lunes, 22 de agosto de 2011

I Find my Tokyo Niche


Tokyo's anarchist info shop, Irregular Rythm Assylum, according to Indie Media, is a
privately-owned business, but it's owners insist profit is not their mission. Located on the
second floor of a nondescript office building in the Shinjuku neighborhood, IRA is the hub
of the DIY movement here in Tokyo. The shop is a meeting place for different community
groups, it has a wide selection of zines and anarchist publications for sale, and it provides
services to activists in the realm of publishing and screen printing. On Thursdays, IRA hosts
a sewing workshop, as well as a variety of other events. The infoshop even publishes its
own zine/newsletter. Kay, who is the shop's manager and co owner, greets me with tea on
my arrival and patiently provides me with answers to all the questions I have about Tokyo's
counterculture scene. I tell him about my experience at the JCA and ask him if he knows of
any initiatives to kick start such a bike collective. He says there has been a lot of talk, but lack of
funds has been an impediment. Regarding dumpstering, Kay confirms my suspicions that
supermarkets covet their trash, but he has had some luck scouring the trash of convenient
stores like 7-11. I describe for Kay the squatter community I encountered in Yoyogi-Koen and
he discounts my refugee theory; they are instead a Tokyo-grown homestead movement. Kay
has several friends in the community and suggests they might be a good resource for me in
such matters as dumpstering. The homesteaders are an active community and on weekends
they host a cafe speakeasy and drawing sessions and he suggests that it is then I should
make their acquaintance. At the end of our conversation I feel even more excited about being
in Tokyo and I wish I could stay longer, but I have plans to start cycling north before the week
is out.

Bike tour further delayed! I receive an email today from Stacey, my travel partner, that she
will be arriving this weekend in Japan from Thailand. I met Stacey last month on my bike tour
of Northern India in Leh-Ladakh, a small city nestled high up in a sub alpine region of the
Himalayas. Stacey, an American living in Japan for nine years now, is the reason I decided to
come to this country. Before we parted ways, her own travels taking her to Southeast Asia,
we made plans to cycle in Japan together come September. After hearing of the situation
in Fukushima and Myagi-ken, I've decided I want to get a head start and stop for a week in Sendai to volunteer with the relief effort there. She is returning to Japan earlier than expected and although our plans haven't changed, Stacey has requested my assistance in preparing for our trip together. I'm excited to see where Stacey lives and on Tuesday morning I will leave Tokyo for Kamakura, a small beach community 40 km south of Japan's capital city.

An evening spent at the Cafe Lavanderia with proprietors Yumiko and Toshi, and their friend
DJ Mix Noise. Yumiko is a poet, she makes and collects zines and has edited and published several
books. She gives me a couple of her zines, which hopefully one day I will understand, if i
ever get around to learning Japanese. Her husband seems to be the one with the fascination
of Revolutionaries from Latin America and Yumiki shows me a zine he published on the
subject. Yumiko is thrilled that I am from New Orleans; she is well acquainted with the Iron
Rail's world famous zine collection, and is genuinely grieved to learn about the current trials of
our New Orleans' infoshop and all the activity since the showdown between the police and the
Krewe of Eris this year in the days preceding Mardi Gras.

Irregular Rhythm Asylum is chock full of activity today with a kimchi cook off, followed by
the weekly sewing workshop. Inspired by my conversation with Yomiko, I decide to make a
copy of my zine about queer dissension in Mexico City for both Lavanderia and IRA. Kaysan
equips me with a pair of scissors, a box cutter, and spray paint and I make my self comfortable
on the floor and begin cutting and pasting a prototype of the zine. By nighfall, people pour into
the small infoshop and some visiting Koreans make raddish crepes for everyone, a typical
Korean dish they often make for Free Markets in Seoul. I make the acquaintance of one
Monanori, who tells me he is going to Sendai this weekend to volunteer in the relief effort and
we trade contact information with a plan of meeting up in the North.


Protest at Miyashita-Koen. One year ago the park was privatized in a joint ownership between
the city of Shibuya and the Nike corporation, the latter of which funded the building of a
skate park within the park's confines. Under its new legal status a curfew was enacted and
the homeless people who lived here were evicted. Long before the privatization went into
effect, a group of activists organized the homeless to protest the city's plan of privatization,
but their efforts were unsuccessful. Annually, activists and homeless continue to gather here
and demand the park be returned to the people. It is a lively event: a slew of booths provide
information on all sorts of social issues, food and drink is distributed to the homeless, and
a stage is shared between speakers, live bands, and most notably, what is known as Blue
Sky karaoke. The term has its routs in the blue tent communities of Osaka, where a favorite
past time of the homeless community was prohibited by city ordinance. Despite its political
nature, Blue Sky Karaoke is a comical affair, as men and women in tattered clothes, some drunk, sing
and dance, some beautifully and others in horse and slurred speech, to the amusement of
all. The festivities continued until a half past seven, at which time the park's PA system's
announcement of curfew kicks off a parade, in which a robot made of found material is
hoisted on shoulders and pranced around the park to a revelry of song and dance.

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