Kabukicho with the GR

Camera: Ricoh GRV

Continuing on the late night creep...I took my Ricoh GR for a mission around Kabukicho, Tokyo's infamous red light district and naturally the epicenter of Tokyo's 'undesirable' population.

Historically the area was known as Tsunohazu and was originally a swamp but after WWII, it got bombed and out of the ashes a new city emerged. There was plans for a Kabuki (traditional Japanese dance/drama play) theater to be built in the area, although it never happened, the name Kabukicho stuck. Over the years it developed into the red light district it is today and is home to thousands of bars, clubs, strip clubs, illegal brothels, massage parlours, love hotels etc. It's estimated that Kabukicho holds the largest Yakuza concentration as well and it's pretty obvious even just walking around..that they are everywhere and running the show down there. It is also considered home to Tokyo's unofficial Korea Town, although technically Shin-Okubo (right next door) is the official Korea Town.

Walking through Kabukicho on any day of the week in the PM, is an interesting side of Tokyo that many people don't see or want to see. There are countless drunk youth, drunk salary men, homeless people everywhere. People hustling you on every corner to either come to their establishments, buy drugs or check out their girls. The later it gets the more uninhibited it gets.

During the two times I ventured through to get some shots, I saw yakuza fighting, people getting arrested and drug deals go down. It actually proved pretty hard to shoot photos as mostly everyone is suspicious and doing illegal shit. It doesn't help that I stand out being a young foreigner.

That's why I chose to bring out the GR, my favorite undercover street photography camera. It is essentially silent...all black and you can turn off the LCD screen and all lights so its perfect for street. I held it by my side and whenever I saw something I wanted to shoot (and wouldn't prove too risky..like shooting the fighting Yakuza) I would just fire it off and point it up in the direction of the shot. Worked out not too bad.

Next time I'm back I'm definitely gonna venture back into Kabukicho. It's such a crazy place...I love it.

Note to the photography nerds...Kabukicho and the surrounding area of Shinjuku is Daido Moriyama's (Famous Japanese street photographer) favorite place to shoot in Tokyo and he famously uses a Ricoh GR (film) to shoot most of his photos. So it felt like a bit of nod to the man to be shooting with a Ricoh in his stomping grounds! Check out the video below of him in action if you haven't seen it, it's an insight into the mind of an amazing photographer..

While I was in Tokyo my homie Louis Mitchell was there too and shot a video of the famous artist Shohei Otomo (son of Katsuhiro Otomo, creator of my favorite manga and anime, 'Akira') and Shohei talks about the underbelly of Tokyo's society...which fits pretty well with this post. Plus it's just a really cool video and I gotta give Louis props. Check out his Tumblr for some great street photography, and his Vimeo for other epic videos (Expired 16mm Kodak Aerochrome III Infrared Film!)