Olli Thomson

Tokyo Streets

Three days in Tokyo. Where to start?

A photo workshop seemed like a good idea. A quick search turned up Eye Explore offering photography adventures in Tokyo. Which to choose? Tokyo Metropolis or Streets of Tokyo? The former seemed closer to my kind of photography, the latter would push me a little more. The calendar made the decision for me: Streets of Tokyo.

The website set out the goals:

  • Expand your idea of what makes a great street photograph
  • Get confident at photographing people in public
  • Have fun while interacting with people on the streets
  • Practice making candid photos of urban denizens

We met by Harajuka station. There were four of us: Axel and Lukasz from Eye Explore, me and one other participant. One of the features of the Eye Explore approach that drew my attention initially was the small group size — a maximum of four people plus guide. This was better yet.

Harajuka, a train ride, Shibuya. Two and a half hours from 5pm to 7.30pm in beautiful weather. Two hundred photographs — a handful worth keeping.

Axel and Lukasz were excellent guides taking us through very different nighbourhoods and great locations within those neighbourhoods. And excellent mentors — ready with advice, suggestions, tips, encouragement without ever being too intrusive or overly prescriptive.

The greatest challenge was in adjusting to the attitude of the locals. In Manila, people rarely object to being photographed; many people positively insist on it when they see the camera. In Western cities people are rarely happy to be photographed and some positively bristle with anger or indignation. I assumed Tokyo would fall into the latter category; instead, they were much closer to the people of Manila.

The most entertaining, if from my view the least photographically productive, part of the evening was spent at the famous Shibuya crossing. Here, guided by Axel and Lukasz we repeatedly walked part way into the road, knelt down in the crossing and photographed the oncoming pedestrians with the bright lights of Shibuya as a backdrop.

Even though the four of us were kneeling down in the middle of the crossing on one of the busiest junctions in the world, with a press of people coming from behind and in front of us, no one objected. No one trampled us, no one pushed us aside, no one shouted at us, no one even gave us a dirty look. Best of all, as we knelt in the middle of the crossing taking photographs, a police officer ambled by in front of us and gave us not a second glance. I dare you to try this in London, New York or Paris.

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