Toyoko Tokiwa (常盤 とよ子 Tokiwa Toyoko, 1930) is a Japanese photographer best known for her 1957 book of text and photographs Kiken na Adabana (危険な毒花), and particularly for its portrayal of the red-light district of post-occupation Yokohama, with US servicemen.
Toyoko Tokiwa (常盤 刀洋子) was born in Yokohama on 15 January 1930. (As a photographer, she would later spell „toyo“ in hiragana rather than the original characters.) Her family ran a liquor wholesaler at Kanagawa-dōri 4-chōme in Yokohama, where she lived until it was burnt down in the American firebombing of 29 May 1945, an event in which her father sustained fatal burns. Her elder brother had used a Rolleicord camera and a darkroom, and this combined with a desire to work among men led Tokiwa to want to work as a photographer, even before she had used a camera herself.
She graduated from Tokyo Kasei-Gakuin (the predecessor of Tokyo Kasei-Gakuin Junior College) in 1951. Tokiwa started work as an announcer but dreamt of being a photographer instead, joining the women-only Shirayuri Camera Club (白百合カメラクラブ, Shirayuri Kamera Kurabu); she was influenced by the realism of Japanese photography at the time (led by Ken Domon).
Some of Tokiwa’s earliest photographs are of Ōsanbashi, the pier in Yokohama at which American ships docked and that was thus the site of emotional partings and reunions of American military families. She was able to photograph close up without attracting any comment, and greatly enjoyed the work. But she quickly moved to her main interest, working women. Despite an initial hatred of the American military, prompted in particular by her father’s death, and revulsion at prostitution, she simply invited herself into the akasen (red-light area) of Yokohama, asked the girls whether she might photograph, and was accepted.
Tokiwa would later marry an amateur photographer, Taikō Okumura (奥村泰宏, 1914-1995) — whose photography of postwar Japan appears with hers in a 1996 book — and work as both housewife and photojournalist.
She is a member of the Japan Professional Photographers Society and chairs the Kanagawa Prefectural Photographers Association (神奈川県写真作家協会, Kanagawa-ken shashin-sakka kyōkai).
In 1956 Tokiwa held an exhibition titled Hataraku Josei (働く女性, Working women) at the Konishiroku Photo Gallery (Tokyo) that won high acclaim. The exhibition showed pro wrestlers, models, ama, nurses and prostitutes.
In 1957, her book Kiken na Adabana (危険な毒花, literally „Dangerous toxic/fruitless flowers“), was published by Mikasa Shobō. Its text is divided into three parts:
Each of these is further subdivided into short essays. The text is in the first person and often about Tokiwa herself: the (composite) cover photograph and the photograph in the frontispiece both show Tokiwa holding a Canon rangefinder camera, in a period when photography was very much a male pursuit in Japan.
The text of the book is interrupted by four sections of photographs, taken between 1952 and 1957 (captions and technical data appear on pp. 242–241). There is a title on the first photograph of each; these are:
Kōtarō Iizawa calls the book „the strongest, most compassionate work by female photographer of that era.“
From 1962 to 1965 Tokiwa produced the television series Hataraku Josei-tachi (働く女性たち, Working women).
Tokiwa photographed around US military bases in Yokosuka (1958) and the Ryūkyū islands (1960), the Soviet Union (1974, and Taiwan and Malaysia (1975–80). Since 1985, she has worked on issues involving the elderly.
No book has yet (early 2010) been devoted to the later work of Tokiwa, but from the 1950s until the 1970s her work appeared in the magazines Asahi Camera, Camera Mainichi, Nippon Camera, Sankei Camera, and Shashin Salon.
In November 2010, when she spoke (on the 23rd) to the Japan Professional Photographers Society’s 60th anniversary photo exhibition „Women“ in Yokohama to an audience of about a hundred on her early days as a photographer, she was living in Yokohama and working on photographing people with Alzheimer’s disease.
In 1967 Tokiwa joined a committee choosing work for exhibition by Kanagawa Prefecture, and in 1987 she taught at Fujisawa Bunka Sentā (Fujisawa, Kanagawa).
In 1957, Tokiwa joined Tōmatsu, Narahara and others in the first exhibition of Jūnin no Me (10人の目, The Eyes of Ten). Until 1960, Tokiwa presented her work in several exhibitions, at least once together with Hisae Imai.
The 3rd Month of Photography Tokyo showcased a variety of photograph exhibitions at various galleries in Tokyo in 1998. The main theme was „The Eye of Women Photographers“ (Josei Shashinka no Manazashi), and it exhibited photographs by Tokiwa and other established Japanese women photographers of the 1945–1997 period.
Tokiwa joined the Yokohama Photo Triangle exhibition in 2009, held as a part of the 150th anniversary of the opening of the port of Yokohama, where she also organized a civic participation program.