I, Tokyo

I came to Tokyo for the first time in the spring of 2006. My girlfriend Sara had got a job there, and so I decided to move with her to explore the city in which she had grown up. It was a society I had never experienced before, one which I had little knowledge of and to which I had no real sense of relationship.

Initially, I felt invisible. Each day I would walk the streets without anyone making eye contact with me. Everyone seemed to be heading somewhere - it was as if they had no need of communication. Most mornings I would take the Chuo line from Nakano to Shinjuku, and even though the train would be packed with salary-men and school girls in uniform, I rarely heard a word being spoken.

Though Tokyo and its people seemed unreachable, I felt drawn to the tight and confined reality of the metropolis. My feeling of isolation and loneliness was overwhelming - it was something I had to find a way to change. And so I began taking my pocket camera out with me on the streets and in the parks. Rather than focusing on the impressively tall buildings and the eternal swarm of people, I began searching for the narrow paths and the individual human presence in a city that felt both attractive and repulsive at the same time. I wanted to meet the people, to get involved in the city, to make Tokyo mine.

The pictures in this series are a recording of what I saw and the people I met during these 18 months.

In my attempt to try to understand Tokyo and its people, I found myself returning to the same streets and parks again and again. There were certain areas in Shinjuku and Yoyogi Park that always captured my interest and inevitably they became the places that I felt closest to. I think that it was meeting the people there, on a one to one basis that helped to give me a better impression of what it means to be a part of Tokyo today.

Some of those I photographed became my friends, others I shared only a short moment with. The pictures are something that grew from these meetings - pictures I took out of curiosity, and to help me remember how I felt that day, my experience of the city. When I photographed I tried to work by instinct as much as possible so as to connect and involve myself with the places I visited and the people I met. Taking snapshots supports the feeling of something unpredictable and playful. I believe it is when pictures are unconsidered and irrational that they come to life; that they evolve from showing to being.

Jacob Aue Sobol