No9 [Interview] Narita Daisuke, The Godfather of Japanese Zines

no9People say that your main weapons are a photocopier and a sewing machine.

Narita Daisuke : They are right (laughs). You see, I graduated from fashion school. So on Thursdays we have a clothes-making circle. And the motto is to let your creativity fly!


Like many people involved in the DIY community, you started with music.

N. D. : Yes, about twenty years ago I was into punk. I couldn’t play any instruments so I looked for different ways of expressing my dissent regarding such things as war, politics and mainstream media. I started a self-publishing project called U-Do-Sha through which I made a tribute to the anarco-punk band CRASS and a couple of photo guides devoted respectively to New York and Berlin. My latest zine, Tongue Confuzine, is a surreal phrasebook featuring multi-lingual
translations of such “useful phrases” as “Help! The police is chasing me!” and “Are you open to new experiences?” Then I started a distro (mail order catalogue) through which I began to trade and distribute my own and other people’s zines and music.


In 2004 you opened Irregular Rhythm Asylum (IRA). Can you tell me something about this so-called “infoshop”?

N. D. : For several years we were in the red. Recently we have reached a point in which the stuff we sell through the shop and distro more or less cover our expenses. I am a website designer by trade, so I don’t have to worry about the financial side of running IRA, but honestly, I don’t care about money. What I want to support is people’s autonomy and creativity, not the market, and I feel that the alternative scene is finally growing in Japan too. The best thing about IRA is that it has become a meeting place for all those people who for some reason refuse the social and cultural status quo. We are also reaching out to zine makers and other creative types abroad.


What can people find at IRA?

N. D. : We have CDs (mostly punk), clothes, badges, new and old books (e.g. anarchist literature, indie publishers such as AK 47 Press and Microcosm). And zines! of course. Most of them are in Japanese but there are plenty in English as well. But as I said, IRA is first and foremost a meeting point. You can come here, relax on the sofa, have a nice cup of coffee while chatting with other interesting people and spend as much time as you want. Here, you have a chance to meet the kinds of creative people whom you can hardly find in Shibuya or Harajuku. We like to think outside the box.