Japanese business men, with their dull suits and carefully orchestrated combovers (also known as barcode hair styles) have been the butt of jokes, both in media and in colloquial chit-chat, for as long as I can remember. Younger generations call them ossan, or boring old man, and ridicule their obedience and lack of independence. There was even a popular comedy sketch that depicted a Japanese business man (played by Teruyoshi Uchimura) who gets repeatedly transferred by his company to the most outlandish outposts. But being the slave that he is, he reluctantly accepts each new assignment. In the final episode his company sends him on an Armageddon-like mission to save the planet, obviously without enough fuel to return to earth.
Anyway, the story—call it the Parable of Salarymen—has been told many times, with varying aims. But in its latest iteration by photographer Yuki Aoyama, a lift-me-up is provided to businessmen across Japan. Solaryman (published by Piebooks in November 2009) is a photo-documentation of actual Japanese businessmen escaping from the mold that has characterized them for decades through the simple action of jumping. The photographs are quite humorous but at the same time filled with a restrained desperation, as if whispering to the reader, look at me… I have a personality. The intent of the book is to capture the hidden laborers who carry the world’s second largest economy on their shoulders and to make people think, instead of sweaty, balding old man, ah funky dude in a suit, or something like that.