Essay 542 • Jan 22nd 2024

Endlessly walking the streets of the megalopolis that is Tokyo caused a certain amount of disenchantment whilst trying to grasp the city in its details. The sensation of being overwhelmed by everything created a tremendous feeling of smallness in every inch of my body. Skyscrapers built of glass and steel, the empty and shoegazing stare of those coming or going back to work on the Yamanote metro line, eyes locked onto a screen that lights up the sanitary masks that everyone is wearing almost as a kind of purposeful alienation.

My only comfort from this lethargy is to get away from the center and search for hope in the streets of Asakusa, where the lanterns outside the Izakayas emanate from their light the human warmth that transpires from inside, homely, and serene. Still, I’m consumed by a feeling of not being completely there, of not being completely welcomed. The plastic tarps that work as walls for the restaurant terraces, are the veil that stop me from creating a connection with Tokyo with its artificial barriers, alienating and deeply confounding me.

I still pushed on, hoping to be spontaneously entangled in the mesh of a city that refuses to take me in and that simply authorizes me to gaze upon it, sidelining me to the part of spectator on a front row seat in a distant auditorium, where the stage is backlit by stacked neon lights and red lanterns with indecipherable kanji that unsympathetically suggest “You can’t come in”.

Miguel Neves is a photographer and writer based in Lisbon, Portugal whose work revolves around creating meaningful connections through photography while at the same time promoting self-discovery through travel.
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