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Author Topic: We're the Tokyo Inventors Society, ask us anything!  (Read 1852 times)
SteamGardenTokyo
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« on: August 11, 2015, 11:18:06 am »

Hello, this is Luke, Kenny and the TIS team. We organize "Steam Garden", Japan's biggest Steampunk event. We've heard it can be hard for people overseas to get in touch with us, so we thought we would try a one-off "Q&A" type thread to answer any questions about the event or Japanese steampunk related things in general.

So, please ask anything you want: we will check back in a week or so and answer everything.
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« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2015, 12:32:14 pm »

Forgive my ignorance.  Please provide the basics about your group.  Thanks.  Looking forward to being enlightened.
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« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2015, 03:21:22 pm »

Took a quick look at your website (it's beautiful, by the way). Which is your biggest "steam tribe", or do members go back and forth between them?
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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2015, 03:38:11 pm »

Is smoking allowed throughout the event, or only in the hookah bar?
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2015, 03:40:14 pm »

It sounds like the event spaces are pretty crowded. Does that make it unwise for people with mobility issues to attend?
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SteamGardenTokyo
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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2015, 04:45:30 pm »

Great questions so far!

For the benefit of people thinking "Tokyo...who???" here is our website;

www.tokyosteampunk.com

We are an events planning and performance team. "Steam Garden" is our main event, a roughly 3x yearly Time-travel, Alternative history and Steampunk festival based in Tokyo. We started our planning activities in 2011 and the first event was held in Spring 2012. We are proud to say that it is by far the biggest event on the social calendar for Steampunks in Japan, but that's no reason to relax. We get quite a few overseas visitors and want to make communication easy. The website is mostly bilingual and has an email form, but we don't have facebook, and I hear it can be daunting for people to contact strangers in Japan, hence this Q&A.

The team and I will give proper answers to everything at the weekend.

Also, if anyone has more general questions about Japanese culture or visiting Japan, we will do our best to answer.
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« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2015, 08:59:40 pm »

Hello, this is Luke, Kenny and the TIS team. We organize "Steam Garden", Japan's biggest Steampunk event. We've heard it can be hard for people overseas to get in touch with us, so we thought we would try a one-off "Q&A" type thread to answer any questions about the event or Japanese steampunk related things in general.

So, please ask anything you want: we will check back in a week or so and answer everything.


Welcome to the forum. You know you are welcome here.  Thank you for your visit! You would be the 3rd, 4th Japanese members of Brassgoggles, after MaRy and Jet from the band Strange Artifact...


Forgive my ignorance.  Please provide the basics about your group.  Thanks.  Looking forward to being enlightened.


Mr. Maets, I'm surprised you haven't heard from the Tokyo Inventors Society.  I've been writing about them for the past 3 years at the Steampunk in Japan thread!

http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=38619.0
« Last Edit: August 12, 2015, 02:51:17 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged

Maets
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« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2015, 09:26:34 pm »

I really just thought more of an introduction was needed and I wanted to be sure to be following this thread.
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« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2015, 02:42:46 am »

Most of the people I've talked to have been very interested to see the Japanese interpretation of Steampunk.

Being involved, even of just remotely,  in the formation of the Mexican Steampunk scene gave me a sense of how Steampunk got hold in a community. For the Mexican crowd 5 years ago, it began very much in the late-teenage and college crowd, and those who were old enough to be independent (young adults) were the ones who provided the impetus (eg organizing participation at comic conventions), material resources (eg organizing museum exhibits from Strampunk artisans), and time to push the resources.

I remember at the beginning the speed of expansion was absolutely blinding during the first year, but being so young and energetic, the Steam-youths often overwhelmed themselves with projects (eg a broadcast Internet radio station), and that created some friction between members, and eventually the super-group (national level with members across several cities), fragmented into mote local groups. The story of Steampunk Mexico is here:

http://brassgoggles.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=26636.0

Having made this observation, I'd like to ask the officers from TIS to give us a brief synopsis of how they got into Steampunk and how the movement started in Japan. How did it it start?
« Last Edit: August 12, 2015, 02:54:24 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2015, 04:17:12 am »

Gakutensoku?
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« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2015, 10:06:05 am »

Gakutensoku?

Gesundheit!
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SteamGardenTokyo
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« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2015, 11:04:37 am »

Gakutensoku?

Can you phrase that as a question?
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« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2015, 11:13:00 am »

Gakutensoku?

Can you phrase that as a question?

While he does that (he might be asleep - and, incidentally, so will I in a few seconds) - I'm curious about how you guys got started (my previous post)....
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« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2015, 12:29:19 pm »

Do you see the group as more role play or more maker?
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Argus Fairbrass
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« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2015, 04:35:15 pm »

Hi guys and gals!

I was just perusing your wonderful gallery there. I'm a moderator and content contributor on one of the Dieselpunk groups on Facebook. We're always on the lookout for related International content as rather like Steampunk, Dieselpunk can be a little heavily US/Euro centric and we're big fans of diversity. Unlike many pages we do always make a supreme effort to credit artists and assist with promotion whenever possible. Although we certainly have featured some Japanese Dieselpunk, Is there a Tokyo Dieselpunk movement as of yet? or have you made forays into that area yourselves?

Cheers.
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SteamGardenTokyo
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« Reply #15 on: August 14, 2015, 05:27:32 pm »

Is smoking allowed throughout the event, or only in the hookah bar?

Thanks for the question, I'll start with a softball!

So far we have used different spaces each time, as the event gets bigger. So, the exact rules on smoking depend partly on the policy of the event space as well as our designs for the use of the space with booths and so on.

Typically, smoking is allowed at one or more of the bars, and at the hookah area, but not in the dancefloor/stage area and not in some of the booth areas - for example if the smell would negatively affect clothing booths.

Most attendees are not heavy smokers (despite Japan's generally lax attitude to smoking) and e-hookah is a more popular choice than cigarettes. I myself don't like cigarette smoke but I've never felt any discomfort at Steam Garden even when things got very hookah-fied!
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SteamGardenTokyo
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« Reply #16 on: August 14, 2015, 05:46:51 pm »

It sounds like the event spaces are pretty crowded. Does that make it unwise for people with mobility issues to attend?

Good question: Tokyo is a little lacking for things like wheelchair access compared to say Singapore or Vancouver but things are improving. JR rail stations in Tokyo are generally pretty good for access. At Steam Garden if the venue has no dedicated access we make the backstage elevator available for wheelchair users and our backstage staff will help with carrying up or down any unavoidable stairs. We are not a huge operation like Disney with many staff to spare, so we ask attendees with mobility issues to have a companion who can help them if they need a hand. That said, as far as I recall, we have only had one request so far for assistance, someone wanting to join our event at "Laforet" in Harajuku. We worked out the access plan, but that person unfortunately had to cancel before the event. I hope they can make it another time.
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SteamGardenTokyo
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« Reply #17 on: August 14, 2015, 06:04:16 pm »

Do you see the group as more role play or more maker?

Thanks for the question;
We don't really look at things that way. In one sense we are a kind of circus troupe. In another sense we are a bunch of people with some interesting hobbies. Outside of the events, we are all DIY-ers and have varying degrees of steampunky gonzo-historical vibe in our daily lives (Kenny and I in particular).

Inside the events, it's a theatrical theme-park kind of experience with a backstory and characters for people to interact with. How far attendees choose to engage with that is up to them. Casual visitors can enjoy snapping a photo or shopping at booths, watching the stage performances and so on, roleplay types can get into the story and come up with a character that fits the atmosphere and join in activities "in character" so to speak. Most attendees are probably somewhere in between.
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SteamGardenTokyo
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« Reply #18 on: August 14, 2015, 06:28:52 pm »

Took a quick look at your website (it's beautiful, by the way). Which is your biggest "steam tribe", or do members go back and forth between them?


Thanks for the compliment.

The "steam tribes" on our website were initially intended as part of a fun little game to help Japanese fans get into the idea of worldbuilding and opening up a variety of approaches to Steampunk, not only the typical Victorian-English or Wild-West styles.

The game is here by the way: in Japanese but it's multiple choices based to find "your steampunk type"
http://www.tokyosteampunk.com/?p=344

At Steam Garden we aren't big fans of rigid sub-genres and labels, so the steam tribes are supposed to be powerful enough to give people ideas but loose enough that people don't think they have to identify with them.

Certainly, though, the "Wild East" style is popular, beginning way back in the first Steam Garden and made explicit in Steam Garden 2 "Meiji Steam World". Rather than the muted tones often associated with steampunk from overseas, Steam Garden is full of colorful Japanese ethnic style turned up to 11, crashing into western culture via the Meiji revolution. This extends into the kinds of gadgets, accessories, and alternative histories people invent.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2015, 09:08:39 pm by SteamGardenTokyo » Logged
SteamGardenTokyo
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« Reply #19 on: August 14, 2015, 06:59:47 pm »

Hi guys and gals!

I was just perusing your wonderful gallery there. I'm a moderator and content contributor on one of the Dieselpunk groups on Facebook. We're always on the lookout for related International content as rather like Steampunk, Dieselpunk can be a little heavily US/Euro centric and we're big fans of diversity. Unlike many pages we do always make a supreme effort to credit artists and assist with promotion whenever possible. Although we certainly have featured some Japanese Dieselpunk, Is there a Tokyo Dieselpunk movement as of yet? or have you made forays into that area yourselves?

Cheers.

Thanks for the question:
Obviously Steampunk and Deiselpunk gradually blend into each other so I'm sure we get quite a few people at Steam Garden who would see themselves as more tending toward "Dieselpunk" than "Steampunk".

However, the alternative-history element becomes problematic in Japan once you start talking about post WW1, pre WW2 era "Dieselpunk". Without getting into a complicated historical discussion, Japan still has to work out a few problems with regards to representing and discussing the militarized culture of the early Shōwa era. Steam Garden focuses on the Meiji and Taisho eras.

There is a Taiwanese artist called KCN who treads these waters with his digital art. Possibly it is a satirical dig at the Chinese government, possibly it is an oddly nostalgic look at Taiwan's occupation by Japan, possibly an attempt to provoke a bit of shock, I am not sure what his political angle is, if any, but his combination of OTT Japanophile imagery and prewar Sci-fi technology is certainly very visually arresting.
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« Reply #20 on: August 14, 2015, 07:47:16 pm »

Hi guys and gals!

I was just perusing your wonderful gallery there. I'm a moderator and content contributor on one of the Dieselpunk groups on Facebook. We're always on the lookout for related International content as rather like Steampunk, Dieselpunk can be a little heavily US/Euro centric and we're big fans of diversity. Unlike many pages we do always make a supreme effort to credit artists and assist with promotion whenever possible. Although we certainly have featured some Japanese Dieselpunk, Is there a Tokyo Dieselpunk movement as of yet? or have you made forays into that area yourselves? 

Cheers.

Thanks for the question:
Obviously Steampunk and Deiselpunk gradually blend into each other so I'm sure we get quite a few people at Steam Garden who would see themselves as more tending toward "Dieselpunk" than "Steampunk".

However, the alternative-history element becomes problematic in Japan once you start talking about post WW1, pre WW2 era "Dieselpunk". Without getting into a complicated historical discussion, Japan still has to work out a few problems with regards to representing and discussing the militarized culture of the early Shōwa era. Steam Garden focuses on the Meiji and Taisho eras.

There is a Taiwanese artist called KCN who treads these waters with his digital art. Possibly it is a satirical dig at the Chinese government, possibly it is an oddly nostalgic look at Taiwan's occupation by Japan, possibly an attempt to provoke a bit of shock, I am not sure what his political angle is, if any, but his combination of OTT Japanophile imagery and prewar Sci-fi technology is certainly very visually arresting.

That is a really interesting observation.  I've heard similar comments from Steam/Diesel crowds in other parts of the world (Europe) regarding their own national politics in that period of time.

For British Strampunks the hounds of the past may have more to do with Victorian Age colonialism, and for us Americans we have to come to grip with the atrocities during the "Indian Wars" right before the "Gilded Age" and in the second period of expansion after the Civil War (and let is not mentuon the use of Confederate flags and such), plus the Mexican-American war.

It seems to me all countries have to something similar at one point or another of their history.  The bitterness of history goes hand on hand with the sweetness of anachronism.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2015, 07:57:44 pm by J. Wilhelm » Logged
SteamGardenTokyo
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« Reply #21 on: August 14, 2015, 08:15:15 pm »

I'd like to ask the officers from TIS to give us a brief synopsis of how they got into Steampunk and how the movement started in Japan. How did it it start?

Thank you for the question. I'll start by saying I am very wary about "movements" just as I am wary about labels. A movement isn't really a cohesive body. It is more like the weather: individual clouds don't have much idea what the other clouds are doing, but taken as a whole you can see storms or blue skies or showers and they seem to have patterns.

As to how we got into it-

Kenny:  I am a mechanical engineer by trade, so I’m always interested to make things. I always wonder, “How does this work?” Also, I like to see classical dress and the imagination of the “19th Century.” Years ago, I went to Germany and I saw a lot of steampunks there and felt like this is what I imagined! So I got into wearing more of the style and bringing a steampunk sense into my life and things I make.

Luke: I'm just an old-school fan of Michael Moorcock, "Warlord of the Air" and so on, so I suppose I can humblebrag about liking steampunk before there was a word for it. I love the gonzo-historical and satirical aspect of it. Kenny and I met backstage at a gig one day, maybe 2009?? I noticed he had a pocket watch and some cool vest or something, so I casually mentioned "hey- you're into steampunk?"

Kenny: Nobody had said that to me in Japan before.

Luke: It was really unknown here. There was one blog, by a Sherlockian and Victorian enthusiast called Igarashi-Mari, she is a professional writer who was starting to publish books on steampunk DIY. There was a steampunk tabletop RPG in the early 90's in Japan but I think only a TINY minority of people knew it. Animation such as "Laputa" looks very steampunky to a foreigner but in Japan nobody had attached that word to it. For example, even our friends who are now well-known as "steampunk watch makers" or "steampunk hat-makers" didn't know the word "steampunk" and didn't realize there was an international culture they could be part of. So in some cases they started using the word "steampunk" because of our advice. But the point is, regardless of what labels people called it, there was a gradual build-up of people with overlapping hobbies, fueled by the internet, and I think a kind of feedback effect occurred, pushing what had been individuals hobbies into more public visibility.

But Kenny and I were busy with our bands or whatever so it was just a shared hobby for a couple of years. Then one day in November 2011 we'd had enough of the club scene in Tokyo, and decided to put on a steampunky club event, with crafts booths, fashion, dance, music. Kenny organized it and I did artwork and music and so on. It took a few months to come together but that was the first "Steam Garden". When it was over we had a talk and thrashed out a clear concept and direction for "Tokyo Inventors Society" and "Steam Garden" in the future. We didn't aim at "doing steampunk": instead we thought what kind of ideas, what kind of stories, what kind of atmosphere do WE enjoy? We've stuck to it even though we have had to refuse offers to "make it more commercial".

As for the future - Japan has a tradition of detailed, intricate craftsmanship, and this is still strong with young people, so the DIY & making culture is a big part of steampunk here and that's good because it gives a strong foundation that isn't based on consumerism. This culture we enjoy is fundamentally the opposite of mass-produced culture, of stamping things out of plastic in a factory. Japan may be a very consumerist society but I think some people are dissatisfied with that. You don't have to follow some boring trend when you can literally remake your grandma's coat and kimono into an awesome adventure outfit!

Kenny: Yeah- we have a saying "mottainai" which means don't waste things. We love to remake and re-use. For me, re-purposing something is a big part of the "PUNK" in steampunk.
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SteamGardenTokyo
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« Reply #22 on: August 14, 2015, 08:32:42 pm »

A quick follow-up on the "dealing with history" part.

British Steampunk authors such as Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore explicitly satirize and criticize Victorian colonialism, classism, sexism and so on, so I started from that viewpoint. Japan has less of a tradition of that kind of satire, so we are very careful when developing stories for Steam Garden. We don't want young people thinking we endorse the awful behavior of some of the characters in our stories when the actual intention is to satirize or make a joke. On the other hand, we want people to enjoy the events without feeling like they have to double check everything for political intent. I think we are reasonably successful in the balance.
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Argus Fairbrass
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« Reply #23 on: August 14, 2015, 08:50:00 pm »


Thanks for the question:
Obviously Steampunk and Deiselpunk gradually blend into each other so I'm sure we get quite a few people at Steam Garden who would see themselves as more tending toward "Dieselpunk" than "Steampunk".

However, the alternative-history element becomes problematic in Japan once you start talking about post WW1, pre WW2 era "Dieselpunk". Without getting into a complicated historical discussion, Japan still has to work out a few problems with regards to representing and discussing the militarized culture of the early Shōwa era. Steam Garden focuses on the Meiji and Taisho eras.

There is a Taiwanese artist called KCN who treads these waters with his digital art. Possibly it is a satirical dig at the Chinese government, possibly it is an oddly nostalgic look at Taiwan's occupation by Japan, possibly an attempt to provoke a bit of shock, I am not sure what his political angle is, if any, but his combination of OTT Japanophile imagery and prewar Sci-fi technology is certainly very visually arresting.


Thank you for your candour, and you've certainly put me on to an artist I wasn't aware of who's work is pretty damn cool. Obviously potentially problematic cultural attitudes towards the historical eras that influence (some) Dieselpunk is something we're aware of. Over the past year we've had everything from attempted infiltration by Neo Nazi groups, to anti Soviet rants and obviously lengthy discussions about whether the horrendous racism, sexism etc should necessarily be reflected in our imagined worlds. Also other points of note, such as the fact that although one might expect historical attitudes to be reflected in the art of the time, if you peruse not just contemporary figurative Dieselpunk art, but contemporary Sci-Fi/Fantasy and indeed pin up art in general, you can probably count the amount of characters that aren't white on the fingers of one hand. And yet some folks have have declared the African American oriented movement "Dieselfunk" to be racist. I personally think it was an understandable response to a still very whitecentric art form, that doesn't actually represent the diversity of the subculture. Still that's another conversation for another time perhaps.

Nonetheless I've always found it interesting that certainly the Brit centric Steampunk at least, still seems to score a largely free pass in terms of the history of colonialism, or indeed the Vicwardian era in general and it's associated atrocities, but of course it is alternate history we are creating.

We at Dieselpunk HQ just try and make it plain our representations indicate no bias, and we do not hold modern generations of any nation accountable for the events and attitudes of around seventy years ago. We simply request a reasonable attitude today, but of course it remains a minefield nevertheless. Particularly in places where some of those attitudes really haven't changed all that much, and conflict is sadly still rife.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2015, 09:15:32 pm by Argus Fairbrass » Logged
SteamGardenTokyo
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« Reply #24 on: August 14, 2015, 09:07:24 pm »

About names:

For anyone confused as to why the founders of the Tokyo Inventors Society are called "Kenny" and "Luke" I should explain that Kenny is Japanese, and Ken is actually a Japanese name. I (Luke) was born in England but I have lived most of my life in Japan.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2015, 10:13:14 pm by SteamGardenTokyo » Logged
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