The Japanese salary man is an ever-present sight in Tokyo, and yet due to his incredibly conformist attire, he is also largely invisible. At least as an individual he is, anyway. The simple addition of a trilby, on the other hand, changes that completely.
Away from Japan’s main cities and popular tourist destinations, the country is awash with faded and gradually emptying towns and settlements — the nation’s low birth rate and increased urban migration causing the slow death of an ever increasing number of locations.
Not so long ago on these pages I documented a now closed and overgrown train line just north of Tokyo, and last year a completely abandoned village in the mountains. Both victims, in slightly differing ways, of the aforementioned societal shifts affecting the whole country. And in a similar vein, a couple of weeks ago I travelled north and stayed in a few towns that were once prosperous, but now, just like so many others, offer little more than faded memories of former glories.
Life does still go on of course, albeit in a very different way, and this forlorn old clothes shop run by a bent over old lady which I featured just recently was one such example.
But more often that not, it’s a case of lives lived behind shutters and crumbling facades.
Or, as is increasingly the case, lives no longer lived there at all.
In Tokyo, there are minuscule outlets with amazing amounts of stock, as well as cupboard-like electronics stores run by little old ladies. And now, it turns out, there are also similarly small bookshops with pleasant looking proprietors.
For regular visitors of Shinjuku, the sight of an older fella cycling the streets in a colourful, toy adorned outfit probably won’t come as a surprise. And considering the gentleman in question is Shinjuku Tiger, neither will his ubiquitous tiger mask.
Having worn the mask and unique ensemble since 1972, he has understandably become a part of the landscape. In fact, considering how much Shinjuku has, and is changing, he’s arguably one of the entertainment district’s few constants. A factor that presumably played a part in the decision to make a film about him. The subtitled trailer of which can be seen here.
And below, sat next to the movie’s promotional poster, in his regular haunt of Golden Gai, is Shinjuku Tiger himself.