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Tsutomu Yamagata

Thirteen Orphans

This is the story of the singular people who gather at the lotus pond in Tokyo.

One day an old man in a plain suit sat next to me by a pond in a park. He began to put powder on his face and changed into a woman’s kimono. He started dancing to the Japanese ballad that came over his radio, smiling all over his face. He told me that he was a master of Japanese dancing, that he was a homosexual, and that he had cancer. Another day, I met an old millionaire in underwear who rode a rickety bicycle, and yet another day, I met a devilish-looking man who in fact was a mammy’s boy. The pond is a wide lotus pond called Shinobazunoike. As I went there more often, I met more people like them. Before long, I began to take photographs of them and listen more to their stories.

There is something about the people I met at the pond that peculiarly attracts me, something more than just how they look, just what they say about themselves. It is as if they had a kind of magnetic power, unseen and quiet, further attracting those who take a close look at them.

I go to the pond often and share time with the people. Each subject has his or her own background and character so unique that no stereotype can define them. It is as if all sorts of mutually-conflicting and complex human characters – vigor and weakness, harshness and gentleness, beauty and ugliness, and so forth – all reveal themselves as they are in each person, and quietly create a magnetic power of his or her own.

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