A night in Osaka
It was a bitterly cold night. Cold enough that I could no longer feel my hands despite being shoved deeply into the pockets of my jumper; cold enough to kill the auto-wind motor on my camera too. It was a Saturday night, and it was quickly getting late. I left my hotel at around eight. Just late enough that I wouldn’t have to wait forever for the city to come alive, but early enough that I expected to be home for a solid sleep. That was before I started walking.
As soon as I left my hotel I could hear the noise above me. The sound bounced off the skyscrapers, flooded the streets below and reverberated in my chest. Lots of cars, running fast at high revs. It would have only been around nine at this stage, but it sounded as though I was sitting on a barrier wall at a racetrack. And yet, looking around at the locals as I strode through the city, it was as if I was the only one who could hear the action above.
As soon as the sound began I knew that I had to act. I knew that I had to catch a glimpse of the ludicrous behavior above. In many ways I planned to do just that when I left the hotel. All I walked out with that night was my camera bag filled with my Mamiya 645, two boxes of Fuji FP-3000 instant film, my T70 loaded with Superia 1600, and a 5000¥ in my otherwise bare wallet. Just enough cash to pay off anyone that might approach me, or to simply safe-word out of the evening and call a cab.. Still, I didn’t make any preparations as to actually taking photos or … more importantly … getting a view over the expressway.
I’d been walking under the loop for nearly four hours when I spotted this van. Parked up in the corner of one of the many paid parking areas which filled the shadow of the structure above. Although the van sat in one of the most well-lit corners of the car park, it had clearly been left for a long while. A thick layer of dust on the glass hinted as to it’s fate, with flat, cracked tyres supporting the story. It was only when I got closer I saw the note under the wiper. A piece of paper that barely seemed to hold form. I wanted to check if it was a formal ‘move-on’ notice or simply a hand written note. But I just didn’t have the heart to touch it.
I knew that with every slap of the shutter, every moment I spent finding focus under the freeway was another moment lost to capture the acts of rebellion above. But, after walking for so many hours, I had simply given up hope of ever seeing the action myself. When I arrived in Osaka I just assumed that somewhere there would be a park, or a train station, or an overpass. I took for granted that there would be some sort of easily accessible platform that would give me vantage over the highway. But regardless of how long I walked, how far I followed the loop, I couldn’t find anywhere.
I tried several multi-storey parking garages, but most of them were guarded by people whom I simply couldn’t sneak past, and the one that I could enter had solid concrete walls facing the expressway after the third floor. I tried dozens of hotel stairwells and fire escapes, but every single one seemed locked, either at ground floor, or after the first flight of stairs. So, I did the only thing that I could think of. I just found this dead car and started snapping photos. Something interesting to burn the film I was carrying, and a chance to relax and simply enjoy the wall of sound emanating from the fun above.
My shoulders were sore, my feet blistered. Walking around this little van and imagining the kind of life it’s previous owner must have lead whilst listing to the soundtrack of speed was just what the doctor ordered. A chance to actually relax and slow down. That said, I did start to think that maybe the old van was a bit of an omen.
Maybe I was just wasting my time walking around under a highway in a foreign city. Maybe I should have done more research before I left. Maybe I should have at least taken the time to look at a freaking map rather than using my memory from Wangan Midnight: Maximum tune to figure out what was the loop and what was an off-ramp. There was a lot that I could have done. But I guess, If I did all those things I wouldn’t have had the adventure I did. I wouldn’t have seen this little guy. I wouldn’t have been able to ponder, to mull on it’s past life, and its future.
So, in the end I didn’t see anything fun that night. After hours and hours of hunting, in the end I pulled out, packed up, jumped in a cab and went home. So, for anyone thinking of visiting Osaka and photographing the freeway, I guess you’re just going to have to get a hotel that overlooks the road or hire a car. Because short of ducking security cameras, cutting padlocks or clambering around gates, there’s just no way to see the freeway as a pedestrian.
No way at all.