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The Tokyo Techno Tribes

Article posted by admin on 5th Aug 2002

A Documentary Film


TOKYO TECHNO TRIBES is an infotainment documentary about contemporary urban life in the most technologically refined city in the world.

Cyber youth cultures and have developed through the imaginative and novel use of technology in various media: music, art, pop, manga, gaming and fashion.

Underlying social, cultural and economic trends are examined, such as Japan's unique, isolated island culture, the post-economic boom recession and changing attitudes towards the role of the corporation in work and career attitudes.

Shot in digital video (DV) format, the film is a visually and aurally rich techno odyssey through the hyper-space, myriad layers, of Tokyo's sophisticated recreational cyber cultures that are producing some of the most intensely refined music, art and fashion scenes in the world.

The fascinating blending of tradition, ritual and craft are evident in Japan's relationship to fashion, industrial design and ergonomic living.

It is the most technologically savvy, cybernetically synchronised country in the world. With a highly disciplined work force and socialistic collectivism, it has become a formidable economic juggernaut.

But cracks are appearing within its fixed, rigid, structures, as an emerging younger generation break out of strict social codes of uniformity.

A growing youth movement of lifestyle dissent and non conformity is arising. This is evidenced by way of outlandish shocking fashion fads, loud colourful raves in the mountains; and many young adults are choosing not to marry.

Tokyo is a densely populated pressure cooker city of precision living. Within its microcosm of urban villages and armies of suit-clad workers, youth sub cultures have evolved strident, sophisticated, fashion trends, in an assertion of codified rebellion.

The Tokyo Techno Tribes story features frank interviews with a reactionary new wave of 'individuated' Japanese cliques.

These first-person narratives, penetrate the corporate mask of uniformity. The movie follows their lives and reveals how they are striving for a new identity beyond being salary men and women for 'the company'.

In their quest for a redefined identity, some speak of a 'new age romanticism' derived from reconnecting with Buddhist teachings and early Japanese shamanism. Others reveal how they are reclaiming a re-invented Asian tradition from the blanket influence of post war American culture.

Tokyo is the digerati temple of electronic recreational escapism.

Artists high-jack corporate products in novel ways. Hi-res consumer tech hardware, that technocratic 'god-head' corporations, like Sony produce, are utilised by local artists to innovative effect.

They create animatronics and cyber creations derived from a sci-fi mythic-melange of comic fantasy and virtual realty futurisms. Referencing a rich tradition in Asian allegory, ritualistic theatre and refined craftsmanship.

Top techno music producer/DJ, Ken Ishii, reveals that night clubbing has replaced Karaoke as the main form of participatory musical recreation and environmental escape.

Yasuaki Matsuki is a 3D graphics, virtual reality, animation artist, who works for NHK TV and Sony but also VJs at raves on the weekend in the mountains of Japan.

He is fascinated in animism and feels that techno dance parties are akin to a traditional Japanese Matsuri, rice harvest drum festivals. He says: "There is a lot of techno karma here. I need a high density prison to be creative in. If I am really free living in Africa, I wouldn't want to make visuals in front of a computer".

Kana, the editor of new age eletronica magazine, Zavtone, says: "This is the age where spirituality and technology come together".

Midori Kobyashi is a solo mother who runs her own fashion label, as well as organising party events. She says: "I organised an event called 'The Sun Moon Goddess Party' where all the artists, djs and production crew were women.

"When the people came to our celebration we gave them a paper heart. Women are becoming more independent in Japanese society and entering politics now".

Ree-K has orange hair and dresses like an extra-terrestrial alien. During the week she illustrates manga comics. On the weekend she DJs at outdoor raves and clubs, plus composes her own dance music on computers and has her own band.

Top manga (comic artist) Reiji Matsumoto, talks about technological design history in Japan and cartooning. Sony Play Station designer, Susumu Takatuka, explains why computer games are so popular in Japan and their influence on techno music.

Japanese fashion tribes are renowned for their bizarreness. The emergence of the 'Konoyarou trendy-gal' movement is indicative of its extremes. Their jarring look is utter kitsch sophistication, fascinating and shocking.

An infectious kitsch, revamped 70s glam-rock style, with towering platform boots, which cut n pastes haute couture, Loui Vuitton accessories into a gaudy, barbie doll, theatrical look. This style tribe has usurped European fashion codes and turned American trash culture on its head, with a uniquely Asian twist.

This fashion is a loud rebellious affront to a society which adheres to strict uniform codes. The garish girl movement has an in-your-face attitude, with ultra-mini-skirts in electric colours, severely bleached hair, glitter make-up, white lipstick, and intense suntans from salon lamps.

In a society obsessed about personal grooming, the gals see themselves as iconoclasts in Japan's group-structured system. They say the craze is a rejection of traditional Japanese notions of geisha beauty. But directly relates to its traditions of doll-like make-up, ornate wrappings, as they trot around in ungainly towering boots.

The shadow aspect of Japanese society is evident in the underground Bhuto dance movement. A kind of punk theatre, where body paint is used to evoke a raw expressionism, serving to vent hidden psychological undercurrents, in a highly mannered, masked society.

The film features stunning footage of party productions like the annual Equinox Festival in the Nagano mountains, with elaborate installations of sculpture, decoration, holographic pyro-technical projections, state-of-the-art VJs, theatrics; and music from DJs and live performances and traditional daiko drumming.

The influence of the Asian traveler Goa party scene is revealed, which has evolved into highly sophisticated techno trance party events in the mountains of Japan every summer weekend. Particularly on the Equinox and Solstice, which are holidays in Japan, and date back to ancient traditions.

Technodelic clips, dance beats and Asian ambiences propel you through the bewildering odysseys of Tokyos' fashion districts, resplendent with outlandish, kooky futuristic styles, amidst a sensoria-architectural-labyrinth of metropolis enviro-tiques.

The Tokyo Techno Tribe story elucidates contrasting, freshly- percolating, sociological paradigms. Its style is captivating and insightful, through its depiction of a curious blend of the ancient with the future. An intriguing mystique. The juncture of Japan, defined, as it enters the 21st century.

The documentary reflects its subject matter, in style and construction, using the latest in digital technology to visually garnish the fast paced, giddy milieu, of The Tokyo Techno Tribes.

Over 30 interviews with artists, designers, producers, editors and commentators are featured. All illustrated with visually rich, cutting edge, cyber culture footage and graphics.

Tokyo Techno Tribes

Movie length 80 min.