Gritty Street Photos of Tokyo in the 70s and 80s
"When the last trains in Tokyo are gone, along with the businessmen and women, students, and the workers of restaurants and bars, Tokyo is deserted, and the 'other face of Tokyo' emerges."
All photos by Masatoshi Naito, courtesy of Super Labo
This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Masatoshi Naito is an acclaimed Japanese photographer whose work has been exhibited internationally since the 60s at places like the MoMA and the Barbican. While he's often known for Ba Ba Bakuhatsu (Grandma Explosion), a project documenting Japanese asceticism, rites, and folklore practiced in the mountain region Tohoku, his documentation of Japanese street scenes from 1970 through 1985 reveal another subculture, of sorts, in Japan.
Published in 1985 and reissued this year by Super Labo, Tokyo: A Vision of Its Other Side imagines the metropolis as a "huge life form," and the images within unearth a less common side of the organism, so to speak. Naito documented the disenfranchised population of Tokyo, such as the homeless, sex workers, and alcoholics—"those who dwell in the darkest and innermost areas of the city."
Masatoshi Naito wrote the following about the photo book:
It was from 1970 to 1985 when I intensively photographed Tokyo. Japan was radically changing as rapid economical growth was underway. Old houses and buildings were being destroyed and replaced by new ones including modern skyscrapers. Even today, Tokyo is still expanding.
Nowadays, I see crowds of people flooding all over the Tokyo city area from morning to night. The crowds are always there, from the first train to the last train of the Yamanote Line, the Chuo Line, subways and various private railways. However, when the last trains are gone, along with the businessmen and women, students, and the workers of restaurants and bars, Tokyo is deserted, and the 'other face of Tokyo' emerges.
Somebody gathers food dumped by bars and restaurants. Another one picks up cardboard boxes and cans that may sell. There are people sleeping on the street. Some of them are drinking alcohol. Homeless people begin to act lively. Exactly, Tokyo as a 'huge life form' reveals itself.