Last Minute In Shimokitazawa
Several days ago a spunky student named Lana reached out t0 me. She desperately wanted to schedule a portrait shoot and had a very short timeframe in which to do so. Lana has been in Tokyo for three months completing an internship. With her work practicum complete, she is leaving "for good" in a couple of days. I could tell that Lana really wanted to have a professional portraiture session and time was indeed of the essence. Though it was last minute, I carved a few hours out of my schedule to help Lana out.
Lana's problem is quite common. She hadn't had any photographs of herself made in Japan and wanted to have a few portraits of her time in Tokyo to share with family in Hanoi and friends at the University of Illinois. Considering this, I knew that Shimokitazawa was the perfect location for my client.
Shimokitazawa station is in Setagaya at the intersection of the Keio Inokashira line and Okakyu Electric Railway. The small station tricks you into thinking that you must have gotten off at the wrong stop. Frankly, the stop is damn small. There aren't large billboards or neon advertisements screaming for your attention. From the platform you can't see a forty foot robot statue like you would in Odaiba nor can you see a massive Godzilla looming from a nearby building. It isn't exactly downtown Tokyo, that much is for certain. Still, Shimokitazawa is definitely the place to be. Vogue Magazine even claimed that the neighborhood affectionately called Shimokita, is the coolest neighborhood in the world.
Throughout the morning Shimokitazawa is extremely calm. but as the day wears on, the the streets of Shimokita begin to clog with hipsters from all over Tokyo. Due to limited traffic access, independent fashion retailers thrive and cafes, theaters, bars and live music venues are filled with Japanese youth. What better place to photograph a creative and artistic spirit like Lana?
We met at the south gate of the small station in the late afternoon. While the south end of the neighborhood is amazing (there is a video arcade there that takes a lot of my spare change), I knew that we needed to head to the north end of the station to avoid the majority of the crowd and have a more relaxing portrait date.
I was right. Once on the north side of the area, the crowds were thin and a gentle breeze cut the summer heat. We lazily strolled the streets, popped into boutiques, ate some pancake pies from Flippers, and even managed to complete our portrait mission.
Thank you Lana for such a wonderful afternoon. Congratulations on a successful internship in Japan and good luck with your junior year of university!
Award winning photographer based in Tokyo, Japan. Specializing in portrait photography, he shoots a variety of portraiture, editorial, and event, and commercial photography assignments. Andy is a husband, father, and lover of fried food.