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The Japanese saying “hometown of my heart” has special meaning for Taku Miyamoto, who now trains his lens on his native land

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Taku Miyamoto will always remember 2012.

He was at Augusta National when Bubba Watson pulled off his now-legendary hook from the rough to win the Masters. He was at the Olympic Club two months later when Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open and the Birdman made the story. And he was there for Ernie Els’ memorable rally to win the Open Championship at Royal Lytham. But the most important thing to happen in the acclaimed photographer’s life that year was his decision to go home.

“Until 2011, I was only admiring and thinking about courses outside of Japan, but I felt like it was wrong that I had not photographed courses in my birth country,” he says. “I then decided to move back to Japan after living in LA for 14 years. I have been inspired to continue to photograph the beauty of golf courses in Japan ever since.”

He got into the profession in 1983 after Isao Aoki became the first Japanese player to win on the PGA Tour. Coming from a music background, Miyamoto had to learn the golf ropes the hard way: On his first day on the job for Asahi Golf magazine, he was following Tommy Nakajima in the final round of the Shizuoka Open and accidentally stepped on the Japanese superstar’s ball in the rough. It all worked out; Nakajima went on to win. “I was very relieved,” Miyamoto says.

Miyamoto has become one of Japan’s most celebrated photographers in any discipline, capturing golf’s brightest stars at its highest-profile events. Like many who cover the pro game, he also moonlights as a course photographer, hired by clubs to provide them beauty shots. He’s seen the globe’s golf cathedrals and is now using his considerable talents to show that the courses at Hirono and Kobe and Taiheiyo belong. Many of them in this golf-crazed nation are north of 100 years old, and he believes it’s time for them to get their due.

“Courses there are slightly smaller, but I think there is the beauty of a Japanese garden incorporated in them and done well,” he says. “It’s my wish that everyone outside of Japan can see the beauty of the courses there.”

And whether it’s Naruo or Augusta National, Miyamoto understands the common thread. “No matter the amount of technique or years of experience in photographing courses, no one can compete with the unexpectedness of nature,” he says. “As a photographer, you use your imagination and work on your art, but that one frame when everything surpasses your expectations, and the pure joy of capturing that moment, is one of the best feelings. It’s why I am glad I’ve continued working as a photographer. And the glass of beer after a successful shoot is the best gift I give myself.”

Sitting in the shadow of Mount Fuji, and just a few hours from the madness of Tokyo, the Taiheiyo Club resort is a respite for many Japanese. Miyamoto loves this long view of the short 361-yard par-4 10th hole at the club’s Gotemba West course. “The last remaining snow is pretty,” he says.
Miyamoto has a profound interest in the history of golf in Japan, so it makes sense he would be inspired by Kobe Golf Club (above), the nation’s first course. “Arthur Hesketh Groom thought about his hometown, his friends from back home, and started plans,” Miyamoto says. Groom, a British expatriate, founded Kobe GC in 1903, and it remains a glorious blend of U.K. golf ideals and Japanese sensibility. A quirky par 61 on the hills overlooking Osaka and Kobe, players are strongly recommended to walk and take six to eight clubs in order to get the full experience.
With Hideki Matsuyama’s groundbreaking Masters victory and the 2021 Olympic golf competition at Kasumigaseki Country Club, championship golf in Japan has never had a higher profile. And after its 2019 restoration by British designer Martin Ebert, Hirono Golf Club (above) is ready for the spotlight. With original architect Charles Hugh Alison’s world-class bunkering and its singular bridge, the par-3 13th hole is one of the course’s stars. “Sunsets on the 13th hole are very beautiful,” Miyamoto says.