Environment & Health HKFP Lens Travel & Transport

HKFP Lens: ‘Tokyo 2020’ – Robert Gerhardt’s candid shots of Japanese street life as coronavirus outbreak unfolds

By Robert Gerhardt

Tokyo 2020 is a series of candid monochromes shot by American photographer Robert Gerhardt during his visit to the capital of Japan last month. Gerhardt arrived in the city on February 7, shortly after the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise was parked at Yokohama’s port. Her 3,700 passengers and crew members were put under quarantine.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

Crossing the Street at Sundown, Harajuku, Tokyo. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

“At the time, no one in Tokyo seemed over-anxious about the disease, and things in the city were rolling along during the last week the city would be normal before an exploding of coronavirus cases,” Gerhardt told HKFP.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

Alone on the Subway, Higashi-shinjuku Station, Tokyo. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

Couple Coming down the Stairs, Jingumae, Tokyo. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

During his 10-day trip, Gerhardt said he strolled around the capital without having any “real agenda,” but slowly he became drawn to the city as it came to life after dark.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

Heading to the Subway at Rush Hour, Ochanomizu, Tokyo. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

Men Checking Their Phone on the Train, Tokyo. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

“As dusk settled, and people headed home from work, and the neon and street lights came on, the city seemed to come even more alive,” he said.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

Watching the Door at the Club, Shimbashi, Tokyo. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

Man Riding his Bicycle in the Rain, Shinjuku, Tokyo. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

“Nothing was still. People rushed by, heading for the last trains home, or the bars with their friends, or to some other destination somewhere out there in the vast city. And below it all, the subway rolled on carrying the crowds,” Gerhardt recalled.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

Walking in the Rain, Outside of Shinjuku Station. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

Businessmen in a Smoking Rom, Ginza, Tokyo. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

“So I went where my feet led me. I picked a spot on the map of the city, went there, and then wandered back to my hotel, no matter how far,” he said.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

A Women Reading her Phone on the Subway, Tokyo. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

Rainy Evening, Shinjuku, Tokyo. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

HKFP Lens Tokyo before coronavirus Robert Gerhardt

Late Afternoon Cup of Coffee at Mister Donut, Shinjuku, Tokyo. Photo: Robert Gerhardt.

“I wasn’t looking for anything other than what the city would show me. Well, that and a good bowl of ramen,” he said.


Robert Gerhardt is a photographer whose work has featured been in numerous solo and group exhibitions in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as in collections including The Museum of the City of New York, The New York Historical Society, and the Arab American National Museum. His work has also been published in The Guardian, The Diplomat, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Newsweek, The Hong Kong Free Press, Haaretz, and Suddeutsche Zeitung. His work can be viewed on his website

HKFP Lens: 'Tokyo 2020' - Robert Gerhardt's candid shots of Japanese street life as coronavirus outbreak unfolds