Rock, punk and vegan cultures in Tokyo

Article published on March 21, 2009
community published
Article published on March 21, 2009
I'm really fortunate that a friend of my friend B. introduced us to K., who is an activist in feminism, homeless issues and anti-consumerism. She suggested that we go to see a vegan cafe near Koenji station (after exiting the station, turn left immediately and take the first street from the left. The bar which hosts the vegan cafe is on the right, there is a sign saying "vegi [something]". B.
has read that the area around Koenji is famous for rock and punk culture. It is home for many bars and interesting shops. We went into a music store, which is on the left of the street. The person managing the store (I'm not sure if he works alone or with others) speaks perfect English and has interesting stories to tell. He told us that he used to study visual arts, but was drawn into music afterwards. It's difficult in Japan for young and unrecognised musicians - they have to pay JPY 50,000 to rent a studio for practice for a week, and pay similar amounts for each show. There are, however, more and more clubs and bars who would host visual artists and musicians for free or for a symbolic fee.

The shop has a huuuuge collection of vinyls and amazing variety of genres. It's worth spending some time browsing through Japanese and world music collections.

Just in front of the vegan cafe there is a shop for used furniture. Another shop nearby sells secondhand clothing - a challenge to the society so interested in the latest fashion :) Also, on the left side of the street there are white stairs leading to an informal infoshop, where young people have discussions and hold sewing workshops. A very cosy place simply to be, without paying for anything (quite unusual, huh?).

And finally, the vegan cafe. A bar, which doesn't serve food otherwise, lends its space for this initiative on Wednesdays, when it has almost no visitors. People here get vegetables from farmers in one of the northern prefectures, if I remember correctly, from organic farms. The people working there make miracles with just a few ingredients. Actually, while Japanese food keeps me full for no longer than 15 min, the dinner I had there had the most resemblance to what I would have at home (in Lithuania or in Budapest, my ex-home not so long ago), just the quality of vegetables was, needless to say, much higher. People who frequent this place are mainly those working in the cultural 'industry': we met a book editor, a journalist, a teacher of throat singing and a student. There were also two Germans who seemed to be friends with the frequent visitors, but we haven't figured out what they are doing in Japan.

It would be fun to do something of that sort in Lithuania. I bet that because of the crisis there would definitely be one or two bars who would host people willing to work for free.