The Asakusa quarter of Tokyo was once home to the city’s historic pleasure palaces, and today embraces a stubbornly independent popular culture that encompasses traditional comedy theater and houses of erotic entertainment. Asakusa attracts outcasts from Japan’s modern consumer society and is also the home of the famous Senso-ji temple, which attracts floods of tourists from around the country. Over the past two decades, Hiroh Kikai has created an extensive and unforgettable series of street portraits from the enormous flow of people passing through
the district. Posed against the bare walls of the Senso-ji temple, these strong, severe, lonely studies radiate a shared sense of hard-won, idiosyncratic individuality. The photographs are accompanied by Kikai’s own pithy, sometimes humorous descriptions of his subjects. Taken together, Kikai’s Asakusa portraits amount to a classic meditation upon the timeless complexities of the human condition.