Tokyo Punks - up yours & Japanarchy exhibition
A photography exhibition documenting the five years Chris Low spent immersed in Tokyo’s underground punk scene: it’s faces and places, bands and fans.
Chris Low Having played for a number of punk bands popular in Japan Chris was welcomed into the thriving Tokyo punk community and was accorded access to a scene he found to be the most exciting and vibrant of any punk movement he’s ever encountered. It’s a culture that exists and flourishes in the face of traditionally conservative Japanese society. Most impressive of all, perhaps, is that to facilitate this dynamic movement a whole infrastructure of gigs, parties, shops and bars have emerged in accordance with punk’s original DIY ethic: Run by Punks, For Punks
The reference points of Japanese punk are similar to those reflected in Western punk styles – the UK82 Mohicans and studded jackets; the biker-traveler hybrid of the crust tribe or the utilitarian black of the anarcho-punks. However, like much in Japanese culture both the look and the music are pushed to extremes.
Today’s Japanese punks wear their influences proudly painted on their studded leather sleeves. In Japan, entire subgenres of punk have emerged and mutated like D-Beat forged from Discharge’s “Noise Not Music” ethos or the recent wave of “Young, Loud, Pissed & Proud” Pogo Punk bands.
It’s a scene that despite Japanese punk’s reverence within the punk community worldwide and the legendary status of such acts as The Stalin, GISM, Gauze, Confuse, Kuro, LSD, Crow or Disclose remains largely undocumented.
These photos tell the stories and evolution of their subjects caught in the camera lens. The spiked hair grows higher whilst the favorite bands du jour replace others in the fight for space with increasingly studded jackets. Bands initially only attracting a handful of friends to their shows later pack out clubs. A fresh-faced punk girl in the front row of one of her first gigs is five years on the singer in one of the most popular acts. A baby is held in the crowd by its mother, unflinching amongst the pogoing throng. A singer crowd-surfs and is carried aloft by the crowd, following his guitarist who has just been deposited at the back of the hall to continue playing.
There is no generation gap within the punk generation and any suggestion of punk being a fashion parade would be rightly countered by protests of it being “a way of life”. As, indeed, it is. Punks in Japan are outsiders not only by appearance but in their anarchistic opposition to authority and the state. Punk for them is a way of life with its own belief system as well as musical tastes. As has characterized every notable subculture over the years. In UP YOURS! TOKYO PUNK& JAPANARCHY TODAY this sense of subculture is still as strong and defiant as ever. As much a culture of opposition to commerciality as it is to mainstream society. `
Chris’s photos capture this in full colour, snapped on no more than a cheap pocket camera in keeping with the DIY ethos of his subject matter. In his own words: “It’s punk – not a Pirelli calendar!