Tokyo Tuisku by Harold Sato

Harold Sato’s photo series, titled Tokyo Tuisku presents many different views of Tokyo city.

Sato tells Vulgaris that he is strongly inspired by exploring new ways of expressing daily life within urban settings. He also draws inspiration from photographers like Nakaji Yasui, André Kertész, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, but that his all-time favourite artist is Hiroshige Utagawa, a Japanese ukiyo-e artist from the Edo period.

Sato explains that when he first began work on this project, he set out to portray Japanese culture, but that he quickly felt that it began turning into a tourist guidebook of sorts, which was not what he aspired to do. Now, he makes sure that everything he frames within his viewfinder captures a piece of Tokyo’s essence.


In this photo, Sato explains that he wanted “to portray the Ginza atmosphere”. He goes on to explain that Ginza has “two faces”. One is the bustling streets in Tokyo, full of flashy attractions, and the other is the corporate face, full of office buildings. When looking at this photo, Sato says he imagines that perhaps the man going down to the subway entrance is exhausted and heading home from his busy day at work, while the man above the subway is waiting for a friend to enjoy a Ginza night on the town.


A rainy day at Tokyo train station. Sato explains that even though heavy rain hides the view, the punctuality of the Tokyo train never changes. It passes through the silhouette of Tokyo on time, as usual.


Two girls are talking in the connecting corridor. Many parts of the Tokyo cityscape consists of artificial straight lines, which can sometimes be boring. However, the mixture of artificial objects and organic beings is the typical atmosphere of Tokyo.


Here, a businessman is on his way home on a bridge. After working hard all day, he is finally free and under the spotlight along his quiet route, with only the gentle sound of the river to keep him company. Soon, he will disappear into one of the apartment lights in the background. “This sounds a bit sad” says Sato, “but I feel that at Tokyo night, especially in residential areas, has contrasting sad and happy atmospheres”.

The contrasting lonely, yet quietly happy feeling is something that Sato relates to strongly. “About fifteen years ago, I watched a film called Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola” says Sato, “this film, which depicts the strange relationship of an American lady and a Hollywood star in Tokyo, reminded me of the loneliness that I felt while I was living in New York City about five years ago. The title of the film, to me, means that there’s something leftover that’s hard to understand even when words are perfectly translated. That was like an answer to my loneliness – I knew that the awkward and clumsy moments in life actually enabled me to explore the feeling of being misunderstood, and to try to embrace being from a different culture”.

This experience is in part what inspired Sato to focus on shooting the “atmosphere” of the city. He tends to veer away from areas that are famous or sightseeing hotspots, as he feels that they are too easy to analyze: “I focus on atmosphere because it’s something that we feel, and can never be literally translated. The feeling depends on the each visitor’s background. What the visitors of my site feel is all up to them, and even if they find some qualities in my work that they cannot explain with words, that is fine by me”.


Here, a pine bonsai tree is put on tatami. It looks like a normal bonsai photo, but actually, the main subject in this image is the shadow. “In Japan, we recognize a feeling of beauty in the darkness” Sato tells us, “I wanted this image to show resistance against a lit place. That’s why I partially hid the bonsai with the shadow. Even in the darkness, there is always beauty”.

To see more of Harold Sato’s work, and to explore his full photo series, see his tumblr page here.





Kira is an avid enthusiast of photography, poetry and the arts in general. She holds a degree in Communications and English Literature at the University of Ottawa.

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