We’ve all heard about Japan’s extraordinary ‘capsule hotels,’ but photographer Won Kim’s intimate photos give us a personal look at another set of tight living quarters – a hidden hotel in Tokyo that was designed as a guesthouse for backpackers.
Kim stumbled across the hotel when backpacking across Japan, and returned two years later to photograph it.
He lived there for several months, befriending residents and photographing the small, womb-like spaces that they call home.
The entire hotel is located on a single floor of an office building in north-east Tokyo. Some of the residents are short-term visitors while others, says Kim, are essentially permanent residents.
“For me, the real interest of the resulting portraits is in how each resident has made use of a such a small, confining space,” Kim writes. “In each case, the sharply-defined space and its contents tell something about its occupant’s personality, and his or her ability to function in such a strange, enclosed environment.
Photos of Japanese men passed-out on their way home from nomikai social functions, an important part of corporate culture in Japan designed to bring colleagues closer together.
Workers are often paid a specific allowance to make sure they have no excuses for not attending which leads many businessmen to drink to excess. Japanese custom dictates that you must never turn down the offer of a drink from your boss.
My photographs are a record of the people who have reached their limit and exhausted their strength after the daily grind.
Everyone has different burdens, but everyone lives at a frantic pace.
People drink with friends as a reward for the hard day’s work and face a new day’s work like warriors.
A lot of people struggle through such work situations. I took these pictures with a true feeling of respect for the people in them.
I don’t believe the state my subjects are in is shabby in any way. I can feel they have experienced hardships and fatigue to end up like this.