29 May

As someone who doesn’t work in the creative field professionally, like many other people in Tokyo, AM Cortez “needs to do something else apart from work”. “Before living in Tokyo, I’ve always had this image that most people don’t have lives and slave off at work. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

My name is AM and I’m in a 25 year long love affair with Tokyo.  My family moved to a rural Japanese town when I was 2 years old and stayed there for 5 years. As a kid we would regularly go to Tokyo – I don’t remember much but I have a few fond memories of this magical city with its perpetual sea of salary men. After that period, my family and I would still regularly go back to Japan for holidays and when I was in university I decided to spend one whole year of my conscious adult life in the city of (LED) lights. This was when I really fell in love with Tokyo and got to know it inside out. When another opportunity came to me to return for a job, I had to say yes. I now work as a pre-owned watch buyer, trawling every corner of Tokyo and constantly on the move trying to find watches from your standard Rolex Datejust to rare collector pieces.

Before living in Tokyo, I’ve always had this image that most people don’t have lives and slave off at work. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In this city, everybody has something they’re into and there are plenty of sub-cultures with people connecting and finding each other online through platforms like Twitter. It might be of a contrived nature from other people’s point of view (t’s because they need to do something else apart from work, you know.) But the fact that they consciously pursue something – whether it be learning Brazilian, Portuguese or setting out on the weekends on photography walks – has been a very inspiring thought to me.

Professionally, I don’t work in a creative capacity, but everything else I do in my spare time is some creative endeavour or something loony like writing imaginary scenarios in a little notebook I carry around (okay, sometimes it’s on a Moleskine app in my iPad.) I couldn’t think of a more creatively stimulating place like Tokyo, or a more design-conscious culture like that of the Japanese. This is a place where you buy sweets and they wrap it so beautiful you wouldn’t want to open it up; the quality of light is so crisp and clear that photographs you take have that Tokyo feel; you find people in random street corners, by the train station or deep in the middle of Shibuya, setting up little chairs with a sign that says “Will listen to complaints about life for free.” It’s such a stimulating city that when you stay long enough even drunken salary men sprawled out into the streets at 12mn take on a certain romanticism (or quiet dejection with life).

The reason why I chose Nakano, particularly the building Nakano Broadway, to be photographed in for thus feature is because it’s such a good microcosm of Tokyo life. From traditional pottery galleries on the fourth floor to rows of shops selling military uniforms, it’s full of material mish-mash that reflects Tokyo culture — all crammed together in four floors of tiny shop spaces with overflowing display cases. I come here every week for work and I always find something new. To me, it captures everything Tokyo is about, and not just the shoebox spaces but certainly that too: in every corner of this city you’ll find something that will surprise you, delight you, inspire you.

Favorite place

Nakano Broadway

Nakano 5-52-15

164-0001 Tokyo

Get directions »