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This is my life's work: to change perceptions about Tokyo's homeless class while creating a new genre of literary-photojournalism.
This is my life's work: to change perceptions about Tokyo's homeless class while creating a new genre of literary-photojournalism.
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68 backers pledged $3,580 to help bring this project to life.

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Tokyo Panic Stories

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  • The project is to photograph Tokyo street drunks, homeless folk, and the destitute—an underclass of people who hang from the edges of Tokyo society by whatever humble means get them through the day. I plan to go to Tokyo for four weeks in September and October, 2013.
  • There are an estimated 15,000 homeless in Tokyo. Many have alcohol problems. But these lives are worth chronicling, and the Japanese barely acknowledge they exist.
  • This is a continuation of work I started while living in Tokyo in the late '80s, prowling the city's streets looking for offbeat places and sights tourists didn’t see. When I found a district named Sanya, the lives of the people there upended my ideas about Japanese society.
  • Upon returning to Sanya in April, 2012 to resume chronicling Tokyo street life, I found the plight of the homeless and the Japanese disdain for them had barely changed. This was nearly as shocking as my experiences in the late '80s.

This project can result in two positive things:

  • Second, and most important, is to change how members of Japanese society see themselves and how they treat their fellow citizens. The Japanese must see how their own disdain and ignorance continues to make a whole class of people live needlessly poor lives.

The overall goal here is to report on a difficult and largely-ignored aspect of life in Japan, and to do it in a way that hasn't been conceived before. This is photojournalism, but with a story-telling intimacy about Tokyo's underclass that the average newspaper or feature magazine wouldn't consider. Think of this as a photographic version of Tom Wolfe's New Journalism. And like the best journalism, it is an attempt to make lives better through action stimulated by awareness.

(Note: to see a slightly higher-resolution version of my Kickestarter video, please click here.)

The cover of "Ningenkusai", a Tokyo Panic Stories mini-book
The cover of "Ningenkusai", a Tokyo Panic Stories mini-book
The cover of "Tales from Seoul Bar", a Tokyo Panic Stories mini-book
The cover of "Tales from Seoul Bar", a Tokyo Panic Stories mini-book

Risks and challenges

One can't foresee every problem in every situation. The process is simple: I take my cameras, return to the many places in Tokyo that I know well, and shoot pictures of homeless and drunken street people, people who need help. All this takes is time, and a bit of expense money.

But unwilling (usually very drunk) photography subjects have threatened to attack me on a few occasions. And in Tokyo in 2012 I was deathly ill with a temporary lung infection for the first two weeks of a five week trip. These things happen. But my health is good, my resolve is steady, and my goals are simple and attainable.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Pledge $10 and get my photojournalism eBook "Ningenkusai" in PDF format. See the book here: http://tinyurl.com/ningenkusai

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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Pledge $25 and get my photojournalism eBooks "Ningenkusai" and "Tales from Seoul Bar" in PDF format.

    See "Seoul Bar" here: http://tinyurl.com/seoulbar

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    16 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Get the first two books AND a PDF copy of "Tokyo Panic Stories", my forthcoming book of poems, stories, journalism, and photographs of Tokyo street life. PDF version to be published in December, 2013.

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    11 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Get the first three books AND the book I produce from this project, provisionally titled "Tokyo Panic Stories 2013". This will include any mini-eBooks I publish from this work.

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    12 backers
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Funding period

- (30 days)