CAMP ZAMA, Japan — When Toshiaki Shibuya was given the task of creating a large-scale photo exhibit, the two words in the advice he received that appealed most to the self-proclaimed creator were “total freedom.”
In 2019, extensive renovations began at Camp Zama Community Club, with upgrades to its ballroom, dining rooms, sports bar, karaoke room, and more. As the project progressed, club management realized that the walls, although recently redone, were bare.
An archive of 200 photos of Camp Zama’s past, dating back to the 1930s when it was the site of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy, was given to Shibuya, a commercial artist assigned to the Visual Information Division here. The request was for the photos to be turned into 10 collages, and Shibuya was given full creative control to decide the theme and final design for each.
“It was a unique experience to delve into the colorful history of Camp Zama, which I knew nothing about, and to have complete freedom to create the displays using the photos,” Shibuya said.
From an early age, Shibuya seemed destined for a job in design. He started drawing pictures when he was only 3 years old and said it was his dream to work in a creative field. He studied design at university and worked for an architectural firm before being hired by VID in 1993.
He knew the collage project would be a huge undertaking when he started working on it two years ago, especially since his job requires him to complete multiple design projects simultaneously. He started by sorting the photos into different time periods and themes, and scanned them into his computer to begin the layout process.
“I had to make sure all of those photos were accurate, which meant I couldn’t edit or Photoshop the images,” Shibuya said. “There were some blurry photos that I needed to fix, but I spent the most time figuring out the best way to display the photos for club patrons to enjoy.”
Rick Bosch, director of Camp Zama’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, calls the community club the facility’s “crown jewel” due to its central location on base and the many amenities it offers, which s appeal to all demographic groups. Therefore, the club was the perfect place to present the Camp Zama story to the widest possible audience, he said.
Bosch decided with Garrison management that the collages, with their emphasis on “the old”, combined with the contemporary look of the redesigned club, would bring “incredible synergy”.
“Even though we are modernizing our infrastructure, at the same time we wanted to pay homage to the history of Camp Zama,” Bosch said.
The collages were hung on the walls shortly after Shibuya completed the project earlier this year, coinciding with the near completion of the club’s renovations. Now, regardless of which entrance customers use, they encounter the displays as soon as they enter.
The photos have changed the dynamics of the club and help tell the story of Camp Zama, “almost as if you were in an art museum”, Bosch said.
“[Shibuya’s work] exceeded our expectations,” Bosch said. “It really brings life to the club.”
The club has already received positive feedback on the collages since they were hung. The legacy of Shibuya’s work, and the enjoyment the community derives from it, will remain for many years to come, Bosch said.
For Shibuya’s efforts, Bosch presented him with a commemorative MWR coin at the club on September 2. customer request.
“I love being a creator,” Shibuya said. “I must say that this project was at the top of my list of those I have done in my 30-year career.”
Shibuya paid close attention to every detail while working on the project, so he said he was very happy to know that Bosch and the club staff were happy with the end result, and that the club’s customers were also happy. positively commented.
“I’m very lucky to have this job because I can do what I love and make the customer happy at the same time,” Shibuya said. “I hope people will take a moment to look at the photos. It would be even better if they could find out the story behind each one.