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Book Review: Tokyo Taxi by Alexander James

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The Japanese have a fascination with things that sparkle and shine, with using English words just for the look of them, and for cute animals and flowers. Animals, flowers, and English words that shine are even better. One place to see them, along with stars, globes, and other design elements, is on the signs on top of Tokyo’s taxi cabs. These signs are what photographer Alexander James has chosen as his subject in Tokyo Taxi

With hundreds of cab companies operating in Tokyo, there are no lack of signs to capture. But since some companies have as few as four cars on the road, it was a challenge for James to try to capture as many different signs as he could. It was even more of a challenge, however, since James was taking most of these photos while riding his bike through the city. This gives many of the photos a very interesting perspective.

Many of the photos were taken in the Akasaka district of Tokyo, which contains many noodle and sushi bars where all sorts of men like to congregate late at night to drink, eat and socialize with one another. This provides the need for a steady stream of taxis, and provided a great base of operations for Mr. James as he collected photos and talked to taxi drivers.

Somehow, James’ photos of taxi signs gives one a real sense of the vibrant nightlife of this bustling city, still teeming with people and traffic even after dark.

Aside from the photos, James also shares short anecdotes from the taxi drivers, who work long hours and yet seem to genuinely enjoy their work and take pride in it. One driver shares his biggest problem: getting drunk passengers out of the taxi when he is not allowed to ever touch a customer. How Japanese it is that the only way he can get an inebriated customer out is to talk him into getting out!

Tokyo Taxi is an interesting and authentic look at modern Tokyo and will please any fan of photography or of Japanese culture.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.