Hata occupies a much-deserved place in the ranks of the great Japanese photographers—on par with the likes of Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki—yet he achieved this rank not by following the example of these greats, but via the presentation of his own unique view of a slice of Japanese culture that otherwise remains largely undocumented. Gay life and culture in Japan remains mostly secretive, and tends to take place within the safe confines of gay bars and gay districts that are many times hidden in plain view within the entertainment districts of major urban centers. A passionate and intimate portrayal of the gender-bending performers as they cavort, both on and off the stage, Hata exposes this elusive subculture for the entire world to see. The results are campy and combustible images of drag performers going full tilt. Glitter, glamour, sequins, and seediness are all on display, up-close and unrestrained.
Including an essay on Hata’s photographs—and the world they examine—The Night Is Still Young captures and contextualizes drag culture in Japan at the turn of the century, and is the ultimate primary-source document of this otherwise obscure scene.