Walking and photographing on the streets of Japan recently for me was an exercise in solitude, but it was by no means a lonely experience. For one, I was often surrounded by great crowds – one of the places in Japan where I spent the most time is the famous Shibuya Crossing located near the Hachiko exit of the busy Shibuya Station, where at the changing of the lights, traffic is stopped in ALL directions – allowing the spectacle of a mass of humanity scrambling across the intersections in every direction possible.
The Shibuya crossing is one of the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, and is a landmark in and of itself. Imposing TV screens flank the crossing in all directions, hanging over the facade of skyscrapers overlooking this hub where Tokyo’s youth, nightlife and fashion converge.
The perfect place to get lost, if there is any, is at Shibuya, right in the middle of the road. And get lost I did, as I crossed the roads repeatedly, hurling myself into the incoming horde of people, a people inseparable at first glance judging from the close proximity at which they walk, yet, thronging among the crowds, it was clear everyone was different and distinct, differentiated in the individuality of dressing, mannerisms and looks.
There is no better place to people watch. As if to support this act of observation, one can sit at the Tsutaya Starbucks conveniently nestled at the ground floor of one of the skyscrapers surrounding the famous intersection, looking at the passerbys over a cup of coffee. It even boasts of a higher floor, from which full length glass windows one can sit and take in the full spectrum of the great migration below.
I had lost count of the number of hours I spent at the Shibuya crossings, but from the first day I was there, the seeds of a long term project has been sown – “Crossings” (working title) has been a project I has continually worked on even after I came back to Singapore, with a planned book and exhibition in the works.
There were always unexpected discoveries every time I visited Shibuya when I was in Japan. The streets and intersections of Shibuya pulls me like no other place.
This is one of the many reasons I love street photography. It takes nothing more than a camera, a good pair of shoes and a willingness to walk and observe and live on the streets.
Starbucks coffee in hand would be a bonus 🙂
If you like this, please also check out my previous post about shooting in Japan. Watch out too for the on-going posts in this series!