World Press Photo of the Year, prize singles
Technical information & keywords
KeywordsAsanuma, Inejirō, 1898-1960 speeches Hibiya Hall (Tokyo, Japan) Students Yamaguchi, Otoya, 1943-1960 Assassination Murder Assassins Murderers Politicians
On 12 October 1960, about 3,000 people attended a political rally in Hibiya Hall in Tokyo, jointly organized by the ruling Liberal-Democratic party, the Socialist Party and the Democratic Socialists. At the moment of the assault, Inejiro Asanuma, leader of the Socialist Party, was giving a speech in which he attacked the Japanese government for its mutual defense treaty with the US (Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the United States of America). The ratification of this pact on 23 June 1960 caused serious upheaval among left-wing politicians and their supporters. Hibiya Hall was full of reporters, TV crews and photographers (15 including Nagao), when a young man, later identified as Otaya Yamaguchi, stepped forward on the stage and stabbed Asanuma. New York Times correspondent Richard J.H. Johnston, described the event, ‘While the meeting was going on, Yamaguchi burst upon the stage, shouted an incomprehensible slogan and twice thrust a one-foot blade into the chest of the Socialist leader. Mr. Asanuma sank to the floor. He died before reaching a nearby hospital. The youth was pinned under a swarm of political leaders and their aides.’ Otaya Yamaguchi was later identified as an 18-year-old student at the Daito Culture University in Tokyo, and a member of an ultra-nationalistic group, the Greater Japan Patriotic party. Three weeks after the assassination of Asanuma and his arrest, Yamaguchi hung himself in his cell.
Yasushi Nagao about making the photo in a 2005 interview for World Press Photo’s 50th anniversary: ‘It was an incident that happened while I was covering the campaign speech in a joint meeting of three political leaders, for the general election in 1960. Because it was so all of a sudden, only three photographers out of around 25, who were there, were able to take the shot. Because my view was blocked by a big table on the podium, I moved two or three steps to my left, and it was at that moment that Chairman Asanuma of the Japan Socialist Party and the criminal, as if jostling with one another, appeared, so I snapped with my camera. Later on, some people not having enough knowledge of photography had said it was the difference between using a strobe and a flash, but comparing the photographs taken by the three photographers, apparently there is a difference in the composition. I was in the right position and caught the right timing of this moment.’ About winning the World Press Photo of the Year (2005 interview for World Press Photo’s 50th anniversary): ‘Around 1958-59, I was in charge of covering the news of VIPs that entered and left the country at Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), so I had the chance of having contact with foreigners almost every day. At the time, however, traveling abroad was still a dream for individuals. In spring 1961, due to receiving the prize from The Overseas Press Club of America, I was able to visit the United States, and in autumn 1961, I was also invited to the Netherlands to receive the award from World Press Photo. The dream had become true … The Leica M2 was given to me as a prize, and I have used it for more than forty years as my favorite camera. Receiving the World Press Photo award was a monumental moment for me, particularly at the age of 31, when I was still young. I consider myself very fortunate.’
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