Society

I, Tokyo

Exploring isolation and loneliness in the tight and confined reality of Japan's capital, Jacob Aue Sobol's book documents the harsh environment and those who live there

Jacob Aue Sobol

Jacob Aue Sobol | I, Tokyo Tokyo, Japan. 2007. © Jacob Aue Sobol | Magnum Photos

I came to Tokyo for the first time in the spring of 2006. My girlfriend Sara had got a job there, and so I decided to move with her to explore the city in which she had grown up. It was a society I had never experienced before, one of which I had little knowledge, and to which I had no real sense of attachment.

 

Jacob Aue Sobol | I, Tokyo Tokyo, Japan. 2007. © Jacob Aue Sobol | Magnum Photos
Jacob Aue Sobol | I, Tokyo Tokyo, Japan. 2007. © Jacob Aue Sobol | Magnum Photos
Jacob Aue Sobol | I, Tokyo Tokyo, Japan. 2007. © Jacob Aue Sobol | Magnum Photos
Jacob Aue Sobol | I, Tokyo Tokyo, Japan. 2007. © Jacob Aue Sobol | Magnum Photos

"Initially, I felt invisible. Each day I would walk the streets without anyone making eye-contact with me. Everyone seemed to be heading somewhere – it was as if they had no need of communication"

- Jacob Aue Sobol
Jacob Aue Sobol | I, Tokyo Tokyo, Japan. 2007. © Jacob Aue Sobol | Magnum Photos
Jacob Aue Sobol | I, Tokyo Tokyo, Japan. 2007. © Jacob Aue Sobol | Magnum Photos
Jacob Aue Sobol | I, Tokyo Tokyo, Japan. 2007. © Jacob Aue Sobol | Magnum Photos
Jacob Aue Sobol | I, Tokyo Tokyo, Japan. 2007. © Jacob Aue Sobol | Magnum Photos

Though Tokyo and its people seemed unreachable, I felt drawn to the tight and confined reality of the metropolis. My feeling of isolation and loneliness was overwhelming – it was something I had to find a way to change. And so I began taking my pocket camera out with me on the streets and in the parks. Rather than focusing on the impressively tall buildings and the eternal swarm of people, I began searching for the narrow paths and the individual human presence in the city that felt both attractive and repulsive at the same time. I wanted to meet the people, to get involved in the city, to make Tokyo mine.

The pictures in this book are a recording of what I saw and the people I met during the following eighteen months.

Jacob Aue Sobol | I, Tokyo Tokyo, Japan. 2007. © Jacob Aue Sobol | Magnum Photos
Stay in touch
Stay up to date every Thursday with Magnum photographers’ activities, new work, stories published on the Magnum website, and the latest offerings from our shop.
Be the first to know about recent Magnum Shop drops. From new books and limited editions, to special offers, you can find it all on the weekly Magnum Shop newsletter.
Get fortnightly tips and advice articles, find out about the latest workshops, free online events and on-demand courses.
Learn about online and offline exhibitions, photography fairs, gallery events, plus fine print news and activities, on a monthly basis.
Know when our quarterly 7-day square print sale is coming.
Monthly updates on the latest assignments, photographer projects and collaborations with brands.