[ Article and Photographs by Rene Smith ]
Tokyo is an awe-inspiring metropolis and one of my favourite places to take photos. The view from high above at the Tokyo Skytree seems to extend forever into the distance. Looking out at the sprawling mass I think about how many amazing spots there must be hidden in between the main hubs: an incentive to explore the more obscure areas, deep within the maze.
One of my favourite finds is under the Rainbow Bridge which links the mainland to an artificial island named Odaiba. I’ve been over the bridge a number of times but only recently learned that it could be explored on foot. There’s this great spot under the loop that looks so different to the usual perspectives, having a wide angle lens came in handy here.
Not far from the Rainbow Bridge is a district named Roppongi. It’s a popular hangout for foreigners and locals alike after a busy week at work. With a reputation for being a little wild (by Japanese standards), it’s a vibrant spot where people of all types come to have a good time and usually find it.
Sanctuary is never far from reach with beautiful Japanese parks and gardens found throughout Tokyo. They are expertly manicured and the perfect place to find Zen amidst the urban hustle. Kyoto is also only a few hours away by Shinkansen (high speed train) if you’re looking for more quiet moments of self reflection.
The parks and gardens are especially popular in spring during the cherry blossom season. It’s a beautiful time of the year to be in Japan and everyone seems to have a smile on their face as the winter melts away. Large crowds gather at popular spots such as Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park to enjoy the national pastime of hanami (flower viewing) which is a great excuse to get dressed up and enjoy a picnic in the sun with friends and family.
Japan is rich in culture and they love celebrating local festivals and seasonal events. Some of my favourite memories are of elaborate street parades, firework displays and other experiences that are wonderful for photography! Everyone is in good spirits, crowds are well behaved and venues are typically left cleaner than they were before everyone arrived.
On other days Tokyo can feel like a solitary place; 13 million people going about their lives side by side but very much in isolation. The Japanese are hard working people who tend to live private lives and I got that kind of melancholy feeling when I saw this businessman walking by himself through a park in Shinjuku.
I love the sheer randomness of Japan, a constant stream of odd moments that are probably completely normal, only I have no idea what’s going on. I ended up on Japanese TV while visiting an information centre in Nikko last year for example, and I’m still not 100% sure why.
The people here have a wonderful mix of shyness and curiosity that tends to result in hilarious situations and memorable stories.
There’s a sense of magic that comes from learning the mysteries of a foreign culture so different to your own. Photography helps capture those moments, allowing you to share experiences with others who might be on a similar journey.