The first time I went to Tokyo I was on an assignment. I had always desired to go there. It was just like landing on another planet and at the same time it was a bit like going home. In no other place I felt so happily alone.
Tokyo has become a door onto a parallel universe for me. The discovery of a place I had only dreamed.
After I completed the assignment I started to that shots of the game centers, irresistibly attracted by those place and the people that were inside of them, drowning in a loud solitude. I entered an artificial night populated by heroes, magic, dreams of vengeance. The line separating real and virtual began to thin in front of my own eyes. The city that was outside was now inside the screens. The faces drawn by the pixels were outside, in the streets, lost in one of the world’s largest cities.
In “Great Tokyo”, there are over 33 million inhabitants, with an average density of 8.817 people per square kilometer. About 43% of all families, however, are made up of only one person.
Solitude, in Japan, is respected: eating alone has no shade of loneliness to it, much like the nightlife (drinking alone is not uncommon), travelling on a train full of people with nobody saying a word, or trying one’s luck on a pachinko in a gaming room.
While walking around Tokyo it is easy to be swept away by a vortex of lights and deafening sounds coming out of the thousands of gaming rooms spread all over the city. Game rooms and pachinkos are places with no moral and social judgements attached.
One seeks refuge in these places for many different reasons: to escape from a stressful day in rigidly hierarchical workplaces; to detach oneself from the routine of family life; to get a taste of loneliness and feel free from the pressures of speaking and interacting with others.
These cultural habits add up to the alienation that often ensues from the rapid adoption of new technology: 24 million smartphone owners (as of June 2012) are ever more connected to the virtual world and less to the real one.
This future city scenario thus becomes the perfect background for the dualism that has become spirit of our times; a city where millions of people move around becoming a personification of the ongoing struggle between global connection and local solitude.