Scoop Photography Records

Fugendake of Mt. Unzen erupts, triggering a pyroclastic flow (June, 1991)

On the evening of June 3, 1991, a large pyroclastic flow was triggered on the Fugendake peak of Mt. Unzen in Nagasaki, claiming 43 lives. Reporter Ikitsugu Manako recorded the scene of fire fighters frantically escaping the flow. Meanwhile, photographer Tsugikazu Tainaka, of Photo News Department, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Osaka, unfortunately became one of the victims, swallowed up by the flow while covering the story in the mountains. Seven frames of film that captured the approaching flow remained in the camera that he carried with him. Manako's photos were carried on the front page of the morning edition on June 4, while Tainaka's were published on the third page of the morning edition on June 6. The photo sets from the two reporters, which conveyed the reality of the pyroclastic flow, and the fear it brought along with it, were awarded for excellent journalism by the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association in fiscal 1991.

Cell phone screens of victims of the JR Fukuchiyama Line accident (April, 2006)

On April 25, 2005, a train derailed on the Fukuchiyama Line in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, claiming the lives of 107 people. Almost one year after the accident in 2006, reporters from the Osaka headquarters' Photo News Department, hoping to keep the memories of the victims alive, visited the bereaved families and were given cell phones that some of the victims had been carrying at the time. Many messages from the screens of the cell phones were published in the April 19, 2006, evening edition. They not only gave testimony to the lives of the deceased, but also showed what was in their hearts. These photos won the 2006 Tokyo Press Photographers Association Award.

From the photographer

Takashi Ozaki
Takashi Ozaki
Photo News Department, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Osaka

After the JR Fukuchiyama Line derailment accident, I worried about how we could convey the tragedy of the accident and the grief felt for the victims and by their families. After covering the incident for around a year, I found that the cell phones of the children and husbands who became victims of the accident, along with the e-mails that were left behind with them, were safeguarded with care by the bereaved families. Even after the accident, family and friends would continue to send new e-mails to those cell phones.

I heard "voices" coming out of those message exchanges that were brimming with life. I realized that if readers could see those messages on the screens as they were, they would feel the grief that was felt for the victims. I also felt that readers would be able to sense the bonds that these cell phones represented from the pictures.

A pincer maneuver by Japan Coast Guard patrol boats on a Chinese boat trying to land on the Senkaku Islands (August, 2012)

On Aug. 15, 2012, activists from a nongovernmental organization from Hong Kong illegally landed on Uotsurijima of the Senkaku Islands, in an effort to convince the world that the islands belonged to China. Masataka Morita, a photographer in the Osaka headquarters Photo News Department, responded swiftly, using a company plane to rush to the site and cover the scene as the activists disembarked on Uotsurijima and waved a Chinese flag. After that, he continued his coverage in the surrounding waters as he captured Japan Coast Guard patrol boats forcing themselves along both sides of the activists' vessel, which ignored their warnings and kept on cruising, until finally the patrol boats were able to bring it to a stop. Even though the Senkaku Islands are the territory of Japan, their location far out at sea means it is rare for most Japanese people to get to see what actually happens in the defense of territorial waters. The Yomiuri Shimbun was the only newspaper that was successful in photographing the incident. The photo, which was published in the morning edition on Aug. 16, conveyed the tense moments on the territorial waters. Morita was recognized for his excellent photos in 2012 by The Kansai Press Photographers Association.

From the photographer

Masataka Morita
Masataka Morita
Assistant editor, Photo News Department, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Osaka

When word came in that the Hong Kong activists' ship had left port, I took off on the company jet. When I arrived at the scene, the activists were walking along a sand bar to disembark onto Uotsurijima. In another part of the ocean, two Japan Coast Guard patrol boats had sandwiched the activists' boat between themselves. I had to contain my excitement while photographing the scenes.

We had been able to create an appropriate coverage plan, utilizing information from the Tokyo headquarters on Hong Kong activists and information on police and coast guard activities sent from the Seibu headquarters in Fukuoka, on Kyushu. I think that it was a winning scoop for The Yomiuri Shimbun news network. I am sure that flying to distant places and covering news that our readers would not normally be able to witness, and then conveying it to them, is one of the most important parts of being a photojournalist, or any other job in the press.

Let us show you Japan's underlying strength! (July, 2013)

On the morning of July 22, 2013, at Minami-Urawa Station of the JR Keihin-Tohoku Line in Saitama, Saitama Prefecture, there was an incident in which a woman fell into the gap between the train and the platform as she got off the train, and became trapped. A photographer from the Tokyo headquarters Photo News Department happened to be on the same train and witnessed as other passengers and station staff used all their might to separate the train from the platform and widen the gap to rescue the woman. The photographer captured the moving scene, in which so many people came together to make sure the woman was rescued. The picture, which was carried on the city news page of that evening's edition of The Yomiuri Shimbun, was distributed throughout the world, and won the 2013 Tokyo Press Photographers Association Award.

From the photographer

Norihiro Shigeta
Norihiro Shigeta
Deputy editor, Photo News Department, The Yomiuri Shimbun

At that time, around 40 people got off the train and pushed the car, attempting to save the woman. I ran about five steps up a nearby stairway to photograph the scene of the car tilting as everyone heave-hoed, and became filled with emotion in spite of myself. After the rescue, the passengers got back on the train as if nothing had happened, and the train departed eight minutes behind schedule. The photo that was published in that day's evening edition was even distributed to foreign news agencies, and TV stations and newspapers around the world used it to report on this big-hearted rescue.

How passengers, who unexpectedly just happened to be at the scene of the accident, banded together and worked as one for a common cause, just because the necessity arose, is a perfect example of "Japan's underlying strength." More than anything else, I was delighted to convey this sentiment to the world.

A photo tells a story 70 years after the war: A submarine chaser sleeps at the bottom of the sea near Chichijima (January, 2015)

At the end of 2014, a Yomiuri Shimbun diving crew approached a former Imperial Japanese Navy submarine chaser that lay at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean near Chichijima of the Ogasawara Islands, far off Tokyo, since World War II. The submarine chaser, which remained mostly intact since it sank to more than 30 meters down, was mostly unknown to divers and the media, until the four cameramen, who were also nationally licensed marine divers, decided to attempt coverage of the wreck, based on information gathered from local fishermen. The picture was published, as the country approached 70 years since the war, in the Jan. 15, 2015, evening edition.

From the photographer

Yasunari Itayama
Yasunari Itayama
Assistant editor, Photo News Department, The Yomiuri Shimbun

I think that, along with recording the news of "now," properly reflecting on critical junctures in history is an important part of being a newspaper cameraman.

It was so quiet at the bottom of the ocean near Chichijima that it seemed like time had stopped there for 70 years since the war. In order to not disturb the sediment that had accumulated on the chaser, we slowly dove down, and when we got close to the bridge, I released the shutter. The image of the ship that was published is a recorded example of how we act as representatives of our readers when we go to places and capture things that they would not be able to witness with their own eyes. Those who experienced the war are getting fewer and fewer every year. I think that we were able to deliver a small fragment of the realities of war to our readers.

  • The affiliations of the reporters in charge, as well as their titles, are as of January, 2016.

Saved from Muddy Floodwaters (September 2015)

In the afternoon of Sept. 10, 2015, a Yomiuri Shimbun helicopter was hovering over Joso, Ibaraki Prefecture. The city was flooded by torrential rains. The pilot informed the photographer on board, Yoichi Hayashi, of the Photo News Department: "The water seems flooding further down the stream." The helicopter rushed to the scene and found a man holding tightly to a utility pole. He was nearly swept away in the flood, which had been caused by broken embankment. As Hayashi snapped photographs, he prayed for the man's life: "Help him quickly!" The photo that captured the life-threatening horror of the rampaging flood was published the next morning on the newspaper's city news page. It won the year's best shot award from the Tokyo Press Photographers Association in the general domestic news category.

From the photographer

Yoichi Hayashi
Yoichi Hayashi
The Photo News Department, The Yomiuri Shimbun

Muddy water had covered Joso city's entire center. One could not tell where the river ran. While I was flying in a helicopter over the inundated area, there was a new burst in the embankment a few kilometers ahead. Then I saw muddy water surge. Through my camera, I observed two men awaiting rescue. One was hanging onto a utility pole, another atop a car. Eventually, the two men were rescued by a Self Defense Force team which came in another helicopter. Later, at an emergency rescue center, one of our reporters has interviewed the man rescued from the utility pole. He told the reporter, "My eldest son climbed onto a car's rooftop but was swept away." It turned out that the two men I observed were a father and a son. The city of Joso is still reeling after being hit by the rainstorm disaster. I am now determined to continue to work side by side with those who are hit by calamity.