Graphic artist designs large-scale photo collages to showcase Camp Zama history

Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo
Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo

Graphic artist designs large-scale photo collages to showcase Camp Zama history

by Noriko Kudo
U.S. Army

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – When Toshiaki Shibuya was entrusted with the task of creating a large-scale photo display, the two words in the guidance he received that appealed most to the self-described creative were “complete freedom.”

In 2019, comprehensive renovations began at the Camp Zama Community Club, with improvements made to its ballroom, dining rooms, sports bar, karaoke room, and more. As the project continued, club management realized that the walls, though newly redone, were bare.

An archive of 200 photos from Camp Zama’s past, dating back as far as the 1930s when it was the site of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy, were given to Shibuya, a commercial artist assigned to the Visual Information Division here. The request was for the photos to be made into 10 collages, and Shibuya was given total creative control to decide the theme and final design of each one.


One of the 10 photo collages that Toshiaki Shibuya, a commercial artist assigned to the Visual Information Division here, created for display at the Camp Zama Community Club hangs on the wall at the club. Shibuya was tasked with creating the collages and was given 200 historical photos to look through. He decided the theme and layout of each collage, and the project took two years to complete. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo)

“It was a unique experience getting to dive into the colorful history of Camp Zama, which I knew nothing about, and have the complete freedom to create the displays using the photos,” Shibuya said.

From a young age, Shibuya seemed destined for a job in design. He began drawing pictures when he was only 3 years old and said it was his dream to work in a creative field. He studied design in college and worked for an architectural company before he was hired at VID in 1993.

He knew the collage project would be a huge undertaking when he began working on it two years ago, especially considering that his job requires him to complete multiple design projects simultaneously. He began by sorting the photos into different time periods and themes, and scanned them onto his computer to begin the layout process.

“I needed to make sure that these were all accurate historical photos, which means I couldn’t edit or Photoshop the images,” Shibuya said. “There were some blurry photos I needed to fix, but I spent the most time on figuring out the best way to exhibit the photos for the patrons at the club to enjoy them.”

Rick Bosch, director of Camp Zama’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, calls the community club the “crown jewel” of the installation due to its central location on the base and the many amenities it offers, which are aimed at all demographics. Therefore, the club was the ideal place to showcase the history of Camp Zama to the widest possible audience, he said.

Bosch decided together with garrison leadership that the collages, with their focus on the “old,” combined with the contemporary look of the redesigned club, would bring “an amazing 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, which coincided with the near-completion of the club’s renovations. Now, regardless of which entrance patrons use, they encounter the displays as soon as they walk in.

The photos have changed the dynamic of the club and work to tell the story of the history of Camp Zama, “almost like you are in an art museum,” Bosch said.


Toshiaki Shibuya, a commercial artist assigned to the Visual Information Division here, looks at one of the 10 photo collages he was tasked with creating for display in the hallways of the newly renovated Camp Zama Community Club. He looked through 200 historical photos and decided the theme and layout of each collage, and the project took two years to complete. (Photo Credit: Noriko Kudo)

“[Shibuya’s work] surpassed our expectations,” said Bosch. “This really brings life into the club.”

The club has already received positive feedback on the collages since they were hung up. The legacy of Shibuya’s work, and the community’s enjoyment of 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 Sept. 2. Shibuya said he was surprised to receive the coin because as a designer, his focus is not on getting recognition, but merely putting his best effort toward fulfilling the customer’s request.

“I love being a creator,” Shibuya said. “I have to say, this project was near the top of the list of the ones I’ve done during my 30-year career.”

Shibuya paid close attention to all the details while working on the project, so he said he was very happy to know that Bosch and the club staff were pleased with the final result, and that club patrons have also commented positively.

“I am very blessed to have this job because I get to do what I love and make the customer happy at the same time,” Shibuya said. “I hope people will take a moment to enjoy looking at the photos. It would be even better if they are able to seek out the story behind each one.”

Photo caption:

Rick Bosch, left, director of Camp Zama’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, presents a commemorative MWR coin to Toshiaki Shibuya, right, a commercial artist assigned to the Visual Information Division here, Sept 2, at the Camp Zama Community Club. Shibuya was tasked with creating 10 photo collages for display in the hallways of the newly renovated Camp Zama Community Club. He looked through 200 historical photos and decided the theme and layout of each collage, and the project took two years to complete.

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