Yes, both of those passports are mine. The first thing that was said to me upon my arrival in Narita was “Do you know Interpol?” I answered yes and was lead into an interrogation room where I sat for about 45 minutes. Periodically someone would come explain that my passport was stolen. I would explain back to them that it couldn’t be, as it was right there in front of us. In the end I was told to go to the American Embassy and get a new one (hence the two above). So now I have two passports and a unique knowledge of the underworld at Narita Airport. That was at the beginning, much has happened since then.
Since my last update I have been out mining for cool things. No more tourist attractions (besides the Ramen Museum in Yokohama. My Mom already made fun of me for visiting a noodle museum, so don’t start). I am happy to say that I have been successful in my searchings for all things weird and wonderful. Most of my time has been spent in Aoyama, Harajuku and Naka Meguro (with some Daikanyama too). It’s been hard to decide what to focus on; clothes, housewares, interiors, music, games, food…I could easily spend all of each day bouncing between all the different shops in those areas. One place I literally had to leave because I was afraid I might buy too many things (Sempre). I also found a hair salon that was having a yard sale. Their three items for sale were a replica M16, faded porn, and a Twitter sign. Awesome.
I started experimenting a bit more with my shooting technique as well. Since I was mainly trafficking the shopping districts (though let’s be serious, this pretty much describes all of Tokyo), there wasn’t as much *obviously* visually exciting stuff to shoot. To combat this I started doing rapid-fire, one-handed shooting while moving. This resulted in countless terrible pictures — due to compositional problems or usually focus — but when it did hit I was really pleased with the results. Since I wasn’t really composing the image myself beforehand, it was always a nice surprise when something came out in an interesting way. The five shots above utilized this technique. It was certainly a lot easier to do, especially when carrying snacks or weird robot gifts.
A frequent theme I notice with my images is that they are usually of people facing away from me. It would be simple to assume that this is because I am going for this specific silhouetted look. Or something. No, rather, it’s because I am usually too afraid to ask people if I can take their photograph (or too polite to do it anyway). I know how to say it in very polite Japanese but I usually chicken out. (Note: the 6 month Japanese class I took was based on a 1986 business Japanese text book. So everything I know how to say is with the utmost respect. How I know how to ask someone what their hobby is would be translated to something like this: “Excuse me sir, if I may, would it be acceptable for me to inquire what it is you do in your free time please?”.) So what ends up happening is I have to sneak up on people like this and make it look like I’m photographing whatever is in front of them.
The other thing you notice immediately is the exceptional level of service no matter where you are. I bought a guitar in Tokyo two years ago and was instantly relieved to find that the shop helpers actually wanted to help me! (As opposed to Guitar Center where it seems like they literally want to kill you.) The image above of Commes des Garcons is a good example. I snapped it illegally as he was checking out a customer, but it was fairly easy to do as it took about 10 minutes for the transaction to be completed. The ritual involved was remarkable. The item was inspected, presented multiple times for quality checks, wrapped many times over, and ultimately escorted out of the store and presented to the customer by two helpers. It really makes your purchase feel special.
The other image is of a waitress I noticed setting up for dinner. She spent about an hour (I know because she was there when I returned) setting up this one table. I was too far away to see what she was actually doing, but more than likely, she was just being very methodical and not missing any details.
Tokyo after dark is another world that is completely mind blowing. I haven’t really been covering it much on my other blog, but it’s really something to behold. The shot above is from a tiny tiny little bar (though I suspect it’s an apartment) called 8 Bit Cafe. The place is amazing and on the night I was there, the music was being composed using NES controllers and turntables. They were remixing old video game soundtracks to a room of probably 50 people. How on earth I found myself there is a whole other story for another day. Best told in person I think*