Nihonzutsumi retail

Sundries, wares, liquor, and Kleenex, you can find everything you need for normal everyday happy life on the Irohakai shōtengai (いろは会商店街) in Nihonzutsumi, which used to be known as Sanya.

I wasn’t sure what she was browsing for. She had a jittery way about her, perhaps because some big damn foreigner was pointing a camera at her and taking her picture. For me in Tokyo that’s sometimes an unintended consequence.

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But once she composed herself she was cool. And she was generous with both her smile and the peace sign the Japanese love to make when being photographed. Sometimes that peace sign makes me squirm a little, like I’m some American soldier running around Tokyo taking happy snaps during the post-war U.S. occupation.

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I’m probably reading too much into my own presence on Tokyo’s streets. But my own discomfort is a price I gladly pay for the enrichment I get from being in this city and among these amazing people.

And I sure as hell hope that after I walked away, this nice woman found what she was shopping for.

(Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo 2015)

Roll the beach

Sometimes

when you drive by the beach

you see big bastard machines

and boys on skateboards

and

you don’t know if

Ocean Beach, San Francisco 2016

one is going to crush the other

but you figure

what the hell

you might as well stop

have a look

and wait to find out.

(Erosion control @ Ocean Beach, San Francisco 2016. This photo is also on Flickr.)

This beautiful man…

Look at this unconventionally beautiful man, and what he was willing to share with my wife. She and I were at a festival at the Ohtori Shrine in Asakusa on a Tuesday…

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To this man we were strangers, foreigners to him, and that mattered for nothing. When I asked to take his picture, he agreed. Then he saw my wife and insisted she borrow his shimekazari so that I could take a picture of her holding it…

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The Japanese are often the most warm, generous people you will ever meet. And because of this man, that day in the Asakusa sun with my wife was one of my best days in Tokyo or anywhere ever.

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(Asakusa 4-chome, Tokyo 2015)

25 Days in Tokyo—14 to 16: Kyoto the Human

In late October, 2015, I was in Tokyo, Japan for 25 days. I shot many photographs. This series presents the most interesting, compelling, or touching person or scene I saw each day I was there. Click here to see the previous entries.

Exactly one year ago, give or take a day, my wife and I went to Kyoto for three nights. We stayed in a traditional room at a ryokan in Gion. My wife had always wanted to see Kyoto, and I really wanted her to. But I’m a die-hard fan of Japanese pop culture as opposed to Japanese traditional culture, so I have always been ambivalent about going there. Now I’m glad I did, because it’s a lovely town and I’d like to see it again. Kyoto is smaller than Tokyo, and does not seem quite as frenetic and cramped. And the people seem friendlier, warmer, easier with a smile.

Perhaps they’ve been conditioned to be that way by the constant stream of tourists through the city. But my instincts told me that Kyoto gets so many tourists, at least in part, because its people are just that way naturally.

November 14th

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Shijō Dōri, Gion

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Issen Yōshoku, a restaurant in Gion

November 15th

  Hanamikoji Dori, Gion, Kyoto 2015

Rehearsing here on Hanamikōji Dōri for some kind of video shoot

  Gion, Kyoto, Japan 2015

Yamato Oji Dōri, Gion

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Togetsukyō Bridge, Arashiyama

 November 16th

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Firefighters, Gion (Gionmachi Minamigawa)

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Shijō Dōri, Gion

(Kyoto, Japan 2015)

In my neighborhood…

This is our country now, this is our lives.

I saw a flag on a house

that does not usually fly one.

An elected official lives there.

I voted for her, hell yes.

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I’ve voted a shitload in my life.

I voted the last time,

the bad time

when the change we wanted

is the worst we could’ve imagined.

And I’m standing there

looking at this flag,

and the dog’s looking at me.

And I’m pretty sure

the dog’s asking “What in the FUCK did you people do?!!”

And, you know,

I love that dog,

I’ve known him for years,

but I hate the question.

Because I don’t have an answer,

and I’m not gonna like

the answer that comes.

(This is a real photograph, not staged, proudly taken in Brisbane, California on November 12th, 2016)

25 Days in Tokyo—13: Yasukuni rain

Yasukuni Shrine is an interesting place, but I won’t make more of visiting it than doing so deserves. The truth is, my wife and I went there on a rainy Sunday primarily to browse a weekly flea market on the shrine grounds. We arrived around 9:45 a.m. There wasn’t much right-wing nationalist activity, just five or six men in olive-drab uniforms sitting out the rain in two black propaganda vans. They drove away 20 minutes later.

Everything at Yasukuni was wet, the sky was uniformly dour and grey, and the immense Daiichi Torii gate looked as if it was indifferent to who walked under it that day and would maintain its indifference for the next 1,000 years…

Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo 2015

(Yasukuni Jinja, Tokyo 2015)

25 days in Tokyo—12: behind the kōban

In late October, 2015, I was in Tokyo, Japan for 25 days. I shot many photographs. This series presents the most interesting, compelling, or touching person or scene I saw each day I was there. Click here to see the previous entries.

If you’ve been shopping in Shibuya even once you’ve probably walked past the kōban (police station) in Udagawachō. It’s hard to miss, and the Tokyo cops there are rumored to generally be very helpful. So these two guys were sitting behind it at a quarter to 10 on a Saturday morning. They might have just finished work at a local nightclub, or been homeless. They might have been co-workers, good friends, or lovers. But the man’s hair was very blonde, they both were very nice, and sometimes in Tokyo not knowing is good enough…

Udagawachō, Shibuya, Tokyo 2015 (Story:

I know you know I’m not really blonde, but I am really blonde for you. I’d be anything for you. In Tokyo, I can be anything for you. The trick is, and I’m sure you can relate, I need to figure out how to be what I want for me…

(Udagawachō, Shibuya, Tokyo 2015)

Halloween at the F.O.E.

Brisbane’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles had its annual Halloween party this evening. I’m not a member, and I’ve been sick with the flu all week, but I made the effort to go for a short while to pay my respects to the friend who invited me. That’s her on the left in the first photograph below. The rest of the photos are selected scenes from the party, and a look at a part of American small-town life which may not be familiar to you…

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(F.O.E. Aerie #3255, Brisbane, California 2016)

25 Days in Tokyo—Zero day at LAX

In late October, 2015, I was in Tokyo, Japan for 25 days. I shot many photographs. This series presents the most interesting, compelling, or touching person or scene I saw each day I was there. Click here to see the previous entries.

It’s been a year to the day since I last traveled to Tokyo, and I should mention the rabbi. While waiting at LAX to board my Delta flight to Haneda I saw this beautifully-frumpy old man wearing a yarmulke. I was pretty sure what he was, so I left my place in the boarding queue to approach him.

I said “Are you a rabbi?”

“Yes,” he said.

“May I photograph you?”

He said nothing, but lifted his arms up wide in a gesture of acceptance and agreement.

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I shot a couple of pictures of him. When he saw I was finished he asked me if I was Jewish.

“No, rabbi, but I respect your faith.”

“Respect is enough,” he said, then added “I am eighty-one years old.”

I didn’t respond, but his words made me wish my own father had lived that long.

By then the Delta staff were about to close the departure gate, so I left the rabbi sitting where he was and hoped he realized I wasn’t rude but just late. But rabbis that old probably have more patience than the god they worship.

(Terminal 5, Los Angeles International Airport 2015)

25 Days in Tokyo—11: Big issue

In late October, 2015, I was in Tokyo, Japan for 25 days. I shot many photographs. This series presents the most interesting, compelling, or touching person or scene I saw each day I was there. Click here to see the previous entries.

He was selling The Big Issue Japan on the south side of Nakano Station, so despite his immaculate appearance I knew the man was homeless. Only homeless persons are authorized to sell The Big Issue on Tokyo’s streets. It’s a legitimate way to earn money to mollify the effects of the predicament they’re in. My wife was with me and I described to her what the man was doing and why. She immediately said “I hope he doesn’t have to be out here selling that paper for very long.”

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(Nakano Station, Tokyo 2015)

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