The city is a whirlpool of lights, and people, and mysteries, I think as I step out of the Tokyo Station. Skyscrapers like nothing I've ever seen stretch towards the heavens. The crowd moves with a purpose, and it's hard not to be swept away. "Kore wa sugoi," I murmur. Incredible.
I clutch my small bag close, fumbling to adjust my camera strap. It's my most prized possession; a simple digital camera I've used to capture the serene landscapes of my island home. But this—Tokyo—is a different landscape altogether.
Moving through the throngs of people, I find a less crowded corner and finally get the courage to take my camera out. Maybe I can capture a slice of this bustling city. As I'm adjusting the settings, I notice him—a tall, white man with a camera, much fancier than mine. His eyes are a piercing blue, and his face is lined with experience, and each shot he takes seems to come from an instinct, a sixth sense.
"Australia no kamera-man?" I wonder aloud, catching glimpses of his camera's brand and his jacket with an Australian flag. A tourist? A journalist? Or maybe someone who simply enjoys capturing moments, like me?
Suddenly, he looks my way. A wave of panic washes over me; in my small island town, eye contact is a commitment to conversation, and my English is... toriaezu, maa maa, so-so.
"G'day! How are you?" he greets, his accent thick and hearty.
"Eeto... I am fine, arigatou," I manage to reply, my cheeks turning a shade redder. He smiles.
"You into photography?" he asks, gesturing at my camera.
"Hai, hai. But am just beginner. Your camera, tottemo sugoi," I say, admiring his equipment.
"Ah, this old thing? It's not the camera, mate, it's the eye," he chuckles. "I’m Peter, by the way."
"I am Kenji," I introduce myself.
We get to talking, or at least, trying to. I discover he's from Australia but has travelled here for the love of street photography, which he has been doing for decades. My respect for him grows. He shows me some of his shots on the camera's small screen, each a slice of Tokyo life captured in its rawest form. It's art, pure art.
And then Peter does something unexpected. He hands me his camera. "Give it a go," he says.
With trembling hands, I take it. Here I am, a boy from the provinces, holding a machine worth more than anything I've ever owned, standing next to a man who might as well be a legend in my eyes.
I look through the lens, and suddenly, Tokyo is transformed. It's as if I'm seeing the city anew, the mundane becoming extraordinary. I press the shutter. "Click."
Peter takes his camera back and looks at the photo I took. He smiles. "Mate, you've got an eye," he says, "Never stop shooting."
As we part ways, me heading back to navigate the labyrinth of Tokyo, and him disappearing into a lane filled with the scent of ramen and the sound of laughter, I feel a renewed sense of purpose. This city, this vast, sprawling metropolis, doesn't seem so intimidating anymore. Peter, an Australian photographer, who probably had his own apprehensions about this foreign land, has given me a new lens through which to see the world.
And as I wander deeper into the neon streets, my camera in hand, I can't help but feel that perhaps this is where my journey truly begins.