House of Beyond meets one of Japan’s top mountain photographers Takahiro Nakanishi
I first met Taka over two decades ago, back when Wanaka (New Zealand) was still a village and not the town it is today. Back then he was a talented young snowboarder today he is one of Japan’s top mountain photographers. He takes time out from preparing for his winter season to talk to House of Beyond.
Which magazines and brands have you worked with?
Mostly ‘Bravo Ski’, ‘Freeskiing’ and ‘Fall Line’, these are all Japanese. Also sometimes I have worked with Freerun (Japanese), The Ski Journal (USA), The Snowboard Journal (USA), Powder (USA), Downdays and Fall-Line in Europe. Also, I have some support from F-stop for camera bags, LEVEL gloves, Fullon Eyewear and Hertel Wax for ski & snowboard. I’m a ‘behind the scene’ guy and there is not much chance to show their kit in public. I really appreciate their support for my style as well as all of their support for everyone in the Japanese division.
Do it for love not money
Do you have any advice for young photographers?
Do it for love not money. I haven’t been successful money-wise so not sure I can offer good advice.
Who are you shooting photographs with?
Takaya Maeda, Hirofumi Ishikawa and Hidemitsu Okada. These three guys give me a lot of chances to get in magazines. Also Tatsuya Tayagaki who is quite famous, particularly with foreign ski filming teams. He coordinates their trips in Japan, but actually he is an magazine editor and good skier, too. Plus any friends of mine.
Can you talk us through your best photograph?
It’s difficult to answer personally. Each person gets something different from them. I hope my photos make people feel comfy, happy, motivated and calm. I’m not much into an aggressive vibe.
Alta in Norway was amazing. Fjord ski touring almost every night was incredible…
What was your best trip?
First visiting New Zealand about 23 years ago (Two years before I met you in Wanaka). To visit my friend for three weeks when I was a student. Every second I felt or I saw such beautiful and impressive moments. I wanted to stop and look around at everything -shopping, food, meeting new friends, amazing landscapes …stunning.
For my photography, Alta in Norway was amazing, too. From the plane to Fjord ski touring almost every night was incredible. We saw the aurora every night. We went ski touring in the wilds in really gusty weather with this tough viking-ski guide. It was just amazing.
Are you traveling overseas this year?
I hope so. Hopefully heading to USA for X-Games with a magazine, and maybe a second one could be great if I can go. Canada or somewhere in Europe would be superb!
Which photographers with do you admire?
Steve Ogle, from Canada. His photography is always full of nature. Not much re-touching or post-production. I always admire his photos and how he chooses angles, colour, model, settings etc. He is a great outdoors man and exactly my image of a true Canadian.
Where are you based at the moment?
I live in Tokoname city in Aichi prefecture. No mountains around here, no snow and so not many skier / snowboarder friends. But I grew up here so it’s home. I’ve look for a new place, but I haven’t found one so far.
During winter, I live in my small van and just drive around wherever there is good snow conditions or wherever my friends suggest for shooting. I usually go to Hokkaido for the first half of winter, then drive down south afterward. Along the way I drop in at some mountains to see local friends in Iwate, Niigata, Nagano, Toyama, etc. So, I’m a hobo for about five months during winter.
How’s the ski season in Japan so far? Are you expecting a good year?
It’s a very slow start here, so far. But this weekend we are getting a cold front and I can see good footage on friend’s SNS. I will start my winter trip/driving in a week.
I hope we will have good snow winter as usual. But as long as we have snow, I really don’t care about JaPow these days. I just want to be in amongst nature, feel it and take photos.
Geto Kogen is lots of fun powder skiing in a not-so-big ski resort.
Most of us know about the powder of Niseko in Hokkaido but where else do you recommend we check out in Japan?
Depends on if you prefer deep snow first or Japanese culture first. Nozawa Onsen seems quite good for experiencing culture. If not, it might be too Japanesey for some.
At Tohoku, Iwate, there is Geto Kogen. They have lots of snow all the time. It’s not so easy to get there, but not too hard. Lots of fun powder skiing in a not-so-big ski resort.
Is the mountain vibe different in Japan than other places?
Our mountain’s trees looks mellower than rocky faces or Canadian big trees, they look quite aggressive.
What’s your favourite mountain snacks?
Rice ball for lunch and Muesli bars with chocolate, and Calorie Mate for a little break.
Ramen, Soba or udon?
What are your plans for the future?
Play soccer as much as I can, to keep my body moving, which helps my skiing photography.
Any dream trips coming up?
Shooting some trips with Japanese crews overseas. I’ve met many crews from other countries in Japan, but not many Japanese crew overseas.
What are your plans for the weekend?
Packing for the winter driving trip, changing tires for winter, wash my car carefully by hand (i just prefer it that way).