I met Asahi Ageha for the first time some fifteen minutes before having the honour of shaking hands with Osada Steve himself (also for the first time) She was waiting for the both of us inside of that cozy dojo near Ikebukuro, sitting in seiza with a smile on her face. Osada had gone to buy some cigarettes, and I had just managed to find the building.
In retrospective, I believe I was not ready for that night, but it was long since I had it coming, and the urban gods positioned their pieces masterfully. The roles acted by Ageha, Steve, and myself were set some ten years ago by a capricious cosmic hand, and that night the play would carry on, and like many other things that change the course of our lives, would happen with unsuspected importance.
The world has hidden layers, and we walk across them like a blind, hungry rat: too fast, too stupidly distracted by our own desire to get somewhere else as quick as we can. As Doyle would say: “We see, but we do not observe” And when a hand reaches out from the darkness and pulls the blind off our eyes, we have trouble understanding what we see, like a newborn thrown into the world, and then we start to assimilate it all, to devour it with our brain and our stomach. In a surprisingly short amount of time we are no longer strangers to this new layer: We have seen it once and now recognize it everywhere. We see the hidden faces and the signs, and we start to meet the people, to recognize their hideouts, their smell, their color, the shape of the shadow cast by their hidden doors.
Steve was a door into an upside-down Tokyo ruled by a schedule that can’t be measured with your average watch. It happens on its own imaginary time near fractal corners that smell like carpet, dust, steel, smoke, ropes, wax and low light. Many other places have their neverwheres, but none as vivid and impressive as your first one.
Perhaps being a photographer, and specially a street photographer, is a self-imposed mission consisting on finding all those other layers, the ones that still remain hidden and yet stare at your face,
The ones you haven’t seen yet.