Black and white fits Tokyo, definitely. Tokyo is chaos, but full of shapes. You want to glorify these shapes. The old faded, ugly colors, vaguely everywhere, drown the shapes. They don’t give any additional value; on the contrary, they distract the viewer.
Tokyo is grey. People are grey. The salary men wear dark suits, white shirts, and look like a black army (look at photo reporter Nicolas Datiche’s work on salary men). Maybe it’s everywhere the same, but there is something about Tokyo that makes it kind of frightening…. And what best than black and white to help transcending a vision. Black and white unifies the forms, people wearing dark suits and white shirts in a grey environment, and the content, a black army serving capitalism.
Tokyo is grey. Walk its boulevard, small streets, alleys, away from the touristic tracks (they are not far away)… You will understand. Fires and war stroke and destroyed Tokyo more than once in its history. And the city was pushed each time to rebuild faster. It made it ugly, gritty… grey. Tokyo’s colors are useless.
What about Harajuku and Shibuya? The trendy people with flashy colors? First, the idea you had of them disappeared from the streets; fashion and trends change fast here in Tokyo. But once again? Aren’t their clothes some type of uniforms? Their wish to be apart from the society turns them into a group totally part of that society. Japanese have a taste for uniforms, from Harajuku trends to the salary man life. Transform everything black and white and you make the link between the city and its effects on the people.
Light is terrible in Tokyo. Space doesn’t stretched out for letting the light reflects and enchants everything it touches like the light you can find for instance in America (e.g. Stephen Shore, Uncommon Places, Joel Sternfeld, American Prospects, or William Eggleston). Dusk and dawn are short, and in Tokyo, they don’t even have the time to exist. Yes, there is a neo Tokyo type of taste, making the night glossy. But is Tokyo glossy?
I think Tokyo has never been better represented than by its original photographers. From the legendary Daido Moriyama to the rising name of Shynia Arimoto, unconventional for the first one, a classic to become for the second, they all shoot black and white.
Black and white resonates, echoes, shapes everything it sees and translates it to a new language.