Omoideyokocho Revisited

To be honest, I’d been avoiding Omoideyokocho.

I fell like good street photography tells a story, and I’ve told that story. Or I had told that story. I think. Over the years, Omoide attracted more and more tourists until one day it culminated in me witnessing a tour guide leading a literal bus-load of tourists down it.

Seriously. They got right off the bus, and followed their flag-waving guide right down the alley.

But I realized I was being uppity. That I was being closed-minded, and I was being that grump who was upset his neighborhood was changing. For a few years now, the story of the Shinjuku streets has been the tourists. Gone are the dark corners, as they’re all filled with tourists with Go Pros imagining themselves the next Indiana Jones. But that’s the story. It isn’t a story of what was… I have the photos of that already. And I can’t fake a story that isn’t real, or rather, it wouldn’t be documentary photography if I did.

But maybe I can tell the story that is.

That idea made me look at Omoideyokocho again, differently. It made me see what was going on there. I realized that my image of the tourists driving out the locals wasn’t correct. Sure, there are overwhelming numbers of tourists, but the locals are still there, and still interacting with the tourists in a familiar way that you don’t normally get to do in Japan. It’s a good thing, even if it isn’t the thing that I was happy with, the thing that I remember.

One of the changes that took me off guard is that my favorite place to eat is closed. They’ve gutted it and are remodeling, which makes sense. When I first started going, it was family run, but I haven’t seen any of that family in a good while. I assumed they’d sold it off, and whoever owns it is taking the chance to make it nice and hygienic before the 2020 tourist rush.

So maybe I can tell that story, the story of the tourists.