Going Nowhere in Nagoya

In the second of our interviews with zinesters in Japan, we talk to a Nagoya-based comic artist.

In Interviews by Randy Swank 2009-07-29

Adam Pasion is an American zinester and comic artist who has lived in Nagoya for the last two and a half years. An acute observer of life in Japan, he is best known for his zine Going Nowhere and especially his comic diary SunDogs (Parhelion), in which he chronicles daily his big and small (mis)adventures in Nagoya. He was kind enough to share his opinions on Japan and zines in general.

How did you get involved in zines here?

Coming from San Francisco, zines and minicomix were so accessible that I completely took them for granted. I never got as involved as I would have liked to be because there was no real need to. It wasn’t until moving to Japan and being cut-off from that scene that I began to be more proactive about zines. I always made them in the States, but it was quite easy to just drop them off at stores I knew about. After coming to Japan I had to make those connections myself – real connections. I went in and actually had conversations with the zine shop owners, I searched out distros [zine distributors] and the apparently complete lack of zines in Japan made me really scour to find them.

How has this been, having to search for the zines much harder than normal?

The extra effort has made all the difference for me. For the first time since I started making zines, I have made some truly deep connections with several people both here and abroad. I have become so actively involved in trading, which is a constant inspiration for me to keep trying to improve my product. I have been collaborating more and trying to reach out and make stronger connections internationally, and I never would have done that if it hadn’t been for the isolation imposed on me by Japan’s mostly hidden zine scene.

What do you think about the Japanese zine scene?

I do believe that Japan’s zine scene is sort of divided into small parts of other subcultures. I have seen plenty of Japanese punk/hard core zines, but they are only sold at crusty punk record stores and live houses. Other publications like art or poetry zines can be found at independent galleries and indie book stores, but these two genres never seem to mix, and I think that is sort of characteristic of Japan’s scene. Without the strong history that comes along with American or European zines, the local scene is not so united.

What about the comics?

The hardest thing to crack into is the world of underground comix in Japan, not because they are hard to find but because there is so much it’s almost impossible to find a point of entry. There are tons of stores selling dojinshi [underground self-published comics] but without exaggerating, 90% of it is either porno or parody (or parody-porno). As cool as it is to see Darth Vader f***ing Luke Skywalker up the a**, I really wish I could find more substantial stories.

You think there is a lack of talent?

Because comics are so ubiquitous in Japan, they are commonly thought of as “disposable”. Which means a lot of people don’t put the care into them like other countries where it is considered more of a legitimate art form. I am sure the good independent titles are out there, but so far hunting for them is exhausting. There are only so many naked Harry Potter’s pictures you can see before you just lose interest.

Thanks very much for talking with us, Adam.

You can learn about Adam’s zines by visiting his website.

Gianni Simon is also a Japan-based zinester. See the Orga{ni}sm blog for his musings and more of his work.

See the previous article for an interview with Keisuke Narita.

Randy’s next and final article on zines in Japan will feature interviews with two American expat zinesters.

Randy Swank

Randy Swank. Escaped from his home country in 1992 and found refuge in Japan, where he promptly found a job teaching people how to shout HELP! and avoid being robbed on foreign buses. Since 1997 he has been unhealthily active in the mail art network, unleashing on the unsuspecting public, among other things, the Treatise of Pataphysical Anatomy and the international fake political campaign poster project. When not running after his two kids and from his wife, he is usually busy making zines (one of them is about Tokyo and all things Japanese), writing for high- and lowbrow magazines, and exploring Tokyo. You can read his uncensored, Gonzo-like adventures in Artland at The Randy Reviewer. » See other writings

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