by Tsutomu Yamagata

Ueno Park in Tokyo has a big lotus pond. There is something about the people I met at the park that particularly attracts me, something more than just how they look, just what they say about themselves. It is as if they had a kind of magnetic power, unseen and quiet, further attracting those who take a close look at them. What is it, this magnetic power, quietly striking a chord in my heart, the heart of the one who directs his/her attention to them?

I go to the lotus pond earnestly and share time with the people who are there. Each model has his/her own background and character so unique that no types, no categories can wrap them up or specify them. It is as if all sorts of mutually-conflicting and complex human characters – vigor and weakness, harshness and gentleness, beauty and ugliness, and so forth – all reveal themselves as they are in each person, and quietly create a magnetic power of his own, of her own.

Tsutomu Yamagata is a photographer based in Tokyo, Japan.
To view more of Tsutomu Yamagata's work, please visit his website.

A former street peddler who advised me to be careful around Okonomi-yaki (Japanese pizza) stands because they are typically operated by the mob.

Has run a bar in Asakusa for 30 years. The number of customers has decreased every year.

Used to be the lead vocalist in a heavy metal band, but now he just listens. He wears a tie 6 days a week.

As a memorial to his dead daughter, he supports road safety.

She became a prostitute 6 months ago. She still gets money from her parents, but hopes someday to get her job back as a kindergarten teacher.

She is a lecturer of the Ponzi scheme. She constantly travels cross-country on foot and makes a good income.

Last month, he found out he has prostate cancer but he hasn’t told his wife yet.

He’s been standing by this pond for 24 years. He is actually straight. His school senior taught him the trade.

Even in midwinter, he wanders around in a T-shirt and shorts. When he gets cold, he runs.

She comes for a walk once a month from Asakusa. She seldom meets her five sons.

He opened a small bar in Shinjuku. The bar is always crowded despite the bad economy.

He is an Okinawa samisen musician and hides a tattoo on his chest that bears his name.

Club singer. Came to Tokyo from Otaru at the age of 20 and has never returned.

She lives with a daughter of 28 years old. The daughter is hikikomori and always stays home reading manga.

He takes Polaroid photographs of children, and gives them the photos on the spot. He spends his pension money on film.

Recruiter of day labourers. Pick up casual laborers in Ueno every day.

A former dancer, 20 years after a sex change operation.

He is a masseur who’s a big fan of Takamori Saigō.

Used to dance with Tama-chan, who has not been seen this past year. He dances alone every weekend by the pond.

Came from Nagoya to see the sakura blossoms, after a gap of six years. He wanted his dog to see them too.