#Japanspiration: Instagrammer of the Month
November's #Japanspiration feature comes courtesy of the wonderful Instagrammer @alextthomas. Originally from Seattle, USA, and now living and working in Japan, we fell in love with Alex's eclectic style and beautifully shot Instagram images.
Your website bio describes you as a film photographer & maker of movies, Asian pop DJ and androgynous model. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, your work, and what drew you to living in Japan?
I know, I do too much. I have too many interests. It's been taking me ages to narrow it down, and how to separate job from hobby, but they all mix together. That means I am either always working or always playing, I'm not so sure. It's a thin line. I've been a freelancer all my life and don't mesh well with the full time 9-5 fluorescent light life. I was born and raised in Seattle, went to college for video production and self-taught everything else.
I grew up in a house with Japanese art and zen gardens. My morning routine before school was eating cereal and watching Sailor Moon and Power Rangers. After school I couldn't wait to get home and play Final Fantasy on my Super Nintendo. I was once at a garage sale and like a magnet, went straight for the hot pink book under a pile in a box, which was Ranma 1/2 manga.
I got older and realized everything I was attracted to came from the same country. When I finally visited for the first time, everything felt so comfortable. Maybe I lived in Japan in a past life, I can't explain it, but I think it's easy for many to understand.
Later on, I left everything behind; my job, family, boyfriend of 6 years, and moved to Korea (!!) knowing only 2 people and with no job. The goal was always Japan, so 6 months later another opportunity allowed me to make the jump across the pond and I've been in Japan ever since. I've been away from Seattle for 4 years (this month is my anniversary!) and look forward to more adventures here in Japan.
What do you enjoy most about living and working in Japan?
It's hard to say what I love most about Japan. overall, it's the whole atmosphere, but it's also the safety and comfort I feel walking alone at night. In America it was so scary and dangerous, that the relief and relaxation I feel in Japan cannot be understated. I feel free to explore, I can just admire the shapes of the apartment buildings, the textures, the smells, the light shapes, the bikes shoved in bushes. I like how specific Japanese culture can get. I appreciate the sub-sub-sub cultures. Tokyo works in extremes and so do I. In One street it can be crowded, people screaming deals and pachinko parlors blasting, but one block over, you're in front of an empty temple that's so quiet you can hear the wind. I love both sides of the same street. Atmosphere, safety and extremes.
You enjoy film photography, and a lot of your photos have a retro feel, do you have any recommendations for places to visit in Japan which have a retro theme or feel to them?
As for retro Japan, I highly recommend seeking out kissatens (old school coffee shops.) Going into an old cafe in Tokyo will transport you to another time, as if everyone else moved on and forgot about these cafes. I feel like the east side of Tokyo has more pockets of popped bubble era remnants compared to the constant construction of west Tokyo. I also highly recommend visiting a local sento. They are dying out, but nothing beats a public bath with a great hand-painted mural of Mt. Fuji. A friend of mine and I are currently working on documenting Tokyo sentos; a personal passion of ours.
Are there any Japanese fashion styles or brands you particularly love, and why? How do you think living and modelling in Japan has influenced your own personal style?
For me personally, modeling in Tokyo has really opened up more acceptance to my androgyny. I was always a tomboy growing up, but when I first came to Japan I couldn't compete with the cuteness. a year ago I shaved my head and I've gotten more jobs modeling than ever before. It makes me really happy that I can push gender roles and be accepted, which helps open up a lot of opportunities for people to be more open and accepting of themselves. I'm attracted to wearing black/wanting to be in a post-apocalypse 80s movie, but most of my closest friends I love are crazy colorful. I love their styles, I love how they express themselves. I love that Japan gives them those options to experiment.
As a DJ what are some of your favourite bands or styles of music to play?
As a DJ, my repertoire consists mainly of 80s-2000s pop/house stuff, with a majority from asian artists. as soon as we find another venue, our city hunter tokyo night will start back up again with my awesome DJ friends who all have great taste in city pop and dancey jams. it's a night where you can chill or dance, the good vibes are there for you to enjoy. My favorite band is Psy-s which is almost impossible to search for since Korean artist psy hit it big with Gangnam Style. but Psy-s encompasses everything I ever was or ever want to be, if I was made of music.
Do you have any future plans or aspirations you'd like to fulfil, either in Japan or beyond?
I always have big plans and exciting hopes for the future, so many that I have to constantly revise my list, since I only have this lifetime. In the meantime I am just thankful to be in Japan and enjoying every minute of it.
A huge thanks to Alex for these images, and for sharing their unique perspective on Japanese culture.
If you have a Japan themed Insta feed and would like to be featured, just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org