Yuko Asanuma speaks to the artists and activists at the heart of a new socio-cultural movement in Japan's capital.
On a chilly Sunday afternoon in January, I stood in front of Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, the busiest railway hub in the world. Its west side is largely a business district with skyscrapers and very little life on the weekends. The commercial east side, on the other hand, attracts a mass of consumers of all kinds. On Sundays, to accommodate the shoppers pouring in from all corners of Japan and beyond, the front road is blocked off to create a pedestrian zone. Tokyo, and particularly Shinjuku, is the epitome of materialism. You can find everything here. Every fantasy imaginable is available. Every surface visible to human eyes is overloaded with advertising encouraging you to consume.
This is where the second edition of Protest Rave took place. After gaining support following last year's launch, which took place on Halloween weekend in front of Shibuya Station, the organisers accepted an invitation from three political activist groups that were planning a joint demonstration against the current Japanese administration under the slogan #OccupyShinjuku0112. Following a march through the streets with a soundsystem-equipped truck, the final destination was the exact spot of the public party. The main faces of Protest Rave, the local DJs Mars89, Miru Shinoda and Mari Sakurai, were joined by JACKSON kaki, 1017 Muney and a special guest from Osaka, Yousuke Yukimatsu.
Kick drums and heavy bass echoed through the small square and busy pedestrian zone. Most passersby didn't pay much attention, but some stopped to try and figure out the source of this unfamiliar music. It came from a makeshift DJ booth, with MC ONJUICY agitating the crowd on the mic as if he was in a basement club. Behind the DJ, a large banner with the words "We Dance Together, We Fight Together" had been hung in solidarity with the Tbilisi protest rave in 2018. The swelling crowd was made up of people similar to those you see in clubs. There were many familiar faces from different generations of the party scene.