tsuneko sasamoto female photojournalist

At age 25 Tsuneko Sasamoto became Japan’s first female photojournalist. At 101 she’s still active today.

In 1940, at the age of 25, Tsuneko Sasamoto became Japan’s first female photojournalist. Originally an aspiring painter, Sasamoto was coaxed into the male-dominated field by a friend who thought she had a good eye for imagery. And as fate would have it, Sasamoto found herself covering events like a 1940 German military visit to Japan, the Tripartite Pact sighing (between Japan, Germany and Italy) also in 1940 and the anti-Japan – U.S. Security Treaty demonstrations in 1960.

Now, at 101, Sasamoto is still taking photographs with her Leica camera. What keeps her going? “Curiosity.”

tsuneko sasamoto female photojournalist

left: a military exchange service in Ginza (1946) | right: Satoko Kitahara (1953)

tsuneko sasamoto female photojournalist

the Hiroshima Genpatsu Dome photographed in 1952

“Put positively, it’s curiosity,” says Sasamoto in an interview last month explaining what has kept her going all these years. “Even though I’m scared I still want to go; I don’t want to see it, but I do.” I want to capture this world that we live in and show it to people who aren’t aware.” In fact, ‘Curious Girl’ has become somewhat of a moniker for Sasamoto, and is occasionally used on the cover of her photobooks.

tsuneko sasamoto female photojournalist

left: Mitsui Miike labor dispute (1960) | Soya Antarctic research vessel (1956)

tsuneko sasamoto female photojournalist

journalist and historian Tokutomi Sohō (1957)

But that doesn’t mean she’s only been taking photos for the last 75 years. In 1970, when several of her employers when under Sasamoto tried her hand at flower arrangements and tailoring clothes in order to make ends meet. But an exhibition of her photography in 1985 reignited her career.

Sasamoto is currently working on a new book of floral photographs that reflects on the friends and acquaintances that she’s outlived. A retrospective of her work will be on display at O Art Museum in Tokyo from October 16 – November 11, 2015 and then again from November 14 – December 13, 2015 at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa.

tsuneko sasamoto female photojournalist

Women were invited to a female-only viewing of a strip show in Asakusa (1952) to see what it was all about

tsuneko sasamoto female photojournalist

politician and leader of the Japan Socialist Party Inejiro Asanuma (1955)

tsuneko sasamoto female photojournalist

left: Hitler Youth visiting Japan (1940) | right: author Chiyo Uno (1990)

tsuneko sasamoto female photojournalist

the wrestler Riki Dozan (1954)