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Yokohama is not Tokyo, but Tokyo is close… with Zhi L from Yokohama

A big part why I chose to make an issue of Elska in Yokohama was specifically that I didn’t want to feature Tokyo. I think Tokyo is great but it’s too obvious, and also too big. Trying to squeeze a city like that into 160-ish Elska pages is madness. So in the end I went for Japan’s second biggest city, Yokohama.

The problem is that Yokohama is only an hour away from Tokyo so in a lot of ways people look at it as a suburb. As I discovered, it has a totally different feel to Tokyo and a style of its own, and you can spend a week here without getting bored or needing to go to the capital for anything.

When shooting the issue, although my assistant and I never left Yokohama to shoot, we did go into Tokyo twice for leisure. Once was to attend the Tokyo Pride march, and the other was to tourist out a bit… we went to the Line Friends shop in Harajuku, we hung out at a hedgehog café in Roppongi, and we got purposefully lost under the lights of Shinjuku. Leaving Yokohama was no sign of disrespect though. I totally recommend you to visit Yokohama, but it’s ok if you spend some time in Tokyo as well. 

See more of Zhi L and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (09) Yokohama (Japan)

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What are you doing here… with Patrick Inada A

“What are you doing here?!” It’s a question I’ve heard asked many times in my life. Having been born in the USA, and with the tired notion of ‘land of opportunity’ still holding strong, no matter where in the world I’ve lived people wondered why I’d live anywhere but the USA. As if the USA must be better than the UK, Poland, Georgia, whatever. But of course, it’s complicated.

Then when I got to Japan and met Patrick Inada, as much as the question annoyed me, I was asking him the same thing. Raised in Brazil but with Japanese and Indian blood, my puzzlement was less about thinking Brazil is a promised land but more about why someone would choose to live in Yokohama of all places. It just didn’t seem like a place that attracted immigration (which turned out to be very wrong). In the end, I did try to ask him but his answer was vague, and I decided not to push it. I imagined some sort of early mid-life crisis may be to blame and he may not have been in the mood to talk about it, to again answer the same question – “what are you doing here?!”

See more of Patrick Inada A in Elska Magazine issue (09) Yokohama (Japan)

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A totally unfair, judgmental, racist position on doing an Elska in the Philippines… with James A

James A was a Yokohama boy who originally came from the Philippines. He was one of a few expats in the Yokohama issue in fact, and the second Filipino boy we’ve met (there was also Rhenz T in our Taipei issue). People often ask when we’ll do an issue in Manila, and while it’s not off the table, I have a totally unfair, judgmental and racist position on doing an Elska in the Philippines…

Why? Almost every day I get a friend request on FB or some message from a Filipino who introduces himself by asking if I’m top or bottom, then says something overly flattering about me, then promises that he’ll do anything I want, and then asks for money. It’s bloody annoying! But there must be a reason for this, a reason why 90% of the time that I encounter such people, they’re from the Philippines. Any queer anthropologists want to help me out?

See more of James A (who didn’t flatter, perve or ask for money) and read his story in Elska Ekstra

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Self-Indulgent… with Krish S from Yokohama

I know I’ve said it a hundred times before, but finding guys to participate in the Elska project in Japan was tough. So when I got in contact with Krish, a frequent visitor to Yokohama but not exactly resident, I decided to shoot him anyway. Plus, he really reminded me of my earlier experiences of Yokohama and gave me a personal (perhaps self-indulgent) desire to include him. 

I used to stay in a hotel here, actually almost right in front of the ferris wheel where you see Krish standing in front of, when I used to be a flight attendant. In fact, Krish is also a flight attendant and worked for the same airline that I did, although we never actually met on the job. There are literally thousands of cabin crew working for my former airline, so it’s rare to work with the same person more than once. But it was nice to finally meet, talk about the airline industry, and remind myself how glad I am I got out of it and started Elska instead.

See more of Krish S in Elska Magazine issue (09) Yokohama (Japan)

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Black Cat… with Kazuta S from Yokohama

Some of the first advice I got before going to make an issue in Japan was to get the app 9 Monsters. “Guys in Japan don’t use Grindr” I was told, so I downloaded it as part of my effort to find local Yokohama boys to shoot. Of course I didn’t speak Japanese, which didn’t make things easy, but I did manage to find Kazuta there.

We met outside his block of flats near to the old part of Yokohama. He took me to his little apartment (everyone in Yokohama had tiny apartments). We really got on well and chatted away as we shot. Really I could have stayed chatting with him all day if I didn’t have another shoot to get to (and if I hadn’t left my assistant waiting in a coffeeshop). But we did spend a nice, long time together, though somehow I forgot to ask him what all those scratches on his chest are. Hmm, perhaps he’s got a black cat lurking on the other side of that Janet Jackson poster!

See more of Kazuta S and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (09) Yokohama (Japan)

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Taiwan v Japan… with Yosh N

There’s only around sixty miles of water between Taiwan and Japan, or to be more precise between the east coast of Taiwan and the Japanese island of Yonaguni… and while the cultures are very different, there is an affinity.

Actually I found it a bit strange how positive a view of Japan that the Taiwanese had, despite Taiwan having been formerly under Japanese imperial rule. I think instantly of Korea, another country colonised by Japan, whose people tend not to be so positive about Japan. But in Taiwan when we shot our issue (05) there, I met guys keen to show us old Japanese architecture, guys gloating about trips planned to holiday in Japan, and even one lad who I shot in Taipei but then actually met during our shoot week in Japan. And he loved it there!

An interesting thing about Yokohama is that it’s perhaps the most international of Japanese cities. There’s a lot of architecture reminiscent of the West there near the old port (which was once the only Japanese port open to foreign traders). And here in Chūkagai where we shot Yosh is the largest Chinatown in Japan, and actually the largest Chinatown in Asia. As much as guys in Taipei were pointing out places that looked like Japan, here was finally a place that looked like Taipei.

See more of Yosh N and read his fantastic story in Elska Magazine issue (09) Yokohama (Japan)