Two Inadequate Voices


2IV is a platform for image-makers to recount and reflect textually on their stories of being out in the world whilst photographing.

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Sean Lotman
Samurai Blue

I don't usually set my alarm to 3:30am to take photographs, but I did so on the morning of June 25th, 2010. Not quite a soccer fan (in fact I skipped watching the match), I thought I'd cycle down to Shibuya to photograph the fans after reading that Japan defeated Denmark 3 - 1. It was only the first round, but I thought it might be interesting to record some of the reaction in one of Tokyo's most youth-centric neighbourhoods where crowds would be celebrating.

Arriving in Shibuya, I was absolutely shocked. You would have thought Japan had just won the World Cup, defeating Brazil 10 - 0 by the level of euphoria on the streets. It was absolute pandemonium. Hundreds, if not thousands of kids, mostly in their twenties, many of them clad in so-called ‘Samurai Blue’ colours ran amok, disturbing traffic, slapping each other and shrieking "Nippon #1 Nippon #1" until their shrill voices went hoarse. Police were at their wit's end keeping them from climbing traffic lights and jaywalking in a stumbling, joyful stupor en masse.

For some context, I'm from Los Angeles and I live in Japan. I'm not a soccer fan and so during the World Cup I really don't have any horses in the race. If anything, I root for the underdog, because they deserve it more than the national teams with all their money and resources. What I dislike about the World Cup (and no less the Olympics) is the blind, deaf, and dumb nationalism attached to the sport. As if successfully kicking your ball in the other's team's net more often than the other team was able to kick into yours makes your country great. We don't need history books to contemplate the consequences of runaway nationalism. It's not actually a very long leap from cheering your nation's soccer team to cheering your nation's armies.

So, for me to see the Imperial Flag – with its contexts of colonialism, racial massacres, and war – rise among this pyramid of rabid Japan Soccer fans throwing out Nazi-like salutes in the air was certainly disconcerting. I have to admit feeling quite pleased when Japan was clobbered in the second round, the Imperial Flags returning to the dark closets where they belong.

Sean Lotman has a background in narrative fiction and his short stories, essays and poetry have been published in numerous places online and in print. His first photobook, Sunlanders, was published by Bemojake in 2016 and his forthcoming book, Middle Life Notes, will be published by Neutral Colors in Tokyo. Lotman is represented by Galerie Agathe Gaillard in Paris and Ibasho in Antwerp. He is a member of the photo collective And the Last Waves.