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October 31, 2016

Talk to: Visual storyteller Hiroshi Okamoto


With 9m2, it’s the smallest living space on Volkshotel grounds. But don’t let its size fool you. This tiny eco-friendly hub, hidden in the parking lot of Volkshotel, might just contain the greatest ideas. Every month a new photographer is resident of photography platform Docking Station. As a ‘docker’ their goal is to move their visual story forward. By collaborating with experts in the field, encountering likeminded Dutchies or just by riding their docking bike through Amsterdam. Japanese photographer Hiroshi Okamoto is the fifth docker. This is his story.

To start off, how do you like living on 9m2?
”It’s actually very nice to live in such a tiny dock. I can even say it’s better than my apartment back home in Tokyo. As you may know Tokyo is a very expensive city to live in. Because of that reason, student apartments are very tiny, and so is mine. I share my apartment with one of my best friends and together we have just a few square meters to live on. I think if you hire a room like docking station in Tokyo, it will probably cost you around 800 euros a month.”

04Can you tell us something about your latest project ‘Recruit’?
”The project ‘Recruit’ is a personal story about Yo Toshino, my best friend from university, and his job-hunting experience. In Japan, more than half a million students start job-hunting simultaneously every year. Students get into this frantic game led by their desire and anxiety for their future careers. Job-hunting is very competitive in Japan. Traditionally it’s the biggest entrance for young people to become adults in the society. If you miss or fail this big opportunity, society thinks your whole life is just over. The pressure to the young generation is huge and sometimes leads to serious mental illness or suicidal thoughts.”

Was your friend okay with being photographed in this difficult time? We can imagine that he could’ve been scared or ashamed?
”He had no problems with my presence actually. He’s been a very good friend of mine for a long time. We even went to the same university together. The initial plan was to run ‘Recruit’ with another main character, but after a while this person doubted about his participation. I couldn’t even see his CV, it was secret he said. During the project my friend was very honest to me. I was even allowed to read the letters between him and his girlfriend during this period.”

Yo Toshino, one of students are participating in Job Hunting. He failed web examination for 3times the day.

What’s your goal with participating in Docking Station?
”To be honest I was already thinking about a concept like this before. I find it very cool to work on my projects in different countries. Here I get to deal with new situations and most of the times I get inspired along the way. In terms of Photography this country is the place to be. There are a lot of opportunities and a lot of professional photographers at the same time. Most of them are no longer conservative but very open for new ideas and innovative in their work. I like that!”

What would you like to change or show the rest of the world with this project?
”I’m not the type of photographer who shoots for famous magazines, papers or hangs around in every gallery possible. That is not my primary interest. I was educated as an anthropologist and from that perspective I approach situations. I try to capture stories, which I think are important for other people to see. I’m not an activist, I neither feel like I want to change something. I just want people to be aware and have a social engagement with my stories. Therefore my photos are not made out of a political statement. I prefer to just observe the society instead of change it.”

03Tell us, how do you think the ‘Recruit’ story ends?
”In my opinion there are too few changes in dealing with certain problems in Japan. Not everyone realizes that the economic situation is not as good as it was and that the method of the past might be out of date. We must proceed with more awareness for the youth and act on their chances. Anyway, some people just don’t accept that change is sometimes necessary. Those people will still say Japan is the best. I think we’re ready for the next step.”

Every month a new docker calls the hub its home as part of Volkshotel’s annual Artist in Residence project. Check out to see what story is evolving under your nose this very moment.

Hiroshi Okamoto

Docking Station
Marga Rotteveel & Anaïs López (founders)


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