Tokyo is stuck in a cycle of building new buildings, demolishing them, and then rebuilding them again. The city is stuck in a cycle of “scrap and build.” The people live in a city which keeps changing and thus are constantly on the move—reflecting the restlessness of Tokyo itself. This energy pervades the buildings and residents alike, reverberating between the two.

I think that there are differences in how Japan and Europe treat their buildings. In Europe, beautiful buildings from the Middle Ages—buildings that are a thousand years old—are still in use today. In contrast, most Japanese buildings have little history; they are demolished as soon as they are no longer needed, and new buildings spring up in their place. Therefore, the landscape in Tokyo continues to change at a very fast pace.

In 2020, the Olympics will be held in Tokyo. This means that new buildings are being built everywhere in Tokyo; the landscape of the city changes every day. It seems to me like a gigantic creature, continuously growing and feeding, expanding ever outward.

—Ash Shinya Kawaoto

This project was a finalist in the Magnum Photography Awards 2017. Discover more inspiring work from all 41 of the winners, finalists, and jurors’ picks.

If you’d like to see more work like this, we’d recommend these previous features: Tokyo, City of Strangers, Kenji Chiga’s project on searching for connections in Japan’s capital; My Life, a street photography series shot in the shifting landscape of Tokyo; and Metamorpolis, a jaw-dropping project that documents life in one of the world’s fastest-growing cities.