Photographer Austin Hou visited Tokyo a number of times between 2017 and 2018 and spent his nights rooftopping and photographing the city from above.
Here’s what Hou says about the series:
My strongest memory from the first time I stepped into Tokyo was the feeling of being struck by the sheer scale and density of the place. That feeling never left me, and I became fascinated with understanding it. I visited time and time again to immerse myself in the intricate balance between order and chaos that felt so unique to the place.
It’s difficult to really understand a place that’s so immersive with so many layers. I realized that to even attempt to understand a place like Tokyo, I needed to explore its fringes – experiences far removed from the tourist circuit. This sparked a long series of explorations of the city: of its back alleys, its far reaches, and its curiosities. It wasn’t until my seventh of eighth time back, when my explorations led me upwards, that I found some of what I had been looking for. On the rooftops of Tokyo I witnessed a canopy unfold like no city I’d ever visited — an infinite three-dimensional landscape that resembled more closely a rainforest than anything remotely human.
“ukiyo vertigo” is a result of these explorations. Ukiyo refers to the “floating world” era of Japanese thought, and the Ukiyo-e art style that accompanied it. The illusory, removed, and profoundly temporary nature of the “transitory world” that it examined resonated with me in those long, endless nights above the city.
P.S. If you enjoyed these photos, be sure to check out photographer Alain Cornu’s 4×5 large format rooftop photos of Paris at night.