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Toyokazu Nagano is no ordinary photographer. Whereas most kinen shashinka, or commemorative photographers, will have their subjects don traditional attire and adopt the exact same poses as the hundreds of patrons before them, Nagano is instead on a mission to commemorate the moments in our lives that all too often go uncelebrated, building whimsical scenes around his subjects that let their true personalities shine out.

It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that the idea for setting up a portrait studio that celebrates life’s little moments and does away with the kimono, sombre expressions and set poses should have come from a series of genuinely adorable, laugh-out-loud-funny photos of his daughters taken on a place that quickly came to be known as the “Magic Road”…

Like so many parents, Toyokazu Nagano initially found himself taking photos as a means of documenting his children’s everyday lives. “I first started taking photos back in 2008,” he told RocketNews24, “right around the time my second daughter was born. The photos I took were surprisingly well received by my family, and before long I had become the family’s official cameraman.”

Not long after falling in love with photography, however, Nagano hit a wall. In an effort to level up, he had invested in a Pentax 67–a camera that, unlike his previous model, required completely manual operation. Rather than being able to snap more and better photos than before, he instead found himself completely unable to capture the little moments in his children’s lives like he had, the action already long over by the time he was ready to hit the shutter button.

Nagano’s unexpected demotion came as quite the blow, but it also inspired him to try something new. Rather than follow his kids around and try to capture fleeting moments as they happened, he resolved to create original scenes around them. Choosing a spot on a farm road in front of his family’s home, Nagano began snapping away, later sharing the photos he had taken online. To his surprise, the photos quickly caught the attention of thousands of net users and received enormous praise, with one foreign commenter writing that there was nothing ordinary about the road on which Nagano took his the photos–rather, this must be some kind of “magic road”.

We can’t help but agree.

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.01.07 PM“Street Fighter”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.01.19 PM“Mosh Under the Rainbow”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.01.43 PM“Expert of fireworks”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.02.01 PM“Coffee break”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.06.39 PM“Monopoly”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.06.58 PM“Party Popper”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.07.14 PM“Photogenic Headpin ‘Bring it On!!!!!!!!'”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.07.53 PM“Tokyo 2020 Candidate City”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.08.33 PM“Time for walkies!”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.10.04 PM“Hijack”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.10.22 PM“Fly Away”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.11.31 PM“~Graceful Japanese Woman~”

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.28.59 PM“Firefighter”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.11.54 PM“Good Morning Bazooka”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.12.14 PM“A Chorus of Frogs”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.13.01 PM“Big Sunny-Side Up Eggs!!!!”

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.38.15 PM“Photogenic desk lamp”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.14.01 PM“A Violent Wind”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.14.13 PM“Stalker”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.15.25 PM“If you’re always there, I don’t feel cold”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.16.02 PM“Baby’s first unsteady steps”

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.45.24 PM“Punk Rock #1”

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 4.19.50 PM“Punk Rock # 2”

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 2.33.51 PM“Jaws”

Already working as a professional photographer, Nagano plans to open his own portrait studio in March 2015, inviting people to come and document a part of their lives that traditionally one might not associate with commemorative photos. Promising to help patrons come up with ideas and ways to take a photo like no other, he welcomes those who want to celebrate that personal victory or a particularly sunny moment in their lives, from “the day you got full marks on a test” to the day “the day you reconciled with someone”.

In the meantime, you can enjoy more of Toyokazu Nagano’s fantastic work, or even ask him to come over and take your own photo, by heading over on his Flickr or Facebook pages. We’re certainly looking forward to having a commemorative photo taken with our own Mr. Sato the next time he crushes the competition at a speed eating contest!

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All photos © and published with the permission of Toyokazu Nagano