It’s been eight years since I came to Tokyo. Even in this city of more than 9 million people (with upwards of 37 million in the surrounding area), I still only have a small smattering of friends. And yet, I’ve observed an entire universe of people in the background of this city: people walking ahead of me on the street, people on the same train, people eating at the same restaurant. Who are they? What are their lives? What are they thinking?

© Kenji Chiga

The light turns green. I look right. I look left. I step out and move forward. So many people walk past me. No one looks this way.

I peer into their faces. Our eyes may meet, but I think I can safely say that in my lifetime, there will never be another moment when we will observe or actually get to know each other.

The pieces of litter I see on the street are quite telling—they reveal the desires, needs, and actions of the people who once owned those abandoned pieces. I feel that photographs are not so different.

© Kenji Chiga

One day, I came across the app “happn.” This app, normally used for dating, actually provided me with a window into the lives of the hundreds and thousands of people I once passed anonymously every day. Each time I opened happn, the app presented me with a collection of users that I had crossed paths with throughout my day. Through happn, I met a woman from France, a young man who is a dancer, and a fashion student. My goal wasn’t romantic. Rather, we met, we spoke, we shared our stories.

Without the app, I do not think I would have met them. Though they lived close to me for a number of years and we must have crossed paths plenty of times without realizing, they would have remained forever strangers.

© Kenji Chiga

Even so, there is still an entire universe of people I don’t know in this city. My neighbors who I have yet to meet, who have yet to develop a face and a name…I continue to think and dream about them as I roam the streets of Tokyo.

—Kenji Chiga

If you’d like to see more work like this, we’d recommend the following articles: Recall, a series that warps memories in its attempt to preserve them; My Life, an engaging street series shot in Tokyo; and Tokyo is Yours, a series that captures the fantasies and fears radiating from the residents of Japan’s capital city.