What better way to kick off a new decade than in one of the world’s most beloved cities?
The international anticipation for the 2020 Olympics was palpable as thousands of the world’s top athletes and sports enthusiasts prepared to gather in Tokyo, Japan. So when officials decided that, for the safety of participants, spectators, and locals, the event would be postponed—for what would be just the fourth time in the modern Games’ nearly 125 years—it became increasingly clear that the coronavirus pandemic, too, would go on to make history.
As we all patiently wait (and eagerly hope!) for our adventures in Tokyo to resume in 2021, we’re still keen to celebrate the beauty of the Japanese capital from afar. Below, photographer Alex T. Thomas takes us on a tour of Tokyo in lockdown and explains why her city is still awe-inspiring—even when it’s empty.
“It’s not unusual to wander for long bouts of time in Japan, especially in Tokyo. I try to take a new route every time; there are so many surprises on every narrow side-street in this city, if you take the time to look.” (Itabashi-ku, Tokyo.)
“I have always been deeply drawn to empty man-made landscapes, obsessed with the post-apocalyptic aesthetic. I don’t mean a city destroyed by a comet or war, but simply a lack of people; to see structures built with intent and purpose stand alone and speak for themselves without their core reason for being built: holding human presence.” (Itabashi-ku, Tokyo.)
“When you take away the promise of humans to fill a space, what is left? It’s more than bricks and steel, more than materials stacked in a shape. There’s vibrating energy left over, filling that void.” (Itabashi-ku, Tokyo.)
“This is what I’ve always been excited to capture. The pandemic has just been a smorgasbord of shuttered pachinko parlors, empty trains, and quiet streets in one of the biggest cities in the world: a dream come true from my wildest photographic fantasies. I feel quite comfortable.” (Itabashi-ku, Tokyo.)
“In quarantine, I learned I was still myself despite everything happening in the outside world. Ultimately, even when something so rare as a pandemic shifts everyone’s reality, the only world we really live in is in our own minds. If you can become aware of your thoughts and gain control of your feelings, this is your reality. Focus inward and the outside world will look different.” (Taken at home in Oyama, Tokyo.)