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Photos of the Madness and Motion of Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing

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I crossed Shibuya Crossing 10 times for a new series of photos, and I watched pedestrians cross another 13 times. Crossings happen every two minutes, and there’s a one minute window for you to run out there to photograph.

The specifics behind the photography process: stop down the aperture to around f/7.1 so the pedestrians will remain in focus, and slow down the shutter to approximately 1/13th second to create motion blur.

Lock onto a fashionable subject, use continuous autofocus, and pan as the pedestrian crosses. I used the brand new Nikon Z6 camera for this project and found the high ISO performance at ISO 3200 pretty decent. Two hundred frames later, these are the results.

One hasn’t seen a throng if they haven’t seen Shibuya. Thousands of people cross those streets at once. And we would’ve thought Singapore during National Day Parade was crowded.

Now crossing Shibuya requires real technique. The seasoned pedestrian knows that to get to their intended side of the crossing quickly, they’ve got to sprint. Wait any longer and straight streams of walking humans swiftly diffract into disarray, forming a massive obstacle course with objects that you’ve got to actively dodge.

If one could succinctly frame it in perspective, Shibuya is one giant game of musical chairs. The pedestrian light turns green, the traffic music plays, and people try to get to their destinations within the time limit. Eyes on the lights — with two bars left on the countdown to the red light, it’s time to run back to safety. Try not to be last, as the occasional blur persons still crossing after the lights turn red get honked at (very aggressively).

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that everyone there was a pilgrim. Pilgrims on a journey to step into the holiest place of flashiness, worshiping the religion of glamour. All dressed in the same robes of luxury items from top to toe, the fashion becomes sickening after awhile as what was once extraordinary standalone becomes commonplace and distasteful. A riot of colors, a vomit of opulence. To maintain this lifestyle, they probably use 5000 yen [~$50] notes as tissue and 10000 yen [~$50] ones for scrap paper.

But you can’t help denying feeling a sense of awe, standing in the middle of this wonderful sight. It is a mess yet it’s beautifully coordinated. Each person within the thousand gets where they want to go within a minute, and that is truly amazing.


About the author: Klaus Tan Yihong, better known as Chuttersnap, is a photographer based in Singapore. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Yihong’s work on his Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram.

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