Ginza Walkers

MJG Uncategorized 19 Comments

Goose Lady lives on the streets of Ginza and eats fried breadcrumbs dropped from the sweet-cream crepes of winter shoppers. At night she huddles up to the braziers outside Luis Vuitton and drinks cold mango lassi from the yaki-imo man. She sing songs beneath her breath of the days when the Emperor walked the streets as a God, with a red sun forever blazing over his head. Now she scurries and hides when the black vans roll round, beneath a park bench, in the guttering of a tall glass phone box, in the shadow of a koban.

ginza people

Goose lady watches skittishly from a street-corner.

Part of the reason I bought my new camera with zoom lens was to take shots of the people of Tokyo. I’m still not sure what I want to do with these photos, or how to present them, but for the time being we’ll roll with some light fiction.

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Goose-lady’s neighbour, they live in back-alley trash-cans like Oscar the Grouch, passing bento tid-bits they have made through the rusted holes in the weary metal.


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Goose Lady’s erstwhile suitor. He fashions braids of fallen human hair he gathers off the street, weaving all the shades of black by moonlight on the rooftop of the Hermes building, entwining the scarce few blonde threads in figure eights with curlicues. Goose Lady takes his braided locks and sells them for second hand books in Ebisu.


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Grandma Iron guards the Ginza line subway entrance 3b, where Goose Lady is forbidden to go. Once she snuck past and beheld horrors her simple whimsical mind reeled from. Iron Grandma will never forgive herself for that.


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Swan Girl is Goose Lady’s acolyte.


ginza people

She aches to have the long sweeping locks of Goose Lady, to enjoy her many suitors, to eat the sweet cream crepe crumbs and enjoy the bento tid-bits as delicately and with as much grace as Goose Lady. She stands on cross-walks and stares up at the reflection of building’s in each other’s facades, seeing an infinity in their smirking mirrored eyes.


ginza people

Little Mo Peep is her friend.


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Charlotte LeGray Bronte, she interviews the neighbours.


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Scarlett nurses Goose Lady when she’s sick, using tisanes of kocha and mugicha to revive her wilted feathers.


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The Captain ensures all goes according to plan.


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“Eeh! Goose Lady! Honto da!”

“Yes, it’s really Goose Lady!” Spectators gawk.


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Another suitor, he offers full crepe tastings but Goose Lady, only able to nibble at crumbs, has to turn him away.


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The Locksmith, he buys second hand books off Goose Lady and sucks the information out of them with copper wires.

After some thought, and reading the comments below, I’ve decided not to continue with fictionalizing these kinds of shots. Further posts in the ‘People’ category will be the usual straight documentation through the lens of my experience. I’ll probably even change this post to be in sync with that.


You can see all MJG’s Tokyo content here:

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Comments 19

  1. Interesting idea. I’m not fond of this particular story but I would enjoy reading more for sure.
    Maybe by developing a bit more each characters. The way it is for the moment makes it look like more as a résumé than a story. I did not find the flow you have when you describe your haikyos.
    Just my 2 cents, truly sorry if I hurt you.

    By the way, the captain is really funny. Good character and especially good picture. Is he a policeman? ’cause in this uniform he looks like he comes out of a manga.

  2. Post

    Jean Rob- 2 cents, thank you- I’m not upset at all- rather I’m glad you took the time. I’ve been taking photos of people for a while, and up til now not been sure at all how I want to present them. I don’t have history or interaction with them like I do the haikyo or structures posts, so don’t have much to say. So this was a feeler post, light inventiveness, to see how I like it. And I think I like it- as fictional character studies, sort of descriptive vignettes only, not really any story. Now though I have an idea for Goose Lady, I’ll write it up as a proper story.

    The captain was a motorbike cop yes- perhaps in particular a traffic cop. He looks severe, I think was chastizing someone when I captured him.

  3. Nice photos! Loving the sharpness ^^. Not so sure about the story though. I’m torn between feeling like you’re making fun of these people and that you’re trying to create an interesting narrative. Having not done this type of photography much before I couldn’t give advice on how to better the commentary, but keep trying!

    I’m interested though: what are your thoughts on the ethical implications of putting up pictures of strangers on your website? I’d like to do this sort of thing too, but am concerned about the implications…

    Keep practising! ^^

  4. “sort of descriptive vignettes only, not really any story”

    Well, I’ve been reading your blog for about 2 or 3 months now and it’s always a pleasure; so if you feel more comfortable with writing vignettes I’ll still read it with pleasure 😉

  5. Good to see you getting use out of your Sigma 70-200mm lens.

    In wondering how to present street photography, why not just let the photographs speak for themselves? Or if you do write something, how about how you got the shot or any story surrounding getting the shots?

    @ Mike I understand your concerns about the ethical implications, and I believe we’ve discussed it some in other forums before. The street photographer’s code is basically not to post photos of people in embarrassing positions (i.e. finger in nose) nor to post photos of homeless (unless there is good reason and context) nor to post photos of children. Showing people on the street as a slice of life I think is safely on the ethical side. Things other than that, I’m not so sure.

  6. P.S.I like the “Little Mo Peep” shot best. There is some emotion on her face and some interesting bokeh in the background.

    (I thought you added the ability to edit comments?)

  7. Post

    Mike- Story, true, it’s just fictional comments on each photo- though now I’ve got an actual story in mind for them. Maybe I’ll look at this as preparatory- like painters or sculptors will sketch out their rough ideas before doing the whole work.

    Ethical implications- I tend to agree with Jason. I wasn’t trying to say bad things about these people, and I wouldn’t want to. I don’t think the implications would be bad, really.

    Jean Rob- That’s great to hear, thanks a lot for your support. I’ll see if I can’t work out a proper story for these people.

    Jason- Letting the photos speak for themselves, I certainly considered that, but since I’m a writer first and a photographer second, I wanted to try co-opt ingthe photos somehow for fiction. About just writing the experience of shooting, I thought about that too- but it wouldn’t be very interesting- there’s no story to tell, I just took the photos. Going into fiction- this good be a great way for me to get creative in small bits, which I can then call on for a story- already got the idea for Goose Lady.

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    John- It’s certainly not intended to denigrate- I’m just using their images as a jumping-off point for some fiction that is clearly unrelated to them. Can that be belittling? Only if they took it seriously, and even then the comments I’ve given are not really negative. Still, you may have a point when it comes to interpreting candid photographs this way, so I’ll think on it. I don’t want to insult or offend anyone.

  9. I have to admit when I saw the post title in my RSS feed, I had visions of you finding the ‘feed the birds woman’ from Mary Poppins only yours would be enveloped by geese, which as I write this seems a bit far fetched, especially geese in ginza.

    For my tuppence I like the photos without the text, and the text without the photos if that makes sense, they seem to detract from each other, you caught some great characters here (love the glasses guy and cop). I think ultimately people may criticize your approach because the two people ‘goose lady’ and ‘swan girl’ is maybe based on physical characteristics (or perceived to be).

    BTW – you are using a Sigma 70-200, how are you finding it, is it slow to focus, it looks like it has great bokeh, but the central images don’t seem really sharp??

  10. Post

    John- You raised concerns I was thinking about anyway- so no worries. Apology- cheers. Probably I won’t fictionalize real people like this again- is too ethically murky.

    J-eye- Mary Poppins, that would have been something hey. As for text/photos dichotomy, I think you’re probably right- they aren’t tied together and probably don’t work. I want to provide some through narrative so the text and photos flow, but maybe that’s not possible through fiction. Also, as John Turningpin raised above- I don’t want to seem like I’m being negative about these people. So, in the future I think I’ll just caption them more directly- perhaps with some context, and save the fiction for the fiction section.

    Sigma I’m finding fine, not too slow, though perhaps it does take a bit of getting used to. As for sharpness- that’s probably down to me resizing the pictures, as at higher rez they’re quite sharp. May have to rethink how I display the shots.

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    Headbang- Thanks, and yes the autofocus works pretty well, but takes a little practise to nail and track a moving object. I had a crack at manually focusing too, but that was even harder.

  12. It took me till Grandma Iron to realise this wasn’t a mocking summary of the crazy people you saw each day. Although I did wonder why the Goose Lady was so well dressed for a tramp…

  13. From a story-telling point of view, won’t it be difficult to make a continuing story involving these characters unless you stalk them?

    From a street photo point of view, I think you should get closer and capture them interacting with each other or the locale. Wide angle lens can work best for that approach.

    There is something to be said for “faces in a crowd” — try portrait format for singling out individuals.

    I like the policeman best, and the girl with the dark brown coat.

  14. Post

    Andrew- Yeah, I was trying to decide how to frame the photos- fiction is probably not the best way. Thanks for feedback.

    RMilner- You’re right- making a story out of these people would be impossible really, so it’s an idea I’ve dropped. Interesting ideas about capturing the whole scenes people act in- I just put up the cosplayers post, which is all tight-cropped faces, but am thinking what to do next.
    Policeman, yup, he’s one of my favorites too. Thanks for you comment.

  15. Hey don’t change it, it’s interesting. You know things that get people a little bit upset are often worth pursuing. We are all driven by emotion so who would want to live ‘softly softly’. Even if it’s just a starting point for you and a story, its an interesting post. It’s not offensive in the slightest and I do not doubt your purest of intentions!

    That said…the only thing i’d worry about is if one of those folks found this post and found their image being used… they may object. Then again…. photographers often use crowd shots and people shits with recognizable people in, dunno what the law is on privacy etc. Perhaps no law if the stalking of Britney Spears is anything to go by… but thats America not Japan. Just thinking out loud really xx

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