Projects: Drunk in Tokyo
Under the bright neon lights of urban Tokyo, a faceless group of men, dressed in similar black or blue suits, matching ties, and cheap loafers, stagger in and out of izakayas, or drinking clubs, in the entertainment districts of Shinjuku and Ginza, queue in front of restaurants deep inside of Tokyo Station, or croon inside private karaoke boxes in Otemachi. Japanese salarymen, the equivalent of western white collar workers, can be found in most parts of Tokyo or any major business district around Japan. While drinking in the west is looked upon as a leisure activity, alcohol consumption in Japan is part of the business culture. Office politics encourage after hours activities with higher ups while many a salaryman will ply potential clients with drinks to ease those important business decisions in a club surrounded by kimono-clad hostesses. With ties loosened, bosses and the underlings clink beer glasses with shouts of kampai! Young hostess girls pour glass after glass of sake all the while fending off the wandering hands of the uninhibited. Faces turn red and daily stress and problems vanish. A strict social order inside the office along with long stressed hours push many salarymen behind the empty end of sake bottles.
Towards midnight after imbibing round after rounds of drinks, subway and train platforms fill with people fleeing the neon nightlife as revelers rush to catch the last trains out of Tokyo. Red-faced with ties loosened and briefcases in hand, salarymen stumble through the crush of commuters cramming the last few trains of the night. Colleagues shake hands, slap backs, and bow deeply rushing off to sleep a few hours before heading back to work the next day. Many can’t make it. Many find themselves too drunk to make it up the stairs, find the right train, find the right station. They sleep where they fall. Passed out under a Tokyo subway map, vomiting on the train platform, or lurching up and down stairways trying in vain to make a train that's already gone. These men who couldn't make it home will wake up in a few hours, possibly spend a few hours sleeping in a 24 hour internet cafes, buy a razor, new shirt and tie from a ubiquitous vending machine, and head back to work on time. That salaryman sleeping on the sidewalk could be an exec from Toyota, a government official, or an accountant from Nomura.
The drunk salaryman has become synonymous with Tokyo nightlife. Its an image many Japanese would like not to have but it is now an integral part of the face of the country.
Dec. 2011. I've added new, never before seen (or edited) work from a most recent trip. This project is on going and updates will always be added.