When not working as a high school English teacher, photoblogger Lee Chapman walks the streets of Tokyo in search of stories and sights that tourists, and even long-term residents, seldom see. Chapman, a U.K. native, has been running the photoblog Tokyo Times for almost 10 years. While his posts do sometimes focus on the quirky elements of the city, a large number of them capture the more poignant sides of urban living, such as day laborers in Sanya or abandoned buildings that stand as eerie reminders of a not-so-distant past. In this interview with The Japan Times, Lee Chapman talks of the forgotten homeless, taking the risk of violating privacy and the sport of trespassing.
When did you first come to Japan?
In May, it's been 14 years since I came here. I thought it would just be for one year at first, then I took two. Then another and so on. The contracts for gaijin are often just one-year contracts, so I never actually made a conscious decision to stay for good. But then I found a Japanese wife, we bought an apartment, so I can't imagine going back to live in the U.K. I go back home once a year for a few days where I experience what can best be described as reverse culture shock. It takes a few days before my chit-chat works — there's no chit-chat in Japan.