Yamanote Loop: A Micro Fiction Series

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.

1

canned coffee for breakfast

2 cans instead of 1

because last night

I had 8 beers

instead of 1

2

looking down

from my 12th floor balcony in Shinjuku

a pedestrian crossing

a red and white taxi speeds

outside a Family Mart

late hot July evening

a woman waits

to cross the street

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3

late night window view

Shinjuku 12 floors up

only 2 taxis on the street below

in front of me is a billboard advertising shampoo

4 Japanese women with long brown hair are illuminated

in an opposite building I can just make out a

man sat in an apartment watching a game show

on a wall-sized TV

4

early evening apartment view

streets lit with billboards

building-signs restaurants car-lights streetlights

tips of skyscrapers in total darkness

I try to make out where they end

I count 9 people

most carry briefcases

I count 30 cars

more than half are taxis

a single office like a lighthouse

in an otherwise darkened building

a man works tirelessly at a computer

5

Intercom:

4 buttons, a large touchscreen, a speaker and LEDs

no idea how it works

Apartment Controls:

5 buttons, a speaker, LEDs and display

no idea how it works

Bathroom Controls:

DRY-FAN 24

8 buttons, LEDs and display

I figure out some functions

Toilet Controls:

7 buttons and LEDs

I figure out some functions

6

a photo at night but as bright as day

a wall of screens and billboards

people swarm

endless light

IMPACT EXCITER NEW ALBUM

GODZILLA FIRE!

MIGHTY VISION SHIBUYA

ELECTRO FRUITS

LECCA NEW ALBUM

TAISEI NEON

HMV THE MUSIC MASTER

2 HALF NAKED BLONDES

IN FRONT OF STARS & STRIPES

A MONKEY PUPPET FIGURE

MULTI-COLOURED FIGURE

LIFE-SIZE DOLLS WITH

BALL HEADS CENTRE STAGE

PROJECTED MEGA SCREEN

TOKYO SKYLINE RISING SUN

STARBUCKS

TSUTAYA

Shibuya Station this way

hive mind

7

blue sky

morning

ELECTRONICS

DUTY FREE

FLAGSHIP STORE

PANASONIC

TOSHIBA E-CORE

DUTY FREE

ADULT AMUSEMENT PARK

5 green trees

“WELCOME TO SEGA”

“WELCOME TO

ONODEN”

says the little anime

boy in dungarees and

yellow shirt

8

plastic anime school girls

trapped in boxes

cigarettes and

16-bit beats

9

Suntory vending machine

bright backlight

17 drinks to choose from

12 of them cost 100 YEN

the other 5 cost 130 YEN

GREEN TEA

BLACK TEA

DAKARA

LIPTON APPLE TEA

VITAMIN C.C. LEMON

NATURAL MINERAL WATER

PEPSI NEX ZERO

7-UP

DEKAVITA C

DEKAVITA C

LIPTON THE ROYAL

BOSS COFFEE MOUNTAIN BLEND

BOSS

BOSS DRY

BOSS GOLD ESPRESSO

BOSS ICE LATTE

BOSS ICE COFFEE

10

I stand on a rooftop and

take a photograph of a

skyscraper in such a way

that it looks as though

the building is on fire but its

not, its only the way I’ve taken

the photo and when I look at it now

it makes me think of the Grenfell

Tower but when I looked at it in

2010 I thought of the WTC

such is memory and association

I suppose

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11

a cluster of air conditioning

units on top of a roof looks like

a city of skyscrapers unto itself

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12

lunchtime in Ogikubo

order your food from the

ticket machine by the entrance

it is easy because there are

pictures and the price is listed

in numbers

just insert your money

the machine takes: 10,50,100 and 500

YEN coins and 1000 YEN notes

then press the button with the

picture of the ramen you want

most ramen is around 800 YEN,

add extra egg for 50 YEN, bowl of rice

for 100 YEN, gyoza for 300 YEN, small beer

for 300 YEN, big beer for 500 YEN

collect your ticket from the machine

and a man will deliver your food

13

I’m in Nakano eating

sushi from a street

food stall, I tell the man from

Berlin I’ll be back in a minute

as I head off to find the toilet

find one and open the door

it’s a squat toilet, the first

I’ve ever seen and

on one side of the porcelain

somebody has stuck a

sticker of an anime cat face

It watches me as I pee

14

He lies on his back

floating just above

the tatami mats

glasses

bamboo hat

and perfectly

trimmed goatee

15

Hanabi festival with

fireworks on TV

the 5 of us sit comfortably

on tatami mats

the 5th floor

we have roast duck

we have rice

we have edamame beans

I open another beer

16

She wears a long Breton dress

with a black cardigan

her small white feet

rest flatly on the wooden floor

she hides her face behind the camera

and gestures, “everything is cool,

everything is cool”

17

he opens a can of Sapporo

it sprays

everywhere

18

we meet in an

okonomiyaki restaurant

19

Tokyo night!

Tokyo night!

Tokyo night!

lost amidst neon shrouds

of the

Tokyo nights!

Tokyo night!

Tokyo night!

Tokyo night!

electric emanations and

concrete circuitries of the

Tokyo nights!

Tokyo night!

Tokyo night!

Tokyo night!

I close my eyes

and think of

Basho

alone

in the

Tokyo night!

20

the 3 of us laughed

and ate ramen

beneath the

Harajuku

summer sun

21

fireworks frizzle

July sky

together

we throw

a shaka sign

22

old sensei

tatami mat

cross legged

YEBISU beer

23

the wall behind you

filled with

photos

your face now

a photo

of the past

24

4 litres of shochu

I lift the bottle

to my lips

25% alcohol

you take a photo

25

there is 4 of us

and I’ll never see

2 of you again

I wear my first yukata

it would be nearly 2 years

until my next Beer Lao on the Mekong

with the dolphins of Si Phan Don

I had forgotten all about this one

Ogikubo traveller cafe

send me postcards

from distant lands

26

Ramen cafe at 1AM, chef runs about, he has to serve 8 salary men by himself and they offer him no rest, constantly refilling their bowls

27

The Berlin man’s house of wooden floors, football on balcony, sleeping on tatami with empty cigar box by your side and a spilt can of YEBISU beer. Cargo shorts and black leather belt, guitar pick and PS3 controller.

28

12 bottles of sake and a tub of rice the size of my torso. Chef blue smiles and just moments later he would serve up whale sashimi

29

I’m with the Berlin man and the lady from Sendai. He pouts, she laughs and I stare blankly

30

FIRE

FLAME

at the top of the stairs

San Francisco 1 uses his pink flamingo bag as a pillow

on the humid back streets of Shinjuku

Hong Kong smiles in silver flop-flops

thank you for the bottle of water

Korea with your thigh length t-shirt

and cut off jeans you scribble

sketches and musings in your Moleskine

and on the cover you have drawn a big red dot

rising sun we sat wasted on beer, sake, shochu and tobacco

takoyaki balls the streets approaching dawn

deep in the Golden Gai

I see you Deep Roy scissor finger water everywhere

while San Francisco 2 sits toward the back

legs spread blue shorts

black t-shirt waiting

we are all just waiting

going

gone

31

San Francisco boys and me

smooching

flamingo bag

diamond hat

gorgeous bracelet

Deep Roy winks and laughs

I grab his shoulder

to include him

in the photo

blurry izikaya

taxi cabs

Tokyo girls

Tokyo guys

Shinjuku sweat

we hold each other

birth the

morning

32

we arrive back at my apartment

only to see a Tokyo

salaryman curled up on

the front steps

tidy black suit

and a dusting of stubble

he uses his briefcase as

a pillow and covers 3 steps

but doesn’t block the entrance

we try to wake him

to join our party

but we get nothing

33

Super cool threesome

attitude trilogy

pose for me

Andy Warhol gaze

flamingo greens

stripy tops

and a v-neck full

of questions

34

CLICK!

SHUTTER!

CLICK!

(What do you see?)

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35

Hong Kong Camera

and June

Tokyo summer

and green camo

distant gaze

and water too

pouty smiles

and intricate

tiles

36

jet black hair

your teeth

are perfect

your smile

disappears into

my lens

37

San Francisco 2

greasy hair

and bloodshot

eyes

razor cuts

— — CUT — -

I catch you

off guard

38

cloaked in neon

and electrical dreams

fluorescent flows

with iridescent

impossibilities

39

7:36PM

base of building entrance

I am only torso arms

and head

white light red light

yellow light purple light

green light blue light

BRIGHT LIGHT

a screen above me a woman

wearing headphones №2

STUDIO ALTA

ALTAvision MITSUBISHI

AKITA YUKATA FESTIVAL

Shinto Gate on tiny screen

a nail salon around the corner

Shinjuku City Office

there’s a train station

280m that way and a map

Shinjuku

electric light

mega night

bright as day

countless people

sweat in the July

heat

5 lights

red and white

TAITO STATION

8-BIT

Space Invader

dreams

40

7:36AM

electrical cables seem untidy

yet organised

a buddha with a red napkin

and hat

sits in the baking sun

entrance?

a temple in the middle

of skyscrapers

flanked by

green summer trees

a graveyard

wooden buckets

I capture a dove

in mid flight

a graveyard

strips of wood placed

behind stones

small white buddha

who is it that loves you?

goodbye temple

I saw you but

I never understood you

2 vending machines

balanced on stones

ice cold drinks

TEA

TRIPLE FREE

100 YEN

each

41

Tokyo

Tower

bright

orange

a nest

of metal

glowing

loudly

white

elevator

shaft in

the middle

leads to

a viewing

platform

and I notice

it is

smaller

than the

Eifel

Tower

42

skyline

motherboard

like a circuit

board on a computer

mainframe, skyscrapers

burst out from the substrate

like warts of glass and

concrete, like resisters

and capacitors, resisting

nothing and the roads lined

with neon lights and street

lights cut through the city

like arterial veins

cars burst like

blood cells racing

43

ramen chef

samurai of the

Kabukicho night

44

Hanabi evening

young children play

look up

fireworks

rain down

45

we hold each other

in the corner of the room

the blank walls bare

witness to our intimacy

we laugh and

we laugh and

in the background

sits an old television

with nothing to say

Deep Roy

asleep on my bed

Korean wonder boy

of mystery

India dreams

tweedle-dee t-shirt

cool leather belt

underwear poking out

little hairs

head in hands

“I dig your waistcoat

man!”

A face

now rendered

indescribable

rendered now

describable

you stand on my

Tokyo balcony

and laugh

as the sun rises

in all of us

!!!

Shinjuku death poem

Kabukicho dream

Shinjuku death poem

Golden Gai melody

!!!

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46

late evening

early morning

we wonder the

streets of Nakano

“Ramen?”

“Yes!”

we find a mobile ramen stall

the chef parks up

we sit on wooden seats

encased in noren

I slurp my bowl

strips of nori

chef smiles

half boiled egg

pork broth

spring onions

pickles

big char sui

shredded veggies

egg noodles

I spill broth down my shirt

as we stand up to leave

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Guerrilla publisher and optimist.

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