Exhibition: Punk in Translation

Japanese punk is as active in Tokyo today as it was when it emerged in the mid-1970s, the same as its UK and US counterparts.

A new photography exhibition in London brings together images of contemporary Japanese punk. Punk in Translation is a collaboration between Tokyo punk brand Blackmeans and umbrella group Leather Japan. It is produced by Harris Elliot – co-creator of the Return of the Rudeboy exhibition and book (featured in Jocks&Nerds issue 11) – and includes photographs by Yusuke Yamatani, Tatsuo Suzuki and Naoya Matsumoto of punk communities in Tokyo.

“Japanese punk today has a strong aesthetic and visual identity, inspired by early UK punk styles,” says Elliot. “Bands like the Erections, Discocks and Asuka and the Bum Servants play regularly with their translation of punk.”

After the oil crisis in 1973, Japan experienced major inflation and its first postwar decline in industrial production. These economic difficulties, paired with the lack of an underground music scene after the Second World War, as well as the government’s ban on dancing to music after midnight, created the perfect climate for a native punk scene to break through.

While Japanese punk started to emerge in the mid-1970s with bands like Friction, it experienced a boom in the 1980s when the likes of the SS, Lip Cream and Gizm brought a more hardcore influence to the scene.

The most famous of this new wave was the Stalin, named after the Russian dictator. The group, led by Michiro Edo, became notorious for their live shows, in which Michiro would spit on, attack and have sex with audience members, as well as vomiting on stage.

With groups like the Stalin, it soon became clear that Japanese punk had found its voice, one of rebellion within its own society, with an identity to match – later influencing fashion designers such as Jun Takahashi (featured in Jocks&Nerds issue 13), Rei Kawakubo, Kei Kagami (featured in the current issue) and Hiroshi Fujiwara.

Punk in Translation will be held at the Horse Hospital, which is run by Roger Burton, designer of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s World’s End store.