They Called Me Yukari: The Darkness of Tokyo’s Red-light District

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© Hideka Tonomura© Hideka Tonomura

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© Hideka Tonomura© Hideka Tonomura

© Hideka Tonomura© Hideka Tonomura

© Hideka Tonomura© Hideka Tonomura

© Hideka Tonomura© Hideka Tonomura

© Hideka Tonomura© Hideka Tonomura

© Hideka Tonomura© Hideka Tonomura

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“I hated this area so much that I wanted to burn it down, and I have vomited on it many times. I recognize the area as a dumpsite of human desire — the nightly parties were full of madness.

There was one girl who had a beautiful singing voice and an adorable smile. She died.

Her death faded into the parties — adapting to numbing senses is the only way to survive in this place. I learned that human desire is terrifying — once you touch it, there is no turning back. That is why I released the shutter just before I touched the desire.

The sliver of darkness that is not meant to be seen.

There are things that we don’t have to see if we don’t need to see them.

But it was also that darkness that brought my numbed senses back.

I believed in the sliver of light that was captured in the darkness.

I saw the hope of human life there.

I worked as a hostess for twenty years, moving from Kabukicho to Roppongi, Ginza and Akasaka. Each area had its own ‘quality’, but I had not released the shutter so many times in the areas other than Kabukicho.

There is only a fine line between desire and hope. I met the people who make their living in this district and learned the hope to keep on living.

Kabukicho, Shinjuku.

Patches of blood, bare genitalia,

A sliver of darkness that’s not meant to be seen.

They called me Yukari.

‘How we make a living? Sell our hearts, piece by piece by piece.'”

―Hideka Tonomura

Originally published by Zen Foto Gallery in 2013 as the second photobook after her shocking debut Mama Love, They Called Me Yukari was shot in Kabukicho, Shinjuku where Tonomura worked as a hostess. The book attracted much attention and was long out of print but is now being reissued in a new edition for the first time in 10 years, along with works that were not included in the original edition and newly written text.

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