A Thousand-Meter Radius

Special Project:

A Thousand-Meter Radius

Seeing What There Is To See,
Telling What There Is To Tell

A circle drawn on a map. Centered on a specific point in a city park, the circle has a radius of a thousand meters and covers an area of 3.14 km2. Contained in that circle are shrines and temples, a train station, restaurants and supermarkets, schools and daycares, and at least twenty thousand people. 

A Thousand-Meter Radius, my personal project for 2022 and 2023, aims to study this area in depth and bring you stories about this place, its history, and its people. 

Map overlaid with a circle with a 1,000m radius and centered in Tsuki Park, Urawa Ward, Saitama City, Japan

A New Project For a New Year

This project is grounded in my long-standing belief that everything is interesting if you give it the chance to be. I believe that the ordinary details of the world have volumes to tell us if we listen carefully and allow them to speak in their own voices. 

This project’s area of concern is quite average, in the sense that it is fairly representative of what you would find throughout most of the Tokyo metropolitan area. And, while it’s a nice place to live, it’s not a place you’ll find in tourism brochures. It’s a perfectly ordinary place, and the interesting thing about ordinary places is that, just like anywhere else, if you look for the things that make them special, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Every place is ordinary, and every place is special. 

My aim here is to illustrate what I mean through  stories, photo essays, and so-on that uncover the all the wonderful things about this completely ordinary place. 

“If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

I am starting this project with it deliberately loosely framed. I expect the project to take shape largely on its own, guided by what I find in my explorations, the people I meet, and what my research uncovers along the way. 

And as the project gains clarity and direction, I will update this page accordingly. 

Why this particular center point?

On my first night in Japan after moving here, on 2015-03-31, I attended a nighttime cherry blossom party (called yozakura). The party was in the park, and the place I sat that night, the place where my experience of living in Japan began, forms the center point of this circle.


Originally, I intended to use my home as the center point, but for safety/privacy reasons thought better of it. The updated center is still quite close, only about 200m from my apartment, and still has personal significance, so I felt this was a good compromise.

Why a radius of 1,000m?

I wanted the area to be large enough to have a lot of variety and depth to what it contained. A smaller radius would have excluded a lot of interesting things. At the same time, I also wanted it to be small enough that I could explore every last meter of street on foot without it becoming a ridiculous task. Large enough to be diverse, small enough to be manageable. The number 1,000 is frankly arbitrary, but balances these desired attributes nicely. 

What else?

I don’t know what you want to know, so if you have questions, please leave them in the comments below!

Comments? Questions? Requests? Leave them here and I’ll do my best to reply.

3 thoughts on “A Thousand-Meter Radius

  1. Very interesting project! I have been enjoying your dispatches since finding the site. I was last in Japan in 2018 when I left the US to retire in Southeast Asia. I have fond memories of wandering Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Osaka then. Seeing the concentrated area you will study makes me think you will find so many of the little things that most people walk by and take for granted. I’ll be following along now that I found your site. I think the project and the goals and how you found the center point are very interesting.

    1. Michael, thank you for your comment! I’m honestly having a little bit of a hard time getting started with the project amid filing taxes in two countries, renewing my visa, etc, but it should start developing more soon.

      There really will be so much to discover in this area, it’s exciting. It’s an area I know fairly well, but what I know now is tiny compared to what it’s possible to learn. Gonna be fun!

  2. Found you through Michael Perry’s blog, sounds like a very interesting project — one that I’ll be following for sure!

    It reminds me of Wesley’s “Notice” project which he turned into a book. With his travels shut down by COVID, he decided to explore his neighborhood daily and took over a hundred photos showing something unique yet close by. You can read about it here: https://newstyle.co/products/notice

    Good luck!

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