The juxtaposition of tradition and modernity

Following the brief jaunt back to Okayama, we’re back in Takamatsu and Mission Control has to head back to Tokyo, while Rob is off to Sendai (he’s heard there’s a village of foxes around there). Instead, my good friend and frequent Call And Response Records video collaborator Matt arrives from Tokyo and we meet up with Masami from Miu Mau/Coet Cocoeh and her husband (himself a musician, who I know distantly from the band Ginza Lights).

Akka

We take a brief tour around some shops, firstly at a little boutique called Sanrinsha, where we scare off browsing customers by listening to hardcore bands on YouTube with the manager. He recommends crust-core band Akka, local session band NNO and The Jennies, whose vocalist Sachiko Kano is also connected to the prog band Concept.

We then move on to lunch at a café called Ben no Daidokoro. Parallel to all this, I’ve been engaged in a discussion with a friend of mine in Europe who has been trying to track down a quote I mentioned to him about a year ago dealing with the value of physical objects, locations and interactions. The problem with this discussion is that where these physical contexts are no longer technologically necessary, the decision to embrace them becomes unavoidably infused with an element of fetishisation, which then undermines their value in some way. I mention this to Matt using the example of the old bakelite dial telephone in my hotel room back in Kumamoto to illustrate something funky and retro that’s nevertheless there simply for banal, functional purposes. Matt points to an acoustic guitar arranged next to a 1980s Apple Macintosh computer and some old jazz records in the little tatami area where we are sat in Ben no Daidokoro. “I guess those aren’t there for functional purposes.”

Aside from the unavoidable conclusion that Takamatsu is a hipper place than Kumamoto, it’s a fascinating juxtaposition: the acoustic guitar – a universally acknowledged symbol of authenticity – next to an Apple product, which while the brand itself is widely understood as a symbol of fetishistic modernity, the clunky old desktop Mac is nonetheless a retro object. A computer is also primarily a functional object, but since the owner of Ben no Daidokoro is a musician, the guitar is in one key way the object with the more fanctional value of the two.

With the cherry trees starting to turn green again, we head to the park at Takamatsu Castle for what will probably be a final hanami of the season, and to celebrate the transitory nature of existence, I insist on making every toast with the words, “Everybody dies!” Dwarfed by the towering office and apartment developments surrounding it, the park and castle ruins are a classic example of the cliché joke among a few of my friends where we’ll spot an old thing and a new thing, nod at it wisely and say, “Ah, Japan: the juxtaposition of tradition and modernity,” – as if you can’t say exactly the same thing about almost any country on earth. Looking back at the guitar and ‘80s Mac, it seems clear to me that single objects can happily embody both characteristics. In the world we now inhabit, nothing dies: it just gets fetishistically repurposed for eternity.

As darkness begins to fall, Matt and I peel off and head to Too Nice, the studio/record store/live venue run by Ikawa from Ithaqua/Forget Me Not. A lot of venues have little record stores inside them, but like Chaotic Noise in Kochi, the Too Nice record store is a discrete thing that’s more or less welcoming to enter without fear of entangling yourself in an event of some sort. I get a potted introduction to Ikawa’s Impulse Records label and come away with an album by Osaka hardcore band Yajin, a split by Kochi-based Reveal and Kagawa’s wonderfully named DeadPudding, not to mention pretty much everything I didn’t already have by Hokkaido’s immense T.G. Atlas.


DeadPudding

There is an event going on though, and we check it out despite being too tired to really work out which band is which. At least one of them seems to be from Osaka, and they have an incredible drummer, who despite being nigh impossible to photograph, wreathed in smoke behind the kit, is a fizzy fireball of energy.

Punk has a survival spirit that seems to transcend fashion and never dates. It’s constantly getting repurposed, fetishised and stripped of all meaning, and yet something recognisable still seems to endure, blindly and stupidly bludgeoning through. Not all culture is so resilient to the changing tides of fashion.

“You know how many parents there are in America now naming their kids after anime?” Matt asks. He’s an anime journalist, so it’s not completely out of the blue.

“No idea. It’s a shame more people from the pioneering ’90s generation of anime fans didn’t do it though. ‘Go to your room right now, Cyber City Oedo 808!’”

“Eat your greens, Dominion Tank Police!”

“You’ll be late for school, Genesis Surviver Gaiarth!”

“Sleep tight, 3×3 Eyes.”

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