Don’t Disturb My Disquieting Mood

Shingo Wakagi


I visited Tokyo in 1995. This was the third time for me to be in the city. The first time was in 1988; I was a high-school student and went to Parco Museum to see a solo exhibition of the work of Herb Ritts. The second time was in 1989. Around then, I was repeatedly retaking the TOEFL exam, struggling to get a score high enough. I decided to choose a testing location in Tokyo for a change and visited friends studying at universities in Tokyo. Since I had clear purposes on the first two visits and the timings were specific, I did not see or experience anything else. As a stranger from the countryside, I just walked through crowds casting my eyes down all the way to my destinations. To me, still under age, Tokyo was a monochrome, glitzy, and dreadful metropolis as photographed by Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki. I thought to myself, "Surely I am disliked by Tokyo." At Parco Museum, as I found the catalog of Herb Ritt’s work too big and too expensive to purchase, I happened to buy Philippe Halsman's JUMP instead, which had nothing to do with Ritts. Similarly, when I visited my friend, he guided me around Saitama, a suburb nearby, instead, saying, "There are too many people in Tokyo." Later I was accepted into an American university, finished my degree in five years, and then lived in New York City for a year. After that, I began to consider Tokyo as a possibility for where to be based for work. It had been difficult to live in New York and to acquire a visa. After experiencing life in such a great city as New York, any city looked smaller to me and, since I was sentimentally Americanized, Tokyo seemed exotic. Released from the years of academic education and still unemployed, I could fully enjoy my freedom. I no longer had to cast my eyes down when walking and, carrying my camera, I carefully observed individual faces in crowds crossing intersections towards me from the other side. And, most notably, everyone I met in Tokyo was kind to me. At night, I stayed with one acquaintance after another or slept at capsule hotels when I had money, or even spent hours in parks until sunrise. I had to distract my uncomfortable feelings, namely loneliness and anxiety, by taking photographs when being alone. As long as I was taking photographs, I was enjoying feeling as if I were a character in a film.