Photographer, Visual Artist
1828 – 1903
Who was Ichiki Shirō?
Ichiki was born in Satsuma Province in Kyūshū on the 24th of December 1828. Ichiki Shirō then went on to study the production of gunpowder at the Takashima-ryū School of Gunerry. His talent was recognized by Shimazu Nariakira, the daimyō of Satsuma; he selected Ichiki to be one of his own personal retainers.
In 1848, Daimyo Shimazu obtained the first daguerreotype camera ever imported into Japan. Fascinated by Western technology, he ordered his retainers to study the camera and produce working photographs. Due to the limitations of the lens used and Ichiki's lack of formal training, it took many years for a quality photograph to be created. On 17 September 1857, Ichiki created a portrait of Shimazu in formal attire. All these events were recorded in detail in Ichiki's memoirs, which were compiled in 1884. This photograph became an object of worship in the Shokoku Shrine after Shimazu's death, but it later went missing. Lost for a century, the daguerreotype was discovered in a warehouse in 1975 and was later determined to be the oldest daguerreotype in existence that was created by a Japanese photographer. The photograph was designated an Important Cultural Property by the government of Japan in 1999 and was the first such photograph to be preserved.