Posts in Category: Tokyo, Japan

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…

TokyoDay22 156-1

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…

TokyoDay22 158-3

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.

TokyoDay22 157-2

(Asakusa 4-chome, Tokyo 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—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.”

TokyoDay11 019-1

(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…

TokyoDay10 039-1

(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…

TokyoDay9 103-1

(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…

TokyoDay7 034-2

The event timetable…

TokyoDay7 036-1

(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.

TokyoDay5 060-1

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.

TokyoDay5 145-3

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

(Various locations, Tokyo, Halloween 2015)

%d bloggers like this: