This article originally appeared on i-D
“Home is finding a connection between one another,” says Sophie Klock, a 22-year-old photographer from Berlin. “I always find new homes within the people I meet.” Some of these people she discovered last year, when she spent two months in Japan. Her personal encounters soon became the subjects of her new photo book Eight Visits, which explores what it means to be young in a vibrant and hectic city like Tokyo. Klock wanted to refrain from the stereotypical depictions of Japan you often find in photo books -- looking at the bigger picture instead of cheesy ones of cherry blossom season.
“You arrive somewhere you’ve never been before and already carry all this visual baggage of the place,” says the photographer, who admits to arriving in Tokyo a total gaijin with certain preconceptions about the country. The longer Sophie spent there, the more she started to develop her own sense of home, born out of the people she met. She found that each of them had fluid ideas when it came to their sense of belonging, nationality or gender identity. “The preconceived notions surrounding Japanese identity were cast aside by the forward-pushing, rebellious energy of the young people I met along the way,” says Klock. “It’s these kids who will shape the future for what it means to be young in Japan.”
Eight Visits is all about acceptance, about being yourself in a world that tries to make you question yourself all the time. “I see these young people as part of a globalised generation,” Sophie explains. “The portraits document my experience with their expressions of identity.”
Speaking to some of Sophie's subjects, we delved a little deeper…
Iori Yamaki, 20, stylist
Can you tell us how it feels to grow up in Tokyo?
It’s such a liveable place, even though I get tired of it sometimes. Everything is very convenient; you have trains that run on time, there’s always a store on the corner. But on the other hand, it feels quite far away from everything happening in Europe. Still, our fashion scene is the coolest in the whole world.
When you think of the word "home", what pops up in your mind?
Definitely some of my friends, we inspire and encourage each other. Food like sushi and sashimi, and certain clothes feel like home too. I’m a stylist, so I am constantly surrounded by fashion.
What do you want people to know about your city, about your home?
Tokyo is the most vigorous city in the world!
Tia Hall, 23, knitwear designer
What does Tokyo represent for you?
It’s the place where my parents met, so I guess in a sense it’s also the place that birthed me. I’ve felt drawn to the city since I was little. It’s the place of my first love, and so many other firsts for me.
What does home mean to you?
In general, home is where I can be comfortable, where I can exist without barriers and just be, without thinking. A meditative space. My own body feels like a kind of home, when I am closing my eyes, when I am in bed, with my hand on my heart. Very close friends feel like home, too.
How do you identify in terms of gender?
In English, I identify as a non-binary femme. I don’t feel like my identity should be constricted or bound by language, so I am not uncomfortable with Japanese not having “they/them” pronouns -- I think the concept of having pronouns is weird anyway. More prominent in Japanese is the use of first person pronouns when referring to yourself, which has gender nuances but is also used by both binary genders. Of course, that obviously just skims the surface. To be honest, I just wish we all could just telepathically communicate.
Koki Asao, 22, model
What does home mean to you? Is it a physical or metaphorical space?
For me, it’s a mix of both, an in-between. You could call it a metaphysical space if you want.
Is there anything you learned about yourself lately?
That I feel comfortable when I’m busy. Having too much free time every day makes me kind of lazy. It may sound a bit weird, but I realised that having a lot of tasks on my to do list is actually good for me.
What defines Japanese culture? What defines you?
Japanese culture is food. Everyone I met from abroad through my work as a model told me that our food is ambivalent to our traditional culture. When it comes to me, I define myself through fashion, that’s what I enjoy most.
Azuri Enomoto, 21, model
What do you like most about your home?
I just moved out recently but I literally loved everything about the apartment. I was staying there with my former girlfriend for about a year -- she was the first girlfriend I ever had in my life, so there’s a lot of memories I connect with this place.
How would your friends describe you?
Almost all of them say I’m an eccentric person but I think I’m just normal.
Which character trait is “typically” Japanese?
In my opinion, most Japanese people are very sincere and shy. I feel very ambivalent about it.
Marcel Mander, 19, fashion student
When was the last time you felt homesick?
Very recently. I had one of my best friends from childhood visit me a few weeks ago and right after he left, I felt deeply misplaced and numb -- as though a part of me was torn away.
Do you remember the most defining period in your life so far? What did it teach you?
Honestly, I think it was with Sophie in Tokyo. Our time together taught me so many things and brought me to this state of mind where I knew how I truly wanted to be, how I wanted to talk, interact and think about things. I learnt so much about effective communication, empathy and authenticity -- she supported me so much in my way of thinking.
What is it that connects people the most?
Emotions. When the manner in which we communicate -- whether it be through words or body language, smell or touch, or even simply eye contact -- reaches a point at which we give ourselves away, expose ourselves or just let people see us, truly, then we really connect on an emotional level. Emotional bonds like these are true connections.
‘Eight Visits’ designed by Joseph Atkinson will be released on January 28th. Pre-order it here.