Ben Dean-Titterrell

Tag: Tokyo

Japan: a year in pictures

Scramble Crossing, Shibuya.

I have lived in Japan for slightly more than a year now. Throughout that time, photography has increasingly become my main and most frequent hobby. I started shooting 35mm film a couple of years ago but only since getting to Japan have I taken it sersiously.

A crossing in Shinjuku, some time in early October 2019.

Over the past year it’s been my anchor. Something to focus on and stay consistent during this barely comprehensible year. It’s given me something to learn, something to get me out of the house, and something to spend a significant sum of money on. I now carry a camera with me everywhere I go.

Yakitori Alley, Shinjuku.

This article will serve as something of a mile marker, as a record of my first year in Japan, and as a collection of my favourite and best photos that I’ve taken over the past 12 months.

Taxis in Shibuya.
An inadvertadly blurred photo from Yoyogi Park.
Nighttime traffic, near Harajuku station.
Magome station, the one closest to my home.

The picture below is one I look at sometimes and remember a very specific, yet barely desribable feeling. It’s from the first time I walked down a specific road, only a couple days into being in Japan. Nowhere felt familiar yet, least of all this very long road. It’s strange remembering that now, because despite regularly going to new places with roads I’ve never been down before, there are places in this sprawling metropolis that I know like the back of my hand. It’s a feeling I can remember well, but I don’t often feel it much anymore.

A road, close-ish to Magome.

This building, specifically, has stuck in my mind from the first time I saw it. I believe it’s apartments, but it is complete mystery to me. It sticks out on this road, one I walk down fairly regularly, like the sorest of sore thumbs one could imagine. Every building on the road is grey or brown or black, save for this one very narrow, very yellow, very memorable one.

A building on my way to the gym, Higashimagome.
From atop a bridge just outside my house, Magome.
A crossing (with a special guest in the background), Shinjuku.

Sometimes I see places I’ve been in a film or a TV show and it makes me pause and weigh up the reality with the depiction. A couple of weeks after taking the photograph below, during a wonderful late-autumn sunset, I saw these two precise buildings in a film at more or less the same perspective.

A memorable sunset, Shinjuku.
From within the Japanese Football Museum.

I cannot overstate how significant convenience stores are to living here. They are everywhere, have more or less everything you could want, and are open all day, everyday.

Lawson, one of the three major convenience store chains.

At the turn of the year, quite literally the first of January, my bestfriend and I took a brief trip to Sapporo in Japan’s most northerly-most island of Hokkaido.

One of the first and only selfie shots I’ve taken.
Mountains in Sapporo, Hokaido.
Waiting at a level crossing in Sapporo.
A man cooking at a new year festival.
A couple stood under a bell, atop a mountain in Sapporo.

Bikes are a big thing in Japan. When I first got here I noticed not many seemed to be locked to anything when left on the street. I’ve seen only a handful of bikes locked up in the past year, the rest all just sit on the side of the pavement or, soemtimes, in buildings.

I bought a role of Lomography Purple film towards the start of the year and it is still one of the most interesting, and most expensive, films I’ve shot. It was around this time I started shooting a lot of shots of those mirrors you see at blind corners.

A mirror, outside one of my favourite cafes.
A very grainy sunset, I walk past this spot twice a day on my way to and from work.
Yet another mirror.
A level crossing, something I enctounter suprisingly often.
A mirror again.
I don’t see fire engines all that often in Tokyo.

This next shot is one I was especially pleased with, I had it as my phone background for a few months.

A very tall block of flats just outisde a train station I use rarely.
From a platform at Yokohama Station.

The next shot is one of the last I took before the pandemic took hold and I had to go into lockdown.

An omonous looking window, very late at night.

It was at this point I bought my second camera. I’d been using my Canon A1 for over a year by this point, but it’s fairly heavy and cumbersome to carry around every day. So I bought a Nikon 35ti at great expense. I carry it every day now and used it exclusively for the first two months or so of owning it.

A police bike stopping an elderly couple in a car.
A roadsign, just outside the shopping mall where my school was.
A 7/11, featuring a woman with an umbrella on an extremely hot and sunny day.
The lights of conveniece stores are always very bright.
Police car lights are red here.
An atmospheric crossroads, very late at night.
A busy street, Harajuku.
A normally busy road, somewhat quitter than usual.

During the summer I started trying to venture out to more places, including Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. It’s beautiful there, and it includes this incredible building.

A very old building, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
I spent a lovely afternoon sitting on the grass here, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
This building has a really big clock on it.

I started taking a lot of pictures of skies around this time. Summer here is extremely hot and humid, and there reaches a point where you think it is never going to end. You see some wondeful blue skies for your trouble though.

A plane in the sky.
A sign in Shinjuku, on a gorgeous summer’s day.
Clouds reflected by a very shiny building.
I went through a phase of framing shots like this.
This is the top of a very old bell tower.
I never get tired of old roofs like these.
An old, unused billboard.

In September this year, I took a four day trip to Nagoya, a city in Central Japan about an hour and a half from Tokyo. It was only the second place I’d been outside of Tokyo while I’ve been here and it was nothing short of wonderful.

Nagoya Castle.
Nagoya Castle, again.

I spent a lot of my time in Nagoya walking around taking photos. I shot three whole rolls of film while I was there.

A worn down building on a quiet street.
A ray of sun between buildings in one of Nagoya’s busier areas.
I stumbled across this wall within an hour of getting to Nagoya Station.
This wall was quite difficult to frame.
Dolphins on a wall, somewhere in Nagoya.
I had to crouch down in the middle of a car park for this shot.

Nagoya has a very tall old television tower that’s nowadays used as a viewing platform to see the city. It was a place people would gather to socialise and relax in the evening. I went back a few times and on my final night went to the top to see the view.

The view from the top of a tower in Nagoya.
People playing table tennis beneath the tower.

And that was my first year in Japan, through my favourite photos I’ve taken. If you made it all the way to the end here I hope you saw at least one photo you liked. See you again in a year’s time.

Man continues to live in Japan

A man, who a couple of months ago began living in Japan, has continued to live there. The man in question has lived in Tokyo for around three months, and has been thinking a lot about just how long that and just how much he’s done in that time.

He is said to have learnt very little Japanese in his time there and feels somewhat ashamed at the lack of effort he has put into it. Reports say he has enough key words and phrases to just about get by but there have been many humiliating occasions where, when asked something in Japanese by a native speaker, he has stuttered out one or two of the words he knows in a vague hope that they will suffice.

One notable example occurred in a supermarket when the shop assistant asked the individual if he wanted to pay by cash (genkin) or card (kurejittokādo). Witnesses say the man thought he was being asked if he needed a plastic bag and, as he didn’t need one, confidently used a phrase that translates literally to “I do not need it” (irimasen). He is still said to be embarressed by the memory of telling a very polite Japanese woman that he did not need to pay for his lunch.

The man is preparing to celebrate Christmas in Japan, his first ever Christmas away from home. He will also be working everyday up until the 28th- as a result sourves say the man is not feeling especially festive. It is believed he will be eating KFC on Christmas, following through on a commitment he made to do so after he learnt about the unconventional Japanese tradition.

The individual in question is also said to be looking forward to the new year where, with his best friend, he will be visiting Sapporo in Japan’s most northerly island. It is said he will attempt to go skiing. Many believe he will in fact end up sliding down a mountain on his arse looking like an idiot.

Generally, the man is believed to be doing well. It’s thought his job is challenging and tiring, but he is still enjoying his time in Tokyo. He wishes his friends and loved ones back home a very happy Christmas.

Man keeps getting the wrong train to work

A man, who commutes on Tokyo’s famously excellent rail system, repeatedly gets the wrong train to work like a complete idiot.

Sources say that the man, who alternates between travelling to two workplaces on opposite sides of the city every few days, has on more than occasion started going to one location before suddenly realising he is going in the wrong direction.

Witnesses to the man’s routine mistake say it all starts when he gets on the wrong platform at his first station, despite the clearly obvious signs marking out which platform is which.

The man’s mistake is made even more embarrassing by the fact the signs at the station even have English on them.

The man is said to only notice his error when the train he is on terminates at its final station and every other passenger disembarks.

Those familiar with the situation say the man could avoid the inconvenience of having to ride the train all the way back if he just looked up from his phone for once.

It is believed that the man has thus far managed to avoid being late for work, however a source, who insisted on anonymity, said, “Running into work a minute before you’re due in isn’t a good look here. It’s not that hard to get the right bloody train. Fucking idiot.”

Man lives in Tokyo for a month

A man, 21, has lived in Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, for an entire month. Sources close to the man say he is enjoying life in a new city and is settling in well.

The individual in question is believed to be working as an English teacher for a year, having recently graduated from University. It is believed that the man moved to Tokyo with his best friend and he is reportedly glad to have had someone to share the last month with exploring the city.

Living in a sharehouse with ten strangers has, according to those familiar with the situation, been a mixed experience so far. However, given the location and relative cost of the man’s accommodation, most analysts say he has little to complain about.

The man’s new job, reportedly his first experience of long term full time employment, is said to be going well. Still in the training phase of his new job, the man is believed to be enjoying working with children despite his lack of previous experience in a teaching role.

A source, speaking exclusively to this publication, said “He’s getting used to navigating the city. He can use the public transport system fairly well now, and there’s only a fifty percent chance he’s going to get lost when he goes somewhere now – that’s a big improvement from a few weeks ago.”

The man reportedly had one quite significant incident while trying to pay his rent for the first time at a Japanese ATM. Some witnesses say the man, who struggled for some 45 minutes, swore at the machine. Different witnesses described the man shouting. Others say he was nearly brought to tears out of frustration. Some have stated that the man did all three of these things, but such statements cannot be verified at this time.

The recent typhoon Hagibis, one of the strongest typhoons to hit Japan for several decades, passed over the man without incident.

Giving a rare comment to this publication, the man said, “I’m having a great time out here. I’ve learnt and discovered so much already. It’s everything I hoped for and more. The past month has been life-changing, and I can’t wait to see what happens over the next one.”