From the Library: Rock Punk Disco

Escaping our bubbles through Watanabe Katsumi’s striking images of Japanese nightlife.

11.20.2020

When we’re in need of inspiration, our library is the first place we turn to; it exists in the physical and symbolic center of our office. In an effort to immortalize the countless resources on its shelves, we feature a pertinent title from our library in each issue of the Post.

This month, we leave the confines of our sanitized bubbles and transport ourselves to a world most opposite. We find ourselves in Japan, stumbling into the depths of the Shinjuku section of Tokyo, strobe lights catching glimpses of the city’s punk youth and vagabonds alike. It’s 1960, the crowd is dancing — or just merely existing — with an indifference that feels at first foolish to our weary minds but is deeply satisfying. It’s a distant familiarity, this portrait of life unfolding without a plan. It’s the sort of scene we’ve accessed only through our imaginations for such a long time now, and we’re hungry for something visceral. That’s why this month we’re captivated by Rock Punk Disco, a collection of photographs by itinerant Japanese photographer Watanabe Katsumi.

Comprised of three sections (as described in the title), we are taken through a photographic time capsule of an era in Japan that doesn’t quickly come to mind. The photographs feature Japanese nightclubs, discos, bars and the street scenes connecting them over a twenty-year span, from 1960 to the late seventies. The images are accompanied by excerpts of Watanabe’s Discology published in 1982, at the latter end of the the featured era. We admire these photographs and texts for their unapologetic nature; the recklessness amongst the subjects and within the scenes isn’t masked but rather highlighted, lit by the flash of Katsumi’s camera. It’s the sort of art that has you marveling at the audacity of life itself, and we’re ever more cognizant of that during a time like this.

We recently completed the design for the Ace Hotel Kyoto, for which we licensed Katsumi’s images and asked our friend Shin Nakahara to create wall collages in its private music room.