Tokyo in 35

January 18 2015

Cities are all too often reduced to icons: yellow taxi New York boulevards, pretty Paris cafés, London tube stations. Tokyo transplant Alex Thomas is a self-described freeter. She captures her city between photography, design, and DJ gigs, as an “intensive, obsessive hobby”. Her candid images serve as a nuanced and raw portrait of Tokyo, day-to-day moments captured by a newcomer who’s just starting to call the place home.

“I like to take photos of things that catch my eye like light shapes, lonely plants, pops of color and building textures,” she says of her work, “I am too shy to take street portraits, so there’s a lot of backs of people’s heads. I’m working on creating images that illicit cinematic nostalgia for strangers.”

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How’s life in Tokyo? 

Fantastic! if you’re not a Japanese person working for a Japanese company burdened by Japanese Society.

What brought you here? When did you first arrive?

All my life, my entire being has been pulled by a strong magnetic force to be in Japan. I grew up surrounded by little hints of Japanese culture and art here and there. It was embedded at a young age. Everything I was attracted to ended up being an import from Japan. I had to make it back to the motherland, it feels like home here. I had a temporary stint in Seoul, which I now consider the step-motherland. I’ve been situated in Asia for two years now.

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Where’s the best breakfast in town?

A buttered shokupan (white bread) in your mouth as you’re running to catch the train, or a conbini (convenience store) onirigi (ball of rice) and a canned black coffee from one of any bajillion vending machines. breakfast isn’t really a “thing” here. There are some cafes that have all day waffles as a fancy dessert, or a couple trendy breakfast-themed fad restaurants in hip neighborhoods that people queue up for because it was featured on a talk show. Although the Denny’s American diner chain is here, I haven’t seen a plate of bacon and eggs in years. I can make my own mimosas though, don’t worry about me.

How about your favorite coffee spot?

Despite being born and raised in Seattle I haven’t touched a drop of coffee up until a couple months ago. I found a cafe in Harajuku inside of a shop called “niko and…” that serves a ¥400 ($4) frozen mocha ground up with real dark chocolate! AND! The place has outlets and free wifi! that is so rare in Tokyo. It’s basically heaven, maybe?

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Do you have a secret hideout anywhere in the city?

Any non-nonchalant 11-story outside staircase with rooftop access.

Which is your favorite neighborhood?

The entire west side of Tokyo is pretty solid, but I am happy anywhere I can explore narrow winding alleyways. I lived in one neighborhood called Sasazuka that had 5 grocery stores, a dollar shop and an Indian food restaurant serving food till 6am that I am fond of. I like to nerd out in Nakano, the low-key Akihabara, to get my vintage manga/anime/retro video gaming fill. I also get pretty excited when I visit Shin-Okubo, the K-town of Tokyo. it’s like a cleaner, more expensive Seoul. I go there to get my K-pop and pork belly fix.

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For more, follow Alex on Instagram and Tumblr