Welcoming and helpful activist infoshop, diverse international events, relaxed alternative atmosphere, English books/zines
1-30-12-302 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo 160-0022
Closest stations: Shinjuku-gyoen, Shinjuku-sanchome
Opening times: 1-8pm everyday (except Mondays and Wednesdays), open outside these hours for events
Irregular Rhythm Asylum (IRA) is a friendly and open bookstore, or ‘infoshop’, in a quiet back street of Shinjuku-gyoen. It’s one of Tokyo’s main reference points and gathering places for activists, artists and anarchists from Japan and around the world. However, you can be sure that the space is open and welcome to you regardless of who you are. You can spend some time talking with the owner Narita-san or browse the wide collection of Japanese and foreign-language publications, zines and products in his cosy and comfortable space. There are also many events and workshops to join in with.
The diverse range of products are a great introduction point for finding out more about Tokyo’s activist, alternative, zine and anti-capitalist scene. Narita-san is knowledgeable, helpful and English-speaking – so you can ask him yourself. IRA is very open to an international audience so you can be sure to feel welcomed. There are many international events, recently there was a small concert by Korean musicians.
IRA is on the 3rd floor of a non-imposing building you could easily miss passing by, look up to see a flag flying or look at the postbox for the sticker nameplate. Usually people are drawn to this space through word-of-mouth, especially in the international network of anarchists, activists and left-wing groups. Please feel to visit and browse any time, there are also products (clothes, coffee, etc.) produced by Japanese and international groups and activists. Narita-san works from the store as a graphic designer and is always there to talk to you if you have any questions.
In terms of regular events, on Thursday evenings a woodblock collective meets at IRA to create new prints and on Tuesday evenings a sewing circle gathers. Apart from these regular groups, there are many special events throughout the year. From concerts, workshops, zine events, film screenings and more. Recently, a film about activist projects in east and south east Asia was presented to a busy screening of IRA regulars, international residents, students and the interested public (Constellation by Keijiro Nakamori). The events are publicised online through social media and the website, usually in Japanese – sometimes with English translation. So feel free to leave a message, post online or email Narita-san to ask about upcoming events.
Each week the unique woodblock print group, named A3BC, meets to create artworks together. Anyone is welcome to join the core group of 5-8 people, they will take time to teach and involve you in the creation of the next work. They meet every Thursday evening. Their artistic perspective comes from their anti-nuclear and anti-war principles. Every Tuesday evening also there is a sewing circle with tools available for you to use to create something interesting or just experiment. There are occasional zine workshops at IRA too. If you want to know more about Zine culture in Tokyo, you can definitely ask here. There are zines for sale, some of them in English.
A3BC presented some of its woodblock print works in an exhibition at the nationally famous Maruki Museum in Saitama from November 16th 2016 – January 14th 2017. This museum was founded by two artists who created large anti-nuclear inspired panels after WW2 and toured the country with them to raise awareness of nuclear weapons. In this spirit, A3BC (similarly anti-nuclear in sentiment) was invited to present some of its works at the yearly Maruki Museum exhibition.
Narita-san founded Irrational Rhythm Asylum in 2004, thanks to a friend who offered him the space, as an escape for people to communicate, gather and share. The intention was not to make money, but to offer the open space for interested people. In Tokyo, this kind of welcoming space away from the atmosphere of isolating city life can be inspiring to spend some time in and feel a more relaxed flow. I recommend you visit. In the network of Tokyo’s alternative and activist spaces IRA is the easiest to connect with as an international resident or visitor.