Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Eye of the Camera

We all have memories of special places. For one it’s a particular spot in the old hometown, and for another it may be the jungles of Borneo or a high school trip to New York. The recollections of places we’ve spent a part of our lives, be it long or short, are not mere static images frozen in the imagination but something often enriched by the passage of years. This happens especially when memories of a place are pleasant and characterized by a happy time of life. Over time the memories become romanticized and take on an aura of specialness that becomes almost holy. At least that’s always how it’s been with me.

Businessmen stop for a bowl of noodles on the way home.

Anyone who has spent some time flipping through the pages of Scriblets will know that once upon a time I lived in the faraway land of Japan. Seeing as how I spent more than a year and a day there, my memories of it are about as tactile as thought can be. But a funny thing happened. It wasn’t long before those aspects of life in Japan that had once bothered me—the packed trains, the crowds and constant dodging of oncoming bicycles, the bureaucracy—all these gradually turned sweet in memory and now I’m thinking, “God, how I miss the loud and constant chatter of five housewives over coffee!” All of it has been embellished and set fondly and romantically aglow by the yearning for a place in memory.

Early morning bicycle

The photographs of Masashi Wakui bring to life the city in my mind. Though they catalog actual places, Wakui’s photographs give Tokyo a surreal, cinematic quality. Photographed at night, mostly among the backstreets and alleyways of Shibuya and Shinjuku, in their neon richness the photos are almost kaleidoscopic in their portrayal of the city. Wakui’s photographs have been called, “big-budget anime come to life.” It is the result of processing his photographs to give them the tinged look of oversaturated colors seen in Japanese anime—it is what some have begun calling the Masashi Wakui Look. Unlike other cities, light illuminates Tokyo at night to give it a dreamlike dystopian atmosphere and it is through this nocturnal city that Wakui’s camera eye wanders.


Despite the many, many visitors to his Flicker and Tumblr pages and the popularity of his work, information about the photographer is hard to find. He is a self-taught photographer who wanders the streets at night with high-performance compact cameras (Sony RX100 and Ricoh GR) in search of nighttime cityscapes. Perhaps it’s that he prefers to let his cameras do the talking and so remains in the background. Certainly a humble touch that his Tumblr account includes the brief phrase, 本当に馬鹿でした。(“It’s just foolishness really.”) In fact, Wakui’s photographs are anything but and are marveled over by more than a few amateurs and professionals. You can find his work at and

Have a look. It’s a safe bet to say you will be fascinated by this man’s view of Tokyo.

Alleyway Bar

Shibuya Crossing, one of the most heavily trafficked crossings in the world

Rainy night in the neon jungle

The romance of dimly lit narrow streets colored by neon, streetlights and shadow.

Early morning under the wires

Soul Joint


  1. Your memories of Japan are a wonderful companion to these photographs. The colors are so saturated the images seem alive and more like cinema. My goodness, I love "rainy night in the neon jungle."

  2. No Greyhound station? Beautiful colors, and I liked your reminiscing.


About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America