K A T S U M I   W A T A N A B E

Katsumi Watanabe (b. 1941-2006) was an itinerant portrait photographer working primarily in Shinjuku in Tokyo. Gangs of Kabukicho reproduces 155 photographs taken in the 60s and 70s in the blue light district of Shinjuku called Kabukicho. The title of the book reflects the title of his first book published in 1973 called simply The Gangs of Shinjuku.

The subjects in Watanabe's photographs are the prostitutes, street people, Drag Queens, entertainers and gangsters (Yakuza) that populated Kabukicho at night. Essentially, Watanabe made his living by selling the photographs to his subjects. He would offer three prints for 200 yen. A modest gentleman, Watanabe had a keen sensitivity to the natural posturing of his subjects which allowed them to uninhibitedly reveal their identities. He saw Kabukicho as a stage; his photographs documented the performers.

KW 164, 1965

KW 164, 1965