46 photo-sketches from Tokyo

What is a ‘photo-sketch?’

‘Photo-sketching’ is a practice (or technique) I’ve been experimenting with for several years. It is still developing. That is to say, its meaning and practice is fluid. It is far from set. Simply stated, it stems from a desire to transform a personal photograph into a piece of text. A poem, or a micro fiction. The image becomes text and directs the narrative. The photo becomes words. To clarify, the 46 fragments in this piece all originally existed as photos. You are about to read 46 photos rendered as text. A small selection of the original photographs are included.

What is a ‘Yamanote Loop?’

The Yamanote train line is a loop system in central Tokyo. The majority of the accounts in this piece take place within, or close to, this loop. …

A flash fiction memory from Tokyo

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I ride the Yamanote line to Harajuku. I exit the train station and walk downhill, navigating the late morning crowds erupting over Takeshita Dori. I then cross the road and slide into backstreets. I find the Design Festa gallery, it’s a refurbished house with two wings and an exoskeleton made of scaffolding. In between the wings, there’s an okonomiyaki restaurant. I stop at the restaurant, drink a beer and burn some tobacco. It’s Saturday, which means the artists are here. I kill the cigarette butt in one of the ashtrays and walk inside.

She wears a straw hat, silver necklace with a letter ‘E’ pendent and a white spotted cream t-shirt. Her faded blue jeans end just above her ankles, revealing a brief opening of white skin and providing the transition to black slip-on shoes. Above her straw hat there’s a sign on the wall that reads ‘ZERO’. To her right is a wooden table. The table collects and presents the jewellery she is selling. Necklaces, earrings and bracelets. The sabi in every piece is a testament to craftsmanship. The simple wooden table compliments the naturalism of the jewellery. Behind her, on the wall, there is a framed photograph of a Western woman lifting a set of dumbbells. …

A flash fiction memory from the 90’s

I saw Kurt’s eyes in Stephanie’s satchel. They watched Stephanie from the floor as she slashed lines of green acrylic into the canvas. It was Monday and we were in second period art practical. Stephanie’s dungarees looked like a palette.

‘Hey, I don’t think I’ve read that one.’ I said, pointing to the half-visible book. Stephanie reached down to her satchel and freed the rest of Kurt’s face. She opened the front cover and flicked through the pages haphazardly. The pages came to rest on a double spread photo of Kurt on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance. The book was Cobain: By the Editors of Rolling Stone. Hardcover, great photos, and a good selection of interviews. By the end of the book, Kurt was dead. Which sounds obvious, but I had just read Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad and by the end of that book he was alive. …

A flash fiction memory from Tokyo

She was from Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture — holidaying in Tokyo visiting friends and he was from Berlin now working in Tokyo as a photojournalist for some small news outlet and I knew them for one whole evening and part of the next morning and eight months later she would be caught up in the Great Töhoku Earthquake and I would text message her after seeing the news but never get a reply. I didn’t get his contact details and am left now with only a handful of photographs to remember them by.

I had arranged to meet her outside this giant music store on Shinjuku Dori, you couldn’t miss the place, just across the road from the Wald 9 cinema and just a few minutes walk from my Tokyo apartment — we hopped the Chuo Line and arrived in Nakano a few minutes later, navigating shops and stalls, broadway and people, then heading down alleys into other alleys into more alleys and then side streets from alleys and there he was — waiting for us, leaning casually on the side of a street-food stall and already sipping on a freshly flipped bottle of Yebisu. We drank sake and we drank shōchū and Yebisu after Yebisu and we ate whale sashimi which both tasted and looked like venison — then onto big long plates of torisashi — which is chicken sashimi and isn’t completely raw but might as well be raw when only pan seared for something like ten seconds and still pink and carpaccio-like in texture — slivers dealt out by a masters knife, and then delicate slices of fresh bonito slapped into mathematical nigiri, finishing with perfectly wrapped maki overflowing with ocean-tasting sea urchin — and all kinds of pickles. The alleyways of Nakano were hungry, drunk and alive. …


Marc Brüseke

Guerrilla publisher and optimist.

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