Watabe Yukichi: A Criminal Investigation

Watabe Yukichi: A Criminal Investigation

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On 13 January 1958, the grotesquely disfigured body of a man was discovered near Lake Sembako in Japan. Two investigators from Tokyo came to help the local police in resolving what at first appeared to be a banal case, but which soon proved to be something more complicated. For the first time, a photographer was authorized to accompany the police to document the investigation.

Press photographer Watabe Yukichi (1924–1993) followed the inspectors as they questioned witnesses (workers in a tannery factory, local police officers) and pounded the streets of the most insalubrious neighborhoods in Tokyo--its bars, bridges, alleyways and hospitals--in search of the killer. Like the haunted film stills of a newly discovered noir classic, Watabe’s images record much more than simply a police investigation, and reveal a Tokyo of the 1950s in a way that has rarely been depicted.