Posts in Category: 25 Days in Tokyo

The Ueno Ameyayokochō Time

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)

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)

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)

25 Days in Tokyo—10: Fish man

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.

Just a young man taking a break from his job at a seafood izakaya not far from Nakano Station. I stayed close to my apartment this day, to rest up because I had to pick up my wife at 11 p.m. from Haneda Airport. But Nakano is a vibrant place where there’s always something or someone worth photographing…

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(Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo 2015)

25 Days in Tokyo—9: Grand dame

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

In the New Shimbashi Building, you can buy most anything. Its lower floors are a salaryman haven filled with ramen shops, shoe shops, dress shirt haberdashers, video game parlors, news stands, golf shops, and bars. It was only two p.m., but this grandly-dressed lady was already preparing her tiny tavern for the waves of men in cheap suits who later that afternoon would descend into the building’s foundations to drink their evenings away until it was time to go home, sleep it off, then put the cheap suits back on and take the trains back into Tokyo to do it all again the next day…

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(New Shimbashi Building, Tokyo 2015)

25 Days in Tokyo—8: Relief

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

When I visited Tokyo in 2012 and 2013, across the street from the building where I rented an apartment I’d frequently see an old man in the early morning doing calisthenics in front of his house. Sometimes in the late morning or early afternoon, I’d see the old man having a cigarette in the same spot where he exercised. I’d always see him when I was outside smoking myself, since I couldn’t smoke in my building. We became familiar sights to one another, typically either smiling or waving at each other, or exchanging spoken greetings like ohayō gozaimasu (good morning).

In 2015 I stayed once again in the same building and expected to see the old man doing his familiar things again across the street. But I didn’t, and I became upset about it. I was genuinely worried that the old man had moved away, or been put into a rest home, or had died, and that the last time I saw him in 2013 was the last time I was ever going to see him. A week passed during which my concern grew, until finally on my eighth day in the city I saw my beloved old man across the street sweeping up leaves that had fallen in his courtyard.

Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo 2015

I was so relieved I wanted to cry. Instead, I grabbed my camera and approached the old man to ask if I could photograph him, something I’d never done before. I wanted a souvenir of him, something I could have to remember his face, his wrinkled beauty, to remind me of how a small, almost non-existent relationship spread out over a number of years could have weight and comfortable importance. At least to me.

I asked him in broken Japanese for a pikuchā and he happily agreed while a wave of recognition passed across his face. Then I said thank you to him and went back to my apartment while he continued sweeping. I didn’t see him again for the remaining 17 days I was in Tokyo. Once had to do. I really hope I see him again when I go back to Tokyo in 2017. But if I don’t I’ll imagine that it’s because of bad timing, and say a silent Buddhist prayer that if he died he died happy and easy.

Then I’ll say another prayer thanking karma and good fortune that I carry a camera, if the Buddhists even have a camera prayer.

(Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo 2015)

25 Days in Tokyo—7: Strange rains

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

On the second day in November it was raining heavily in Tokyo so I decided to stay in Nakano-ku to avoid the unpleasant heat and humidity damp passengers always generate in Tokyo public train cars. I happened to be walking by Nakano Sun Plaza while some kind of stage show was in progress. A crowd of almost all men was watching and cheering two women singing a bubblegum rap song in squeaky little-girl anime voices.

I figured out the scene I’d stumbled into was sponsored by a film festival and an agriculture company (maybe you can read far more of the poster in the second photo than I can), but I never did understand why this guy was standing in the crowd in swimming gear with plasters on his nipples in the rain on a chilly November day in Tokyo…

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The event timetable…

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(Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo 2015)

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