Issei Kato

Issei Kato

Tokyo, Japan
Yokohama, Japan
“I decided that I wanted to become a witness of history as it unfolds around the world.”


Here in Japan, the news is mainly related to business, finance and politics. Ongoing issues surrounding nuclear power, and natural disasters such as the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami are also big stories, and sometimes I cover features about culture, entertainment, technology and sport as well. Outside Japan, I shoot G-20 meetings, political events and sometimes sports like the Olympics.

One Shot

. FUKUSHIMA, Japan. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Members of the media wearing protective suits are escorted by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) employees at the company’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
“I can still remember the fear I felt when I first saw pictures and TV footage of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011. Almost one year later when I received an offer to cover the aftermath of the calamity, I struggled with the anxiety I felt when I thought about the potential risks. But then I remembered that I had wanted to become a news photographer so that I could witness history and I decided I couldn’t refuse the opportunity.”


As a schoolboy I enjoyed mountaineering, so my first experience of taking pictures with an SLR camera was of shooting mountain landscapes.

I learnt to photograph through my own day-to-day experience. When I began work as a freelance photographer, I came into contact with some big stories like the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 and the poison gas attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult on the Tokyo subway that same year.

My very first assignment was covering a news conference. I remember that there was too much hustle and bustle for me, and I felt very tense and nervous. As a result, I shot a huge number of pictures without paying enough attention to the background of my subject.

The ongoing consequences of the nuclear accident that hit Japan in 2011 is the assignment that interests me the most, and the one that has left the biggest mark on me. Separately, I also really enjoy covering events where you work in a big team, such as the Olympics; it’s exciting to work with so many other people and share skills and techniques.

My biggest lesson has been to try and think hard about the context of a story before taking pictures.

When I was young, I wanted to be a journalist so that I could travel, follow big issues and meet new people. Later, when I saw more news photography, I realised I could cover current events through pictures in a way that requires no translation. I decided that I wanted to become a witness of history as it unfolds around the world. That wasn’t my first ambition though: when I was still a boy, I wanted to be a secret agent like James Bond so that I could visit as many countries as possible, see beautiful landscapes, and approach forbidden subjects on my missions.

Behind the Scenes

. FUKUSHIMA, Japan. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Reuters photographer Issei Kato, wearing a protective suit, is reflected in a mirror inside a house in Namie town, inside the exclusion zone covering a 20 kilometer radius around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
. FUKUSHIMA, Japan. REUTERS/Reuters Photographer
Issei works at a devastated area hit by an earthquake and tsunami in Namie town.