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.”
(Nakano Station, Tokyo 2015)
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…
(New Shimbashi Building, Tokyo 2015)
In SL Square outside Shimbashi Station in Tokyo, there’s an outdoor smoking area cordoned off by a low wall and decorative metalwork. There’s no point in wasting words here on social commentary. The photograph tells you everything you need to know…
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)
Just a guy, a bit too much in his cups perhaps, that I photographed in Nihonzutsumi in Tokyo. He was next to a vacant lot where a Nodaya liquor store used to stand. I liked him. He was a nice, chemically happy man…
(Nihonzutsumi, Tokyo, November, 2015)