I love documenting people on the street. I am a street photographer at heart and I am especially fond of shooting candid portraits of everyday people, showing their style, clothing, and expressions when walking in public. The fashion hub Shibuya with its millions of commuters, shoppers and visitors is my favorite hunting ground for this photographic endeavor where I try to capture my subjects unaware.
The Aroma Garden massage parlor in Shibuya seems to have some problems with its foreign customers. While the Japanese know what to expect and how to behave, their English-speaking clients are apparently hoping for something… different. So they put up a second sign stating: “Welcome! Aroma Massage. Not adult entertainment. Only beautiful girls.” I hope it helps…
The Gōtoku-ji temple in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, is the temple of the original maneki neko (beckoning cat). Legend has it, that in this temple a monk was looking after a stray cat, spending his time and food to feed and care for it. His superior was annoyed by this, saying, “Why do you care so much for this stray animal? There is no use (and profit) to waste one’s time for a cat!”
While cats nowadays are considered to be very kawaii (cute) in Japan, their character is seen less favorable. Unlike dogs, cats are seen as illoyal, shifty and devious… For example, there is not one Japanese family name that has the 猫 (cat) kanji in it. So a cat would not be seen as proper company for monk. However, the monk in this legend kept the cat and the cat was always around at the temple, which was just one of many small, poor Buddhist temples at that time.
One night the mighty feudal lord Ii Naotaka was traveling close to the temple in a dark and stormy night. He and his entourage sought shelter under a tree, hoping the terrible thunderstorm would soon pass. As he spied into the night, he saw in the distance a white cat beckoning him with its paw. Curiously he went out into the storm to the cat and discovered the Gōtoku-ji temple he had not seen before. Just as he arrived at the temple, a lightning struck the tree under which he had sought shelter before. He realized that if it hadn’t been for the cat he would have been killed.
After that, he gave a large donation to the temple, making everyone around happy and turning the small
Gōtoku-ji temple into one of the most prosperous and largest places of worship in the area. Since that time, cats have been considered wise and lucky spirits (in addition to all the negative things connected to them).
When I visited the location, the main temple building was already closed. But I checked out the votive tablets with prayers and the shelf were visitors place maneki nekos that can be bought at the temple office. Having recently lost my cat to myocardiopathy, it was heartbreaking to read all the ema on which people put prayers for the health and long life of their cats.
Having covered the art of the Design Festa vol.31 in my previous post, I present you here a collection of photos of the people I saw at this art event. As with the previous shots it is a random collection of exhibitors, performers and visitors — don’t ask me for details…
I love the bustling creative chaos of the Design Festa. Many people grab the chance to dress up themselves. Stall owners present themselves as their alter egos or creative inventions, trying to impress the visitors so that they may stop and take a look at their artworks and merchandise. Others are performers or cosplayers, just dressed up for the hell of it. So in many ways it is very Japanese — a restrained outlet for one’s individuality and passions in a controlled and acceptable environment.
The biannual Design Festa Event is the largest arts and design fair in Asia. Thousands of exhibitors from all over the world present their art, covering all kinds of genres, styles and techniques. Tens of thousand of visitors flock to Tokyo Big Sight for two days to look for new ideas, purchase beautiful stuff (everything from jewelery, dolls, clothing and accessories to illustrations, woodprints and postcards) and get inspired by all the creativity and excitement.
As I was a volunteer for the DF itself (doing artist interviews and visitor surveys), I had little time to enjoy the art expo myself. However, I did wander around a bit and shot whatever caught my eye. So here is a random collection of photos of amazing art I discovered at the Design Festa vol.31. Unfortunately, I did not take any notes so I cannot tell you who the respective artists were (way too little time for that). I hope you like the pictures nevertheless. My photos of the people I saw at this event can be seen here.
This poster warns the reader that he must turn off his cell phone when sitting at the “priority seats” (reserved for mothers, disabled persons and seniors). Apparently the electromagnetic waves emitted by the phone may be a problem for people with pacemakers, so switching off the device is suggested. Outside of this danger zone the mobile phone must be set into “manner mode” (silent), lest other passengers are not annoyed by it.
I just love the Japanese warning sign aesthetics: the rude boy and the helpless, unhappy women, suffering under the red radiation of the mobile.
Hanegi park in Daita, Setagaya-ku, has several fields for outdoor sports. I guess most of them are for use by students of the local highschools. Here a young batter is shown on the field of dreams, practising his art.
A common fixture at the entrance of the Yoyogi park in Harajuku are the rockabilly groups that gather there on the weekend. For hours they like to party to rock ‘n roll, showing off their dance moves and cool blue jeans and black leather retro fashion. While they apparently don’t mind being photographed, everyone keeps their distance as the tattooed members of these groups are rumored to be possible bōsōzoku, yakuza wannabees.
The Japanese really are crazy for pets. For many a cat or a dog not only seems to be some kind of status symbol, but also a substitute for a kid. So it is no surprise to see how pamered pets are in public. This Japanese Akita Inu dog is apparently enjoying the ride in his stroller, but wouldn’t walking the dog be more sensible…?
Another shot of the visitors of the One Love Jamaica festival at Yoyogi park. As always the people were not reserved at all when it comes to being photographed at parties and festivals. This couple reacted in a very un-Japanese way when I pointed my camera at them, showing the funny and friendly atmosphere of the event.