Posts Tagged: Nakano 5-chome

Gone, just gone, 10 years on…

The idea of the kids still haunts me ten years later.

Very infrequently I have nightmares about ghostly green, purple, and burnt orange faces of Japanese children floating above their anguished parents, who are still living bitter lives in tiny yatai-shaped temporary houses scattered throughout a cartoon nuclear meltdown hellscape version of Fukushima.

I know the reality isn’t quite that bad. But ten years on folks in Tōhoku still can’t go home, and in the deep ocean there are the bones of innocent kids from 3/11 that will never be discovered nor buried. For ten years the loss of those lives and their potential has bothered me, and probably always will.

I wrote this poem about the lost children in 2014 for the third anniversary of the disaster. It’s also an ode to the sorrow and horror felt by a man who merely edited other people’s stories from the disaster but didn’t actually experience it himself. So take that for what it’s worth as you read the poem, and I hope you enjoy it…

Gone, just gone

The bubblegum kids no one is ever going to know,

rotting out their lives in the cold of Mishima’s boiling sea.

There’s grace in the truncheons of justice they may have become.

There’s iron will in the blood they will never spill on land.

There’s a permanent school of candyfloss and diamond textbooks

waiting to teach them about the ghosts of great emperors.

It’s the time when they died that will never forgive, and will ever hate itself

for taking them walking to the undersea graves of lost civilizations.

There’s teeny shoes floating in the sea that had warm, happy feet in them.

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There’s a TV somewhere that always shows cartoons only Japanese children can understand.

There’s a tear we cry for strangers who will never grow up to be our friends.

Or invent new light.

Or cure the gangrene in our hateful bones.

There is soil that will never be disturbed, for there is no reason to displace it for graves.

It is fine soil, still, and we should honor it by planting flowers that taste like rice candy.

We should remember that sometimes the bubblegum kids see with both a living and a dead set of eyes.

And we should love them, and we should remember them,

And we should hold what we know of them with a warmth that radiates down into the deepest chasm at the bottom of the sea.

(—For the lost children of Japan after March 11th, 2011. Photograph taken in Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo in September 2013. See my other photo work here and here.)

Tokyo likes you

I’ve got another book for you, something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years but only managed to construct in the past couple of months during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders my wife and I are living under here in California.

And as you’ve likely guessed from the title above my book is about Tokyo, my favorite city in the world and a warmer, friendlier town than one might think. At least it has been for me. Maybe I’ve just been lucky or haven’t pissed off the right people, who knows?


Anyway, the book is full of (mostly) black and white photographs of (mostly) happy, smiling people in various street locations around the city. And like my last book, it’s free. But unlike my last book, there’s very little text in it (beyond captions) and the overall message of the work isn’t a heavy downer.

  • So download “Tokyo Likes You”. The cover is here and the book is here, both totaling just under 30MB.
  • And donate (if you’re so inclined) to my “getting ‘Tokyo Likes You’ printed” fund here.

I’d love to hear your comments or criticisms. You can unload on me about “Tokyo Likes You” by leaving a comment on this post, or by contacting me via Facebook, or Twitter.

Thanks for having a look, and I hope you enjoy “Tokyo Likes You”.


(Brisbane, California, April 30, 2020. See my other work here.)

Nakano laundromat

At a small laundromat in Tokyo

I loitered outside to see how people go.

They were slow.

It was November and they were slow.

But in Tokyo slow is much faster

than what seems fast anywhere else you go…

Laundromat in passing, Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo, November 2015

(Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo, November 2015. See my other work here and here.)

This Mormon boy

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.

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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.

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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)

An umbrella before the sugar melts

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—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)

25 Days in Tokyo—6: Strolling

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.

Just a nice old fellow and his exercise poles, somewhere on the streets in Nakano between the apartment I was renting and the Ministop where I was headed to buy some snacks and beers for the evening. And he let me photograph him twice, so that’s not surprise on his face. I’m not exactly sure what it is…

Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo 2015

(Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo 2015)

25 Days in Tokyo—5: Halloween

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.

Halloween in Tokyo, 2015 was a gas. I had not been in the city for this holiday since 1987. Back then Halloween wasn’t a big deal in Japan, and you were lucky to be invited to a gaijin friend’s costume party or find an American horror movie from the ‘30s on Japanese TV. Anyway, in 2015 I bopped all over the city, from Nakano to Ueno to Shinjuku and back to Nakano. I was delighted to see many people dressed up for Halloween, and not surprised the Japanese had adopted it and turned it into a marketing revenue stream.

Here’s some of the sights I saw during my Tokyo Halloween…

Nakano 5-chome, Tokyo 2015

A neighbor living next to the Nakano apartment building I stayed in. He’s not in Halloween costume, but I love his face.

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Young men on the Yamanote Line platform in Ueno Station.

Halloween, Tokyo 2015

On the Yamanote Line near Ōtsuka. The fellow wearing the bloody white tie spoke excellent English.

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Costume problems for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man somewhere on the edge of Kabukichō at 11 p.m.

(Various locations, Tokyo, Halloween 2015)