aspect magazine


Tokyo: A Dichotomous Society Through Photos

By Serena Haththotuwa

It’s been almost five years since I packed my belongings and moved across the world to Tokyo at the tender age of nineteen. My juvenile naivety allowed me to experience this unconventional city without a single fear, worry or concern – something which in hindsight I am grateful for.

What did occur to me during this year away, and still occurs to me now, is how prevalent cultural contradictions are within the world’s largest city. In this sprawling space you will find a mix of tall skyscrapers and lush green areas, Japanese gardens representing a time before.

In its central areas, Tokyo is full to the brim with ‘salary men’, a term used to describe business men who devote their lives to their work and the corporation where they’re employed. Being one of the wealthiest and most technologically developed countries on the planet, Japan’s capital city is home to an abundance of committed business people.

Tokyo is also the home to an array of sub-cultures – meaning that you can be sure to pass Lolita-inspired girls in Victorian dresses, gaming-nerds, glam-rock guys and salary men all on the same street.

Being so technologically developed has meant that automated technology is not only a natural part of life in Tokyo, but the whole country. Whether it’s a talking toilet that plays music, or an automated vending machines that allow you to order food at a restaurant, in many ways Japan has been ahead of the technological curb for years. Yet, this highly developed country is simultaneously one of the most well-preserved cultures on the planet.

In Japan, customs play a huge part in day-to-day life. Maintaining a level of politeness dependent on who you are speaking to is paramount to having a successful time in this country and annual festivals mark a continuation of tradition experienced by those lucky enough to be there. Japan has the oldest population of any country, and so despite rapid advancements in business and technology, its population dwindles as its youth become preoccupied with work and are more likely to seek online relationships than real-life ones.

Ultimately, Tokyo and indeed most of Japan, is a meeting of past and future. Japan closed its borders for over 200 years in 1633 and then experienced rapid development after WWII – both these events arguably contributing to the dichotomous society it is today. Its rapid development and advancements in technology mixed with its ability to preserve a culture so rich in tradition has meant Tokyo has become one of the most dichotomous societies on the planet. Here is Tokyo as a dichotomous society through photos.