The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Nanpa

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In Japan Nanpa (ナンパ) is a form of dating where young men wait on the street and try to pick-up girls as they pass-by. It is a bold and blunt pursuit for buttock-clenchingly polite Japan, and ever so, ever so hopeless most of the time.  In the west it would border on sexual harrassment but then again maybe not, I am out of the flirting loop now I`m married. (If indeed I was ever really in it!!!) but it all seems just too unsubtle if you ask me: compliments are excessive and intensions are unhidden, indeed the ultimate hope is the driving force, as anywhere, but surely the girls must want something cleverer; more worthy of their surrender; someone who masks his appetites like a species higher up the food-chain. And yet it must work enough for many men continue to do it especially in the streets of Shibuya where this picture was taken the other night.

Anyway I thought this was a rather good picture of the event in process: lots of energy, mystery (what does she look like besides the sexy hat?) and the positioning of the man`s libidinous  smile and hand which are charming for sure and yet perhaps just the wrong side of intimate, certainly for the purposes of an introduction.

That was until my wife, who I had hoped would marvel at my close  yet polite capture of a moment of true culture story-telling, went…

“Is that a boy? I thought it was two girls.”

It`s not my fault many young Japanese men dress that way but suddenly I see her point. So what do you think, should I head out and hope to recreate this picture with a more masculine male lead or does it work as it is?

Talk soon.

Damon

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5 responses

  1. Anna

    I thought that was a girl, too!!! Greetings from Poland!!!

    December 20, 2008 at 4:22 pm

  2. Annie

    I thought it was two girls as well. The story I got from it was they were laughing at the pick-up attempts.

    December 21, 2008 at 8:53 am

  3. Hello Anna, long time no hear!! You well? thanks for stopping by, still doing my thing as you can see and it is looking more and more promising for the future if our plans go well. Will talk soon.
    Annie thanks also for stopping by, yes that interpretation works for me too if the two are girls, most girls do just that after being approached, but I know he is a man and that is why I like the pic. Yet it is looking likelier I`ll need to reshoot maybe more intimately (with faces) to get the story across. Thanks for the input.
    Damon

    December 21, 2008 at 1:41 pm

  4. I think that formulated directness is an important part of the buttock clenching. Standard question, standard answer. Great photo!

    December 24, 2008 at 4:12 pm

  5. Gianni

    Hi Damon
    i understood that he was a boy trying to talk to a girl
    straight away and i think its a great photo, especially because you did it in slow speed, so it has everything: mouvement, his expression, her indifference, sweet.

    i see mysefl trying to take the same photo and i can understand that its tough.

    gianni

    December 31, 2008 at 1:12 am

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