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A blog about travel, places I love, places I've lived, and strange customs that keep us occupied the world over.

Featured so far: Tokyo, London, Berlin...

strangers on a jr train in tokyo

in this city, you sometimes get the sense you’re walking through a manga comic, or surrounded by anime cartoons. it’s a city full of extremities. larger than life characters pop out of the anonymous ranks of suited salary men in pretty much every direction you care to look. and, in the spirit of walker evans portraits of anonymous and unguarded civilians riding the subway in new york in the 1930s, captured using a hidden camera, here are some of my secret iphone snaps.

incredibly, i’m in a unique position to capture these shots. it’s impossible to buy a phone (even an iphone) in japan that doesn’t make a noise when you take a picture. even in silent mode, you can’t prevent your phone from alerting everyone in close proximity when you’re capturing a shot. quizzing my new friends in nihon, reasons for this weird quirk seem to centre around privacy and its central importance in the culture here. one friend tells me that phones make these noises because drunken salary men have a tendency to try and take snaps up the skirts of schoolgirls whilst in transit. it’s certainly true that many of the express trains have female only carriages to avoid such unwanted attention on the ride home. 

the other commonplace revealed in these photos is the sight of passengers dropping asleep. at every hour of the day, seven days of the week. as soon as people sit down on the train, within moments, it’s more than likely that they will be nodding off. i blame the crazy work ethic. 

Harajuku Girls Tokyo dye fahrgäste jr trains metro nihon passengers strangers transport wigs yamanote line walker evans Japan