Japanese Truck Driver Photographs the Front Lines in Syria as a “War Tourist”


When you mention the words “vacation photos,” most people might think of trips to the mountains or to the beach. Not Toshifumi Fujimoto. The 45-year-old Japanese trucker is passionate about “war tourism” — he actually takes on the role of a conflict photographer when on vacation. In recent days, he has been shooting on the front lines of the Syrian civil war, putting his life on the line for images that he keeps as a personal collection rather than sells for reportage purposes.

Prior to the Syrian conflict, he was photographing demonstrations in Yemen and Cairo. After Syria (which he snuck into from Turkey), he plans to visit the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Fujimoto is quoted as saying,

I always go by myself, because no tour guide wants to go to the front. It’s very exciting, and the adrenaline rush is like no other […] It’s more dangerous in Syria to be a journalist than a tourist […] each morning I walk 200 metres (yards) to reach the ‘front’, and I’m right there on the firing line with soldiers of the (rebel) Free Syria Army […] It fascinates me, and I enjoy it […] Most people think I’m Chinese, and they greet me in Chinese

I’m not a target for snipers because I’m a tourist, not like you journalists […] Besides, I’m not afraid if they shoot at me or that they might kill me. I’m a combination of samurai and kamikaze.

Fujimoto finances his trips entirely by himself, and doesn’t have the responsibility of caring for any family members (he is divorced and says he has no friends).


You can view Fujimoto’s war photographs over on his Facebook page, where they’re mixed in among other rather ordinary photographs of his daily life. Be warned though, many of them show carnage and corpses.

(via AFP via NYTimes via Reddit)

Image credits: Photographs by Toshifumi Fujimoto/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

  • floyd

    very odd to take & keep photographs of dead people in a personal collection! Why would you want an album of War that you have no connection to whatsoever?

  • Unimpressed

    This is the most disgusting article I’ve ever read on this site. This guy does not deserve the same reportage as journalists trying to bring this conflict to light. I suppose this is a man-bites-dog type of story, but he seems like a wealthy person who got tired of playing Call of Duty and going on safari and is chasing a stronger high.

  • James

    He’s a truck driver. Journalists are commonplace here, ‘war tourist’ is something new and therefore newsworthy.

  • ennuipoet

    This is profoundly disturbing, the very idea of this shakes what little faith in humanity I have left. Look, there may be a very good argument to be made that photojournalists in a war zone may be there for the exact same reason as this “tourist”, the adrenaline rush. Yet, at least they have something to say about the war, this person simply takes photos of death and carnage the way I might take a photo of nice flower, not for others to see but for his own pleasure. That’s a spiritual darkness I cannot fathom.

  • nab111

    I wonder how many pro photographers go to document wars for the same reason, people are only criticizing this guy because he is not profiting from his photos. Who’s the bad guy; the guy profiting out of death or the guy making no money out of it? I think its naive to think that all war photographers do it only to share a story and enlighten the world, and not for their own financial or voyeuristic gains.


    sense of accomplishment.

  • t


  • Jonathan Maniago

    “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

    Maybe he should become a full-fledged war photographer then?

    Anyway, this is creepily reminiscent of a sick short story that I had tried to write last year.

  • Syuaip

    photographing conflict (and death) for fun?

  • Mehmet Kıvanç Özel

    yeah it’s much worse than doing it for money

  • Skybase

    If you have little faith in humanity, you should do something to bring faith back instead of letting it trickle away in front of your eyes. Additionally, I kinda find it disturbing too. I’m Japanese, and this is aggravating material, I don’t understand this guy’s mentality. But I can’t tell what’s worse: the people who profit largely from telling stories of wars or the people who just go there because there’s a war.

  • harumph

    I’m definitely not clicking through to his facebook page, but does facebook really allow photos of “carnage and corpses”? They delete underwear shots. How can this guy get away with putting up shots of corpses?

  • Carlos Aona

    We, ( I’m American) cannot feed every poor nation on earth, nor rescue them from fire, earth, or water Apocalypse. Hell, we cannot even feed our own people. 30,000,000 million of us live in poverty. Obama talks the good talk, but he is smart enough to know we cannot rescue any more from civil war–including in Syria. That war will end. It will be a blood bath against the losing sects, tribes and religions groups. Murder in America? More than any other country. Prisons in America? We have far more people in prison for smoking pot. Arresting people for smoking pot is very profitable for courts, lawyers and local governments. Syria? America is not far behind, we have 300,000,000 guns in the hands of lunatics, morons, and maniacs.

  • lidocaineus

    I find the comments disgusted with him a bit immature. Who are we to judge what someone’s interests are when they’re barely affecting anything? He’s not actively encouraging further warfare, nor taking sides – he’s documenting an event (albeit a pretty horrid one) for his own use. He’s not making money off it and he’s not exploiting anyone. Something tells me that 100 years from now if his collection’s still around, there’s a decent chance it will be considered insightful.

    Now if he was shooting photos and treating the subjects (either while taking the photos or after) with disrespect or encouraging reprehensible behavior and actions, that’s completely different. Taking a photograph isn’t an inherently good or bad thing – it’s your purpose and goal that matters.

  • David Tate

    This is nothing new. 10 years ago next month I kissed my wife goodbye to do the exact same thing as the US prepared to attack Iraq. The difference was, I wanted to see how war affected the people. My images are of the children and those affected and not of bravado. I did it again in Afghanistan in 2004, Iraq 2007 and Afghanistan again in 2009. All self funded… all alone (except some financial help in 2004). I also find some of what this man says to be quite true… but much of it is silly to say the least. For instance, dressing in cammo will not help your cause against a sniper… in fact they would probably take him as a FSA member who posts pictures and videos for the cause. Just sayin’. Point is… yes, this makes a decent story because it does take major balls to go alone into a conflict zone but undoubtedly Fujimoto is not the first.

  • nab111

    Pretty Crazy stuff really! I’ve read quite a few books on war photography, most notably “The Bang Bang Club” and “War Junkie”, and there definitely does appear to be an addictive ,almost intoxicating, pull that draws most people into this profession/hobby and keeps them coming back for more.

    Would you consider yourself a “war junkie”?

  • David Tate

    I consider myself a history buff that is focused on conflict. When I left for Iraq the first time I just wanted to be at the front of history… to witness a world changing event in an exciting and dangerous time and place. My imagery of the children is the sharp contrast to that allure that seems to balance it all in my head and somehow seems to make it worth it. However… with a 5 year old daughter now, and no savings left, my forays are likely over until I win the lottery.

  • MikeAlgar42

    Isn’t voyeurism and personal satisfaction the only reason people do anything? Well said Nab.

  • nab111

    I think I secretly dream of doing the same!

  • nab111

    I just ate some pizza and that was totally for personal satisfaction! I did it while watching my neighbor through her window. Point proven!!

  • MikeAlgar42

    Wow, I don’t know how to respond to that.

    Just thought, before any says ‘what about people who have jobs they hate?!’ Then they are still doing it because they are biding their time and at the end of the day they are obviously only continuing to get money so they can get things they actually do enjoy.

  • nab111

    Very true! I’m in that boat of monotony as we speak, planning my eventual get away. I suppose what these guys have done is put into affect the escapism so many of us desire. The chief of all voyeurs has got to be the photographer.

  • David Tate

    I’m actually in the process of pitching a TV series called, “A Battlefield Tourist”. Maybe Fujimoto is a fan of mine? LOL.

  • Monsieurz

    I appreciate bravery from both of you. It indeed takes a lot of courage. No doubt u did a great job. fujimoto may not be the first one to do this. But look at fujimoto, he is from Japan (has nothing to do with the arab spring) and decided to go there just for adventure/enthusiasm/whatever might be his reason. On the other hand you might have got that push to go to Iraq because the war influenced u because of the factor that u are from the US itself….. IMHO… :) inspirations come from many different sources that give people the driving force to do some extraordinary feats and that driving force for fujimoto is something to be appreciated… Hav a good day mate… :)

  • er3

    The big question is, why? The poor man’s son. What could be more valuable than experience in your life?

  • derekdj

    I have mixed feelings about what Fujimoto is doing, on the one hand it sounds like the man has taken an attitude that “he has nothing to lose so why not”, which is fine, so long as he doesn’t put anyone else in danger by him inserting himself into these situations, or expect officials to drop what their doing to rescue him should he be captured as in the case of those American hikers taking a stroll into Iran.

    The term war junkie is interesting in a civilian’s case, I know a lot of people who are war junkies and spend their time playing weekend warrior for their adrenaline fix, very few actually put themselves into life and death combat situations out of pure pleasure (those who go all the way ended up joining the Marines). Something tells me based only on the tone of the interview and those images of him posing with the AK’s (and know a bit about the “bored” Japanese culture) Fujimoto might have other issues he’s dealing with.

    Note to the Editors: You should put the warning about the “carnage and corpses” before the Facebook link and not at the end of the paragraph. Most news organizations “forewarn” readers.

  • derekdj

    I totally agree, I’ve spent many years in Japan surrounded by young “bored” Japanese who have fallen into this an obsession with war, killing and guns. I know several guys who do “shooting trips” in the US, they take off a week or so fly off to Texas or Virginia to these Gun & Beer BBQs. What’s even more disturbing are the disenfranchised, bored, war junkies who fall into Japan’s growing right wing parties.

  • vale1005

    I would if I could.

  • Dazam

    Now THIS is a guy who knows how to live.

  • Yoav

    As a soldier and combat photographer, i find this photographer on one hand very impressive and on the other hand very careless of what the consequences of his actions might be if he will take prisoner by Syrian army and cause an international crises.
    Once he took up the rifle and shot it he will be treated the same as the rebels.

  • Rabi Abonour

    There are definitely two sides to this. On the one hand, the “purpose” of war photography is to tell the story of war, and he’s not doing that if he doesn’t publish his images. However, let’s not be naive here. All of us photographers, including combat photojournalists, got into this because we love it. War photographers do what they do at least as much for the adrenaline rush as for grand reporting ideals.

  • SD

    I find nothing impressive about this. I dated a guy for 10 years that did this sort of thing. At first, I admired him and applauded his bravery. At the end of the day though, there are demons that he is battling with or haven’t battled that drive him to do that sort of thing. This guy? No friends? No one to come home to? I’m all for adventure travel and pushing yourself but I think there’s no mystery here as to why he has the “balls” to do something like that. He’s got nothing to lose…and that’s just sad.