Although I have lived in Asia for nearly 20 years, it was only recently that I had the privilege of spending time in Japan.

In the past few years I have visited a handful of times, spending a total of only a couple of months in Japan, but they have mostly been for commercial assignments. My creative briefs, by their very nature, have ensured that I spend nearly all day and night inside a hotel or client’s office — my reprieves generally measured in minutes in the mornings and afternoons and a couple of hours in the evenings.

However, even if only briefly, I relish wandering the streets in Tokyo’s heaving Shibuya or Shinbashi districts and more outlying Köenji or Nakano neighbourhoods or Osaka’s bustling Umeda and Kitashinchi neighbourhoods — window shopping, people watching and generally observing the world.  As always, my iPhone is close at hand, and I thoroughly enjoy making a variety of street photographs of the places and characters I encounter in those fleeting moments.

Simply put, I absolutely love my time in Japan.  I feel a true affinity for the people and the nuances of the culture.  And for the first time in many years — perhaps since I first visited Asia as a teenager more than 20 years ago — I feel a true sense of culture shock when I am in Japan.  Crazy as it may sound, these feelings of isolation and displacement exhilarate me, making me feel alive.

I am well aware that I only scratched the surface of Japan. But, honestly, it now feels like an itch that I can’t seem to stop scratching.

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*Waratte or 笑って translates to English as “Smile”.
One day, my client, my assistant and I were heading to a taxi and, as we walked past a building, I was struck by the light and the repeating pattern made by the pillars.  I stopped and lined-up a photograph, waiting for someone to walk through my frame. These three young women strolled by and — just as they did — my Japanese client called out “Waratte!!” and the young woman in the middle turned and looked directly into my lens while giving a little smile and wave.  This photograph is in the slideshow above.