Richard James

Richard JamesOccupation:
Freelance Photographer and Writer

I came to Japan in 1992 after spending eight months on the beaches and buses of Thailand and Indonesia. I arrived with about $100 in my pocket and no real idea about what Japan was like. Fortunately, I had friends who were already living here, and they let me stay with them until I found my feet. I managed to get a teaching job almost immediately - it was a bit easier back then - and intended to work until I had earned enough money to pay off my debts and go traveling again.

After a year, I hadn' managed to save any real money and was planning to continue teaching for another six months when, without warning, the school where I was working went bankrupt. I then had to quickly decide whether I was going to go back home or stick it out here in Tokyo. I chose the latter.

Because teaching was only a stopgap for me, I decided that rather than going back to it, I would use my time in Japan to get involved with something that I really wanted to do: photography. At first it was very difficult as I had very little money and no outlets for my work. However, after talking with other photographers in Tokyo, and with financial support from my wife, I eventually started to make some progress.

My big break was getting my work accepted by Sygma, an international photo-news agency. It gave me a huge amount of confidence and meant that I always had somewhere to sell stories. I still do most of my work for them.

I enjoy my job as I never know what will be around the next corner. I get to experience many different things, and there is not much that beats seeing your work published in a national newspaper or magazine.

The best thing about living in Japan is that it has given me the opportunity to get started on a career that, for financial reasons, would have been impractical in my home country. I have also made some very good friends here and have gained a perspective that I don't think you can get living in a Western country.

Tokyo has been a great place to live. I feel that I have been given a rare opportunity in life and, while I shall probably return to the year, I will never forget my time here.

Do you know an interesting person in Tokyo? E-mail us at

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Media & Advertising
198: Ross Mihara
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