Capturing the Beauty of Wagasas with @atsuko12

For more photos and videos from Atsuko, follow @atsuko12 on Instagram.

"My first encounter with wagasas (Japanese umbrellas) was when I started working at a shop that sells them,” says Kyoto Instagrammer Atsuko (@atsuko12). “When I first held it in my hand, I was immediately drawn to the beauty of the traditional craftsmanship that shines through them.” For Atsuko, this was not only the beginning of a job, but the start of a mission to spread her passion for the umbrellas with their hand-carved handles and oil-paper tops.

Through her work, Atsuko came to discover the decline in the overall traditional craftwork industry and felt alarmed by it. “Currently, the number of artisans who produce the wagasas are decreasing, and they are aging with very few successors. There are only four stores left in Japan that specializes in selling them, of which three are in Kyoto. As much as we want to preserve these traditional crafts, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so.”

Atsuko decided to start a series on Instagram to express the elegance of wagasas and send this message to the world. “I want people in and outside of Japan to understand the beauty of the traditional umbrellas and familiarize them in people’s lives. That’s why in the photos of wagasas I share on Instagram, I like to intentionally go outside of the classic Japanese settings and arrange them in artistic or everyday scenes.”

Atsuko takes the wagasas to the historical and modernized districts of Kyoto, where she captures them in the seasonal landscape of the city or blending in with the surrounding architecture. “Most of the portraits with the red umbrellas are self portraits, but I also have friends and other Instagrammers who shoot me and model for me,” she says. The figures with the wagasas are often dressed in western clothing, fusing modern and traditional cultures. “When I shoot the wagasas, I always keep in mind to tell at least one interesting thing about it in each of the photos I take.”