Early Life

Hideoki™ was born in Suwa City, in the mountains of Nagano, in 1942. His family moved to Tokyo shortly thereafter, just as World War II was approaching its climax. One of his first memories is of being three years old, escaping the firebombing of Tokyo with his mother clenching his and his sister’s hands  with his brother strapped to her back. Tokyo was burning with such ferocity that Hideoki™ remembers seeing the embers of corrugated metal landing in the river and thinking, “why is the river on fire?”

After the war, he was sent to Chiba to live with his Aunt and Uncle due to lack of food. One day the mountains would become his obsession, but at first the sea was his playground. In middle school, he would even swim across Tokyo Bay to Kanagawa and take buses back home. Despite studying extremely hard to get into his high school of choice, he failed the entrance exam by just one point and was rejected. Unable to reconcile the unfairness of the system, he decided that he and Japan just didn’t match. He still ended up going to the well-regarded Waseda High School, but couldn’t be bothered with school and spent all of his time in the mountains, climbing. He would sneak off to the mountains and climb peak after peak, even in winter time, sometimes leading teams of climbers many years his senior.  He was so dedicated to his climbing that one day he came home to find a note taped to the door: “We moved, here’s the new address,” it said.


Discovering Photography

“ The first time I held a camera, I thought I took the best photos of my life.

After Hideoki™ graduated high school, a nature photographer hired him to be his assistant, and to carry his 8 x 10 camera to remote locations. One day, the photographer let Hideoki™ snap the shutter, and he was hooked. On a day off when Hideoki™ was 18, the photographer  lent him his Rolleiflex, and Hideoki™ shot his first series, ”Fishing Village in Japan”. Today he thinks those may be the best photos he has ever taken.

Photo for Harper’s Bazaar October 1966 Issue

From Tokyo to New York City

A year later Hideoki™ decided to make a 180-degree change. As he sat on the beach with his friends listening to Coltrane, watching the ships go by, an adventure came to him: How cool would it be to listen to Jazz in New York City? He decided that he would leave Japan and the mountains and move to New York City to become a photographer. With the help of some friends who worked at a large corporation, he was able to obtain a passport.

In March of 1963, aged 21, Hideoki™ landed in The Big Apple with $800 and a limited grasp of English. He sought out the legendary fashion photographer HIRO, who in turn introduced him to James Moore. With an uncanny ability for wielding the word “yes,” and the hunger that comes with having only 3 months worth of cash, he convinced Jimmy to hire him as his assistant. Under Jimmy’s direction, he worked day and night photographing and making prints.  His dedication paid off a remarkably short three years later, when he landed assignments for Harpers Bazaar and New York Times Magazine.


When his visa expired in 1968, Hideoki™ left NYC for London. Already established in NYC as a Harper’s Bazaar photographer, he received assignments with Queen Magazine and other magazines.  He survived the winter in London, renewed his visa, and returned to NYC, where he continued to flourish and win new clients.


In his time photographing, Hideoki™ met a beautiful model named Mary Arthars. Mary became his muse, and later his wife. A year and a half after meeting, they welcomed their first child, Mitsu. Then, after a number of exhilarating years working in NYC, Japan  beckoned him home. In 1976, Hideoki™ became the first Japanese photographer to succeed in NYC and make a triumphant return to Japan.  Renown for his achievement spread through Japan’s advertising industry, and demand for his services was unparalleled.  In 1979, the family welcomed Yuka, who would later become Hideoki’s climbing partner and photography apprentice in her teens.  Between numerous assignments, he took long camping trips with his family, following his heart back to the mountains. On these trips, driving the Volkswagen van he brought back from America, Hideoki™ captured many of his signature black and white photo series.

One early winter morning, Hideoki™ was at Shimokita Hanto and saw beautiful swans flying near the ocean.  Two photographs from that day, of a swan and the ocean, are in the MoMA collection.

Black to white, all the gray tones that’s all that counts. That makes beauty.

Swan in the MoMA collection c.1980

Founding of Hideoki Productions

After six years in Japan, it was time for Hideoki to return to his adopted home. NYC beckoned, and Hideoki returned in the summer of 1983, establishing a studio in Chelsea.  In 1989, he founded Hideoki Productions Ltd.  His TV commercial and photography work took him around the globe. He worked with some of the world’s most famous movie stars, rock stars, politicians, athletes, and models. As a DP, he especially enjoyed working with cameras that required manual settings. The instant photos produced by the digital era bored him.

All good things come to an end, and Hideoki™ retired in 2006.  His retirement marked a new beginning for his son Mitsu Hagiwara, who took the reins of the company in 2005 and restructured the thriving production company into a second-generation business. The company has evolved continuously since then, through the tireless work of Mitsu together with his business partner and wife Maria.

Pottery and Painting

Hideoki™ means “to build” in Japanese, and it is in Hideoki™ ’s nature to create. After years of production and photography, painting and pottery became his new means of art. He painted in his earlier years, but as is typical of most artists, he never felt his work was good enough. Years later, he discovered pottery.  In contrast to the more ephemeral art of photography, with pottery he can experience his work in a more tangible manner, feeling the texture and temperature of the material.

Regardless of  the medium, Hideoki™ finds joy in creating  a thing for the sake of beauty.

“ I didn’t have the chance to climb mountains in New York.
But taking those black and white photographs, that’s like climbing to me.”

Mountains Climbed

Mt. Fuji
Mt. Kita
Mt. Yari
Mt. Hijiri
Mt. Asama
Mt. Kilimanjaro
Mt. Hotakadake

Mt. Marcy
Mont Blanc
Mt. Algonquin
Mt. Marcy
Mt. Tsurugi
Mt. Maehotaka