Autumn colours in a Tokyo alley

The red autumn foliage in this alleyway may well be fake, but there’s no doubting the colourful character of the fella passing through it. A man whose smile is big, and his summer wear bold.

Tokyo alley

Slightly surreal Japanese public sleeping

People passed out on the streets in Tokyo isn’t an especially uncommon sight, particularly so on a Saturday or Sunday morning. As regardless of whether one is a young reveller or long in the tooth transvestite, it’s all too easy to get carried away with Japan’s wonderfully relaxed licensing laws.

This scene, however, is a bit different. There are of course the tired souls, but then there’s also a mannequin, sleeping bag and the fluffy green outfit. Almost like an odd mix of public sleeping and performance art.

Japanese public sleeping

Tokyo old lady: A short photo story

Unless it’s a bar or there is booze involved, Tokyo isn’t necessarily the friendliest of cities. But, in the capital’s slowly dwindling older districts, it can be a very different story. Greetings are common, and conversations between strangers aren’t anywhere near as rare — the latter sometimes even occurring in the most comical of situations.

Tokyo old lady story

Despite her age, and the wide-eyed wonder that a foreigner can still inexplicably cause in Japan, this old lady didn’t bat an eyelid. Instead, after the briefest of pleasantries, I was hastily put to work – lifting up the difficult to move shutters, and then opening the semi-stuck sliding doors behind them. All the while she apologised about the amount of crap that had accumulated over the years, which now, at 93, she was simply too old and too tired to do anything about. Well, that and the war, her long-dead husband, precarious financial situation and the kids who rarely ever visit.

Tokyo old lady story

Yet once the shutters and door work was done, leaving proved difficult. As, after washing my hands as instructed, a lunch of instant ramen was offered, along with some booze from a selection of miniature bottles she managed to unearth from the bottom of a cupboard.

Politely declining both, however, changed nothing, and it quickly became apparent that she just wanted someone, anyone, to talk to. Even if that person didn’t understand everything she said. Or due to age and background, couldn’t really relate to her life story. Neither mattered in the slightest.

And so I listened to a lady stuck in the past, and yet at the same time also stuck in a present she has no great desire to continue living in. A sad lot at the end of a long life.

Tokyo old lady story

But we talked for a little while. She posed for a last photo. And if nothing else, the day turned out to be different than usual — for both of us.

Tokyo old lady story

Tokyo invader (urban art)

French urban artist, Invader, recently visited Tokyo, and once again he left behind some of his distinctive creations — this time opting to mix things up a bit by appropriating some popular Japanese figures, such as Astro Boy and the commonly seen maneki-neko, or beckoning cat. But at the same time he hasn’t ditched the kind of work he is most known for, and indeed is named after.

In this instance it’s a somewhat wary looking space invader. One that’s temporarily managing to avoid the attentions of its hosts, but not those of the fellow alien photographing it.

Tokyo invader urban art