The first photograph was taken over 12 months ago. It was quiet then, and it clearly has been for many years — the one-time shopping element of the street having long since gone. Nowadays, it’s almost entirely dated little karaoke bars, and the faint warbling of the generally older men who frequent such establishments can usually be heard. Tokyo’s virus-related and seemingly endless state of emergencies, however, have sadly changed even that, as none of the places were open when I took the second photo just recently. That said, with the number of vaccinated rapidly increasing, and infections seemingly under control, the suitably melancholy sound of enka will hopefully return once again.
Food and Drink
This old Tokyo off-license has fascinated me for years. From the signs to the crates to the suitably askew awning — there’s just so much to like and take in. The trouble was, the shutters were almost always down, and even when they weren’t, there was never anybody about. Until last week that is, when the owner finally appeared, and with his retro helmet, traditional apron and trusty Honda Super Cub, it was all suddenly well worth the long wait.
This old and faded shop front with its nowhere near as old but still defunct vending machine has fascinated me for ages. It’s a scene I find hard not to photograph, but harder still has been trying to get someone suitable in the frame. The street is awkwardly narrow, and there aren’t many people passing by, so my efforts have always ended in failure. Until last week that is, when persistence finally paid off and at long last a half-decent chance presented itself.
This old, slowly collapsing hairdressers has fascinated me for a long time, and these first two photos were taken just over three years ago.
Then, when passing last week, I was incredibly pleased to see the fella below sat outside having a quick canned coffee break. Photographs that further document the deterioration, as well as proving that excited responses aren’t always reciprocal.
Old and long-abandoned Japanese villages are hard to top when it comes to looks and character, but this wonderfully faded and atmospheric little mountain settlement more than holds its own.
Slowly deteriorating signs for souvenirs and refreshments point towards better, and previously busier times, yet just like so many of Japan’s old resort towns and crumbling day-trip destinations, they are now little more than dying reminders of a very different past.
The clearly visible decline unsurprisingly imbues such places with a very real sense of sadness, and yet at the same time there’s also a certain element of beauty involved. An unconventional sort of beauty it has to be said, but for me at least the poignant mix of unknown memories and natural decay exudes a quiet, subdued charm all its own.
Below then are the photos, which for what it’s worth were taken just over 4 years ago. It’s a location that will live long in the memory, both for the village itself, and the bar in the last shot. The latter is the only one in the village, so it’s where the local men, and men only, go to drink and basically be bawdy. Nothing out of the ordinary there, but the reaction we got when we opened the door was anything but normal — the slack-jawed, utterly disbelieving looks going way beyond anything either of us had experienced before. An entrance that also garnered a chorus of, “Foreigners!”, followed by a barrage of questions that made for a full-on experience to say the least. To be fair though, after realising we weren’t overly weird, and that we were more than willing to join in, the far more important business of drinking and gambling quickly took precedence once again, meaning another ordinary night in what for us was an extraordinary place.