Sunctuary of the housing complex

hitomi hasegawa

2019 - Ongoing

There is an old public housing in the city I grew up in. When I was in elementary school, I was told that Brazilians residing in the housing complex. They had migrated to work at Japanese mega-corporations, several decades ago. Back then, they would often have conflicts with local residents. The remnants of which, though faded and changed in forms, still remain today. It has been already 30 years since I moved to another town. Two years ago, I came across the area by chance and decided to walk around the complex out of nostalgia. Hence this project began. To me, visiting in the place felt like existing in a virtual world of some videogame. Brazilian people are seemingly still coming in and out of the residence. I asked around people if I could take pictures of their daily lives. It wasn't so easy. I visited their long wedding party one day or Judo-class for kids. I even posted a paper ad in the complex and post a message on SNS. They invited me in and allowed me to photograph them. However, I wonder why I have some discomfort to continue this project. One day I was told to visit one place. It was a tattoo shop in the area. Diego, the owner of the shop who spoke beautifully-fluent Japanese. In Japan, the concept of tattoos itself posed an impression of outlaw –I had always found people with tattoos all over their bodies rather scary. Diego told me to contact him whenever and introduced me to a girl named SACHI. The girl, who was in the corner of the shop, smiled at me and gave me her contact number. That’s how I started visiting the peculiar space over time. Through the shop, I slowly and gradually understand the Brazilians in this housing complex. I also learned that the tattoo shop is seen as an abnormality even among the Brazilian community. In fact, I have never seen anyone else in the community who have that many tattoos. After a while, Sachi and I made a friend and going out for restaurants sometimes and she told me her own stories. She told me that she wants to become a tattoo artist who travels the world in the future, when she got a tattoo on her cheek. Getting a tattoo on one’s face will rid of job opportunities at a substantial rate here in Japan. The next day, we took a picture together. When I initially kicked off this project, I promised myself never to get sentimental over this. But at that very moment, I felt the urge to take a picture with her. There are places in the world where it seems from the outside as though you cannot easily enter inside; and such places have untouchable spaces within. I came to see how they live here, through our personal relationship.

Diego opened his tattoo shop in another town and Sachi, also moved out to a big city to learn more about tattoo. I know they shall never come back. I lost my reason to continue this project now. I tried to see this Brazilian community objectively like a bird-eye view from the top. However, I finally realized that I came to know the sanctuary in this housing

complex through only one person I care about.

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