What’s in Your Kit? The Shell Collector Cinematographer Akiko Ashizawa

For our series “What’s in Your Kit?,” we ask a range of working cinematographers to share the gear they can’t live without.

Born in Tokyo in 1951, Akiko Ashizawa is regarded as the most accomplished female cinematographer in Japanese film history, honored with the prestigious Ministry of Education Award for Artistic Excellence (Geijutsu Sensho Monbudaijinsho). She is best known for her work on the films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, including Cannes winners Journey to the Shore and Tokyo Sonata, as well as Loft, Real and Penance. Her other works include Chronicle of My Mother, directed by Masato Harada, for which she received the Japanese Academy Award for Best Cinematography. She recently shot three films presented at Japan Cuts 2016: Mohican Comes Home, directed by Shuichi Okita, Sayonara, directed by Koji Fukada, and The Shell Collector, directed by Yoshifumi Tsubota, which was the festival’s Centerpiece Presentation.

Three 2016 films shot by Ashizawa: (clockwise from top) The Shell Collector, Mohican Comes Home and Sayonara

Here, Ashisawa reveals what’s in her kit (translated from Japanese by Eric Nyari).


My motto as a cinematographer is to give specific expression to the image in the head of the director, no matter who that director may be. In this year’s Japan Cuts, for example, I was responsible for shooting films for three very different directorial personalities, and I think that I was able to extract the individual charm of each one of them. Outside of my life in film, I try to be in contact as much as possible with art and culture. I am especially conscious of studying the Japanese classical arts, and the Rinpa school of Japanese painting from the beginning of the Edo Period forms the root of my creative work. The particularly Japanese sense of light is what I endeavor to reflect on film.

The Kit

1. Camera Bag

This is the camera bag that I have been using for 30 years. It is always with me in the world. It’s handmade, from a small shop in Aoyama, Tokyo, and durable, holding everything from measuring devices to more stylish goods.

2. Spectra Cine Professional IV-A Digital Exposure Meter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I like it for its simplicity.

3. Angle Finder

 Taiwanese-made and compact. An exceptional product that can respond to any sizing.

4. File with Aesthetic References

A clear file containing the signature work of my beloved Tawaraya Sōtatsu of the Rinpa school: Picture of Wind and Thunder Gods (Fujin Raijin-zu). When I see this, courage comes pouring out. MM

For more cinematographers sharing their annotated kits, click here.