Japanese Beatnik Cafe
Japan loves icons.
The likes of Mickey Mouse, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson are constantly remixed and reworked into commercial opportunities by artists and brands alike.
Looking a step beyond these clearcut global icons, you find an interesting layer of alternative icons that are fueling the spirit and visuals of street brands and cafes.
One group in particular has received constant attention during my time in Japan.
Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs are well represented in Japanese alternative culture. I walk by Harajuku guys rocking man-purses with the cover of ‘Howl’ printed on it. You can buy t-shirts with Kerouac’s portrait and handwriting on it.
There is even a little cafe in Nakameguro that claims to be the official cafe of the Beat Generation. Big, intriguing claim. On its retro wood paneled shelves are tomes from all the stars in the beatnik cosmo-sphere. They played some mellow jazz during the hour I stopped by to write down some corporate poetry.
I think it was the kind of joint that Jack and Allen could have healthy debates deep into the night about what the essence of America is. Or in this case, what the essence of Japan is.
What is it to be a beatnik in Japan?
What is the ideal they are chasing?
What do the Japanese make of On The Road?
Whatever the case, I enjoy the vibe and the aesthetic.
Myself, I’m a Tweetnik. Trying to make my way in this digital age, road-tripping across the Net, looking for meaning, any meaning, angry meaning. Sometimes Japan feels like the Internet. Passion that sprawls in all directions. Hitch-hikers of the mind. Ideals are currency. Fashion is religion. Technology is opium.
I’ll have to go back to the Tokyo Beatnik Embassy sometime and search for more answers and enlightenment.