same time, it represents the current relationship between the land and the people as well as between tradition and modern technology.

What continues to live on when something is lost? What choices do we make and what sacrifices?

My life is a tapestry and an accumulation of the decisions I make everyday about what is important for me. The more I listened their story, spend time with them, and took photo of them, the more I became to feel that I am taking self-portraits of myself.



*As of July 2016, the evacuation order issued by the government that had been in place for five years and four months was lifted for Odaka district, and it became possible for residents to return to their homes, where most of samurai in my work lived before the disaster.  However, most of residents, especially young people, are not able to go back there immediately due to many reasons, such as anxious of radiation, children’s school life, jobs for living, insufficient infrastructure, after more than 5 years since they left Odaka.  Many other places where had been released have same situation now.

– Noriko Takasugi, 2018

Fukushima Samurai is part of the 2018 Head On Photo Festival program. To find out more about the festival and check out their full program, visit their website

Noriko’s photobook for background of Fukushima Samurai is online


Noriko Takasugi

Born in Japan, currently based in Tokyo and Fukushima.  Graduated with an MA in Photojournalism & Documentary Photography from London College of Communication, University of the Arts London.  Her major theme has been identity and she has always been fascinated with connecting with people whose culture is strongly tied to the land.

Her work has been highly acclaimed and exhibited widely in UK, US, France, Russia, Malaysia, China, and Japan.  Invited to present at Xie Zilong Photography Museum in 2018 in China, at Photoquai Biennale 2015 held at the musee du quai Branly in Paris, at the Asian Women Photographersʼ Showcase 2014 in Malaysia, as well as received an award at Konica Minolta Photo Premio 2014 etc. Her portrait of Yayoi Kusama allowed her to become one of the finalists for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 in London.
Published in many media including Harper’s Bazaar, The Sunday Telegraph, Independent, Le Monde, Time, Wired.com, and The Asahi Shimbun.

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