Just a few days ago I returned to Athens from New Zealand where I stayed for three months. On my way back I spent five days in Tokyo. This was triggered by my wish to meet my Flickr friend Stefan Speidel for the first time. Stefan is a great photographer, a searching one, a rangefinder storyteller who uses his camera to create visual poetry. Please take a look at his beautiful Flickr stream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/rifugio_bobo.
I had never been to Tokyo or Japan before. I read only a little about the city before going there. I read that it is huge, overwhelming, that it has all in all 30 million inhabitants. But I did not prepare for a tourist run in the city, I wanted to keep an open mind, particularly for my photography. And I let Stefan do the work of showing me around in the first two days. He did a marvelous job.... :-)
And it’s true - Tokyo is overwhelming. People nearly everywhere. Subways, busses, public spaces, everything is full of people. For me one of the crucial questions became how it is like to be permanently part of the masses in such a moloch city. How do you maintain your individuality if you dissolve into the mass every day? And as a photographer - how do I capture this situation of the individual person becoming part of this mass of people? In the coming days I will write a little about that journey and about my answer to the question.
Part of this mass phenomenon in Tokyo is the traffic. The individual motorized traffic is not as dense as you might think. Tokyo’s public transport is brilliant and reliable, you have no need to sit in a car and try to survive traffic jams. With the metro and railway system plus some bus links you can go literally everywhere, so no need for using a car. But of course, there are huge crowds jammed into each carriage of the metro, particularly during rush hours. So the real question is how you survive the journey to work in a packed subway carriage.
But my stay was not only about the mass phenomenon. I also discovered the poetry of the cherry blossom time. I was fortunate to be in Tokyo at the end of the four weeks in March and April when in the parks and alleys the cherry trees blossom. My hotel was in the suburb of Nezu, close to Ueno park wehere you find a beautiful alley full of cherry trees. And there are many other places with orchards and alleys that change into a rosé and white symphony of blossoms every spring.
Architecture became the third theme during the stay. As a modern megalopolis Tokyo has many high rise building. I visited the areas around Tokyo station and the neighborhood of Roppongi. Both places are very good for shooting architecture and playing with light and shapes. And of course you can also take pictures of human beings that get visually lost between high rise buildings and on large empty squares.
I had only 5 days. But the pictures I created will keep me busy for weeks. It was really, really fascinating.