Kissa Hanare and the 4649 project

Every Monday (but not holidays, they don’t like to work on holidays!) Naho, Yufuko and Sakiko transform a Kyōto living-room into Kissa Hanare – something I like to think of as Café Independence (…but I’m now told the detached-ness I was inferring from dictionary searches is just an architectural reference). Not only does Hanare provide a menu of, where possible, locally-sourced, organic food, but they also work hard to create an atmosphere in which they and their guests can freely address a range of pertinent social and political issues.

In my limited experience, I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of Japanese culture, but I have a small sense of how difficult it must be to create this type of space. (Hell, I can’t even really imagine it happening here!) What’s more, judging by the blog, I believe they’ve managed to make it sustainable to the extent that the project’s been running for at least 18 months now. Impressive!

Regular café nights are interspersed with lectures, workshops and larger projects.

4649 and Article 9

4649 (representing “yoroshiku” – a Japanese term I’m not even going to begin to try and translate, let alone the significance here) is Hanare’s latest project and they’d like to ask you for your support.

Since 1947, Japan has had a pacifist constitution arising from Article 9.

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized. wikipedia

Its exact origin is disputed, as has been its interpretation by successive governments. As you can imagine, there has recently been increasing talk from various Japanese politicians of revising this article.

I’m not going to start passing judgement here based on a few articles I found on the internet, however what I do feel strongly about is that there should be a space for Article 9 and the potential consequences of amending it to be highlighted and discussed freely amongst people who are not politicians.

I’ve exchanged emails a few times with Sakiko recently. Here’s how she introduced me to the 4649 project (slightly edited, my emphasis):

…we are planning to have a t-shirt silk-screening party on November 12th, in which we will print images of a Japanese gangster with the statement written also in the gangster style font that opposes amendment of the Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which prohibits Japan from possessing any military force and use it to solve international conflicts.

Additional Information about Article 9

Article 9 is, in a way, an apology for neighbouring countries for what Japan did before and during WWII, as well as a promise that we will never become a militaristic country. The Japanese government has been attempting to transform the beautiful part of this constitution for a long time, yet have met huge opposition from Japanese people. Since Koizumi, though, the danger of the article being amended has been greater than ever, and we want to do something about it.

Here is what we are planning to do for the party. Prior to the party, we will print tons of stickers with the same image and send to those of you living abroad and outside of Kyoto. And I want you to put the stickers out on the street and take pictures of them and send to us, which we will project as a slideshow at the party and upload to a Flicker site. People attending the event are able to see the image in other parts of the world, and hopefully feel that we are not alone. Showing the photos is really critical because based on my experiences in Japan, we are so isolated from the rest of the world, physically, and mentally.

By showing the pictures, I want people to have a sense that what we are fighting matters, and is supported by people abroad, NY, SF, BCN, Pula, London, etc. plus, Japanese people living abroad might see the image too!

Here is an idea behind the image. In contrast to the States and Europe where there is a very sophisticated visual resistance culture, Japan lacks it so badly that young people here have a hard time getting involved with political activity. By taking the aesthetic of Japan’s gangster culture and twisting its violent and rather nationalistic representation, and saying goodbye to the conventional peace movement images like the dove, we are hoping to encourage Japanese young people that there are many creative ways to express their opinions.


Here is the image she’s talking about:


A challenge to you

There’s a nice quote I came across whilst Googling stuff earlier:

To reach consensus in democracy, it is necessary to guarantee a free space where even the oppressed can express their opinion without concern for logical consistency and truth. The fact that chats have been neglected as the fundamental element of democracy shows that past democracy has been only for the few who could speak logically and consistently.Polylog

It doesn’t bear close scrutiny, but there’s a few nuggets in there that resonate strongly with how I perceive Hanare. My challenge to you is to use that graphic above to make an image that stimulates a chat at Hanare (or beyond).

Remember the aims are a) to have the sticker on the street and preferably somewhere that is obviously not Japan and/or b) to demonstrate the potential of creative techniques to express an opinion.

You could be provocative:

click for provocation

You could be subtle:

click for subtlety

You could be surreal:

click for surrealism

You could be terribly, terribly British (or whatever):

click for red phoneboxes

Useful bits of information

  • The event at Hanare is on Monday the 12th of November, so that’s the deadline to aim for.
  • To get some stickers you can contact Hanare at kissahanare[AT], they’ll take about a week to arrive.
  • To get some stickers you can contact me, I’ve got a handful spare.
  • To bypass the stickers and get started right away you can print the image from this file.
  • Email your photos to Hanare to add to their Flickr page. (Don’t forget to tell them where the photos were taken.)
  • Follow what’s going on on the Kissa Hanare blog

Can’t be bothered?

Here are some suggestions for some low-energy ways of showing some support for Hanare:

  • Forward this post’s link to people you know and spread the word.
  • If you have a Flickr account, add 4649 Project as a contact.
  • Subscribe to the Kissa Hanare blog feed:

I’m sure you can think of others – be creative!

update: I wrote a little about the photos I took in this later post.