Interviewed from “ZOOM magazine”

by Satomi Itai

Born in Tokyo in 1972, Tsunaki Kuwashima, who was then studying in London about PV production and advertising know-how, encountered a video in 1999.
The video displayed the images of “bullfighting” in Japan. Kuwashima thought, “I should not be wasting my time staying outside Japan ! “
Stunned by the video, Kuwashima moved back to Japan. He was drawn into bull-fighting, dogfighting, and cockfighting, events which excite everyone in the vil- lage, from children to the elderly, and entered into the depths of the world of primitive “ vermilion “ and its beautiful spirit.

This year, Kuwashima published a book of photographs titled “ Shuan “ (fighting dance in vermilion)that is comprised of photographs he has taken over seven years.
Kuwashima boldly and directly shows in the book, without reason, logic, or intrusiveness, the simple and unversal truth that “ To live is to fight”, through capturing tenaciously fighting animals, the proud people involved in such fights, boxers, and scenes of childbirth.

Zoom: I assume that people’s reactions to your photographs differ : some are glued to your photographs, while some have an aversion to them.

Perhaps half and half, I think. I do not mind if some people have an aversion to my photographs. I would rather hope some feel that way.(Laugh)If someone sees my photographs and says, “Poor thing ! “ or “ Animal cruelty ! “ and then, gets home and goes to bed without feeding their pets, that would be more scary, really. There are a lot of contradictions like that in the world around us, aren’t there ? I think that ideas about what is love are the issue.

ZOOM: What is “ fighting “ for you ? What attracts you to it ?

At the very moment when we were one in the hundreds of millions to be born into the world, our days of fighting or competition start.Yet, in a world without any frills at all, such as blood verses blood, or instinct verses instinct, something are conveyed in a very straightforward manner.Fighters are the chosen ones.Some bulls are chosen to fight and the rest are not. It is already decided at the genetic level.(the same applies to dogs and cocks. Nishikigoi, ornamental carp, are sorted out when they are fry.)It is the same for humans: the fighter’s blood in them naturally stirs to fight. To become a champion among those fighters is really something. I think that people are drawn to the fighter’s instinct to live and protect something important, as well as, to the simple world of raw clashes.

ZOOM: Animal fights exist all over the world. Are Japanese animal fights unique ?

In Latin America where gambling is more widespread, many people think of a fighting animal as a tool. In Japan, spirituality is emphasized no matter what hap- pens. The relationship of complete trust between an owner and his or her animal, respect for the opponent, gestures valuing courtesy, and the sense of tension loke sacred ceremony are very unique to Japanese fighting. Our Japanese ancestors, who believed living in harmony was a virture, have expressed themselves through that uniqueness since early times. As such, Japan’s time-honored and unique aesthetic feelings are worth watching carefully.