This Mormon boy
(I didn’t get his name and it doesn’t matter)
was on his mission at Nakano Station
handing out tickets to god and scattering seeds of fertilized Jesus.
The Japanese soil won’t take those seeds.
The Japanese never needed a long-haired hippie foreigner to tell them
how to fear death and ghosts.
Besides, Japan’s gods are legion,
tend to be more entertaining,
and bring darker blood and better humor to dinner parties.
And they’re good for a short loan and fast drink on payday.
What this Mormon boy didn’t understand,
will never understand,
is Jesus will never get more from the Japanese than a 90-day visitor’s visa.
The Japanese love their ancient gods so much
they’ve made them characters in video games.
And how is Jesus going to bring devout people
closer to heaven than that?
(Nakano Station, Tokyo, September 2013)
…on the Yamanote Line as I made my way to Ueno to go drinking with some friends.
(Nippori Station, Tokyo 2013)
On a warm late September day they had staked out a spot in front of the Shinjuku Station A8 exit. He ate while she seemed to monitor their surroundings and the passersby, like she were guarding him so he could eat undisturbed. Their bags and overall appearances gave the impression that they weren’t just another couple out shopping. The step they sat upon was their cold stone home for the day, and they’d probably be moving on when Tokyo cooled down in the evening.
(Shinjuku, Tokyo 2013)
My cheekbones feel like
Hollywood marbles to me.
You’ve never been on
skid row in Tokyo so
similes or metaphors, or whatever the fuck,
are likely totally lost on you.
We like them.
Food is a simile for food, and
food is a metaphor for eat.
And we’re about to do that.
The Christians are making paella,
with lots of hot dogs,
and we’re gonna feast our asses off
and be okay.
(Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo, September 2013)
Physically handicapped, or afflicted with cancer, or merely very intoxicated, I didn’t have the chance to discretely ask why this man was in this wheelchair on a Tokyo skid row shōtengai. His friends in the background didn’t want me around him, but I shot this photograph anyway with my camera under my armpit while his guardians were briefly distracted. And I left quickly after taking it. Ethically this is a questionable picture, and I’ve never been entirely comfortable that I shot it. I’ve debated myself as to whether this photograph stole some of this man’s dignity, an issue of justifiable importance among photojournalists and street photographers concerning the destitute and the homeless.
I’ve concluded that this man, in the circumstances in which I encountered him, really didn’t have much dignity in the first place. That does not necessarily justify this photograph’s existence, and I still argue with myself about it. But what this picture shows about a dark side of Tokyo life is inherently important, the kind of thing people wish to ignore but need to see. So I may forever have problems with this photograph, and you may really dislike it, but I stand by it.
(Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo, October 2013)