Tokyo’s Underground Dreamers

Metropolitan life can be close to a real survival. The daily struggle people in metropolitan areas around world have to undergo is one of the main themes in the work of  photographer Michael Wolf.

In February, we paid attention to Wolf’s intriguing publications about housing circumstances in Hong Kong — ‘Hong Kong Inside’ and ‘Hong Kong Outside’, published by Berlin-based Peperoni Books). Now Urbanophil and Urbanshit report that Wolf has landed in Tokyo and made a great series of Tokyo’s subway photographs, fascinated by the underground sleepers. Yes, work life in Japan is exhausting. In a country where true labor ethic means ‘being at the office as early as possible in the morning’, it’s no wonder that commuters fall asleep in subways, squeezed against the train doors.

Earlier we wrote an article about power-napping around the world, featuring quick hit-and-run sleeping habits. But this is even more absurd. Perhaps the Tokyo circumstances will trigger a mutation in human DNA. To catch every bit of sleep in a city of 36 million inhabitants, one should be able to sleep while standing. This may eventually lead to a next step in human evolution. Nevertheless, for now, Wolf’s pictures brilliantly represent Tokyo’s extremely busy commuter life, the tremendous metropolitan rhythm, and foremost the totally exhausting work lives of Japanese office workers.

—To our readers in Amsterdam: photography museum FOAM is currently hosting ‘Paris Street View’, an open air exhibition with photos by Michael Wolf in Amsterdam’s financial district the Zuidas. The exhibition runs until 10 April. Wolf’s photos can be found at Zuidplein, Gustav Mahlerplein and Claude Debussylaan.