(en) An Irregular Refuge

By Mike Jones | Friday, Sep 29, 2006


Tokyo’s Irregular Rhythm Asylum

If like most people your image of an anarchist is a balaclava-clad hooligan with a Molotov cocktail in his hand, then a trip to Tokyo’s Irregular Rhythm Asylum will probably leave you confused. And you won’t be the only one. Since opening its doors nearly three years ago, this anarchist-run info shop on the outskirts of Shinjuku has attracted a wide range of people and reactions. “The police didn’t know what to make of it, because it’s a very colorful place and many of the books are in English,” explains owner and founder, Keisuke Narita with a relaxed laugh.

Along with said books (both new and used), there’s also clothing, shoes, CDs, zines and even Zapatista-grown fair trade coffee. Though small in size (this is Tokyo, after all), the store manages to squeeze in a comfy couch and coffee table; it also boasts a great selection of music to listen to while you browse or chat. It’s like a friend’s apartment, only with stuff to buy.

But don’t let the mellow atmosphere fool you. Through Irregular Rhythm Asylum, Keisuke has managed to become very active in the community, helping to set up events such as Tokyo International Women’s Day and, most recently, an evening of films and live music to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War. Of course there’s also the parties, the art exhibits, the drama events – this guy works hard, but maintains a keen emphasis on fun.

As we talk, Keisuke serves me several heaping bowls of somen and explains that his number one goal for Irregular Rhythm Asylum is the spread of DIY culture. Whether this comes in the form of art, music or zines is inconsequential – though he does have a particular fondness for the latter and encourages all local authors to bring their work by. It doesn’t have to be about politics, either. For him it’s just another way for people to connect and share ideas.

Indeed, Irregular Rhythm Asylum was born out of Keisuke’s desire to have a place where people could meet and talk, share food and laughter and take the edge off the insane pace of Tokyo life, even if just for a moment. There’s a definite sincerity in his open invitation to anyone interested in stopping by to say hello or have a chat. When he tells me that he understands Tokyo can be lonely, I get the feeling he knows what he’s talking about. After all, if anyone knows a thing or two about isolation, it’s an anarchist on the fringe.