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Lt. Col. Tony Plana and his wife, Brenda, stand in front of some of their photographs on display in Tokyo. The photos are featured as part of an exhibit on “Japan through Diplomats’ Eyes.”
Lt. Col. Tony Plana and his wife, Brenda, stand in front of some of their photographs on display in Tokyo. The photos are featured as part of an exhibit on “Japan through Diplomats’ Eyes.” (Courtesy of Tony and Brenda Plana)

TOKYO — Army Lt. Col. Tony Plana and his wife, Brenda, captured their trip to Kyoto last fall in a series of delicate scenic photographs.

Several of the photos are now on display in Tokyo in the sixth annual “Japan through Diplomats’ Eyes” exhibition, presented by the Japan Photograph Association, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and many foreign embassies.

Diplomats from 23 countries stationed in Japan entered 400 photos for the contest. The photos are on display and many are catalogued in a book on the exhibit.

The Planas don’t consider themselves dedicated photographers; they just like to capture their trips across Japan for posterity.

“We’ve always been photography fans,” Tony Plana said.

“It’s mostly for fun,” his wife added.

This is the third time the Planas’ work has been featured. Tony has one piece in the exhibit and one in the book while Brenda has three on display and one in the book. The works can also be seen at the Web site www.luxembourg.or.jp/photo/e-index.html.

This year, in addition to a grand prize, the exhibition featured the Prince Takamado Memorial Prize to honor the late member of the Japanese imperial family who was a respected photographer and was involved in the exhibition since its inception.

Each year the contest explores foreigners’ views of Japan through a particular theme. This year’s was modernity.

“This year’s theme of ‘Japan Today’ was broad yet challenging at the same time,” wrote Howard H. Baker Jr., U.S. Ambassador to Japan and Executive Committee Chair, on the exhibition’s Web site. “I think that all of us who look at Japan through diplomats’ eyes are intrigued by the unique ways in which this country has embraced the modern while preserving the ancient. But ‘Japan Today’ is more than the stereotypical image of the shinkansen roaring past Mt. Fuji.”

This is the last year the Planas will be eligible to participate. In July, Tony Plana moved from his job of three years as Assistant Army Attache at the embassy to his new job as deputy in charge of host nation affairs at Camp Zama.

“It’s disappointing we won’t be in it next year,” he said. “It’s one of the best things we took part in. It’s a lot of fun.”

The event is also a chance for diplomats-cum-artists to mingle and talk about their work.

“It’s nice to be able to go to these receptions” to talk about how a particular shot was made or effect achieved, Tony Plana said.

Brenda Plana said the exhibition isn’t really a contest with winners but rather an insight into foreigners’ perceptions. But it is still an honor, she adds, to see vacation photos enlarged and on a museum wall.

“It’s amazing to see your photos up there,” she said. “You can’t believe you took that.”

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