Rewind two decades to the first issue of Metropolis in 1993. Japan was a juggernaut—about to roll to Number One on an unstoppable export machine. My time here tracks this magazine’s existence, so for the 1000th issue let me hazard a few thoughts about the changes in the Western population that constitutes our readership…
Military songs from the ’30s and ’40s played to ear-rending levels, or even the occasional enka or anime theme song the rightwingers use to spice up their playlists, are probably not most modern-day Japanese people’s cup of tea. Yet their popularity on YouTube speaks volumes. Japan’s war songs might just hold a greater appeal to many Japanese people than you might imagine.
“In recent Japanese media… we can see a critical and dangerous increase in one-sided denunciations of risk-taking artists and art,” says program director Chiaki Soma in her notes for F/T12. To combat what she sees as a “nonchalant oppression,” Soma cobbled together a hard-hitting lineup of political theater for the fest’s fifth edition.
“I was deeply concerned about the people and their morale,” Smith says by phone from Amsterdam, where she’s set to play the city’s famous Paradiso. “Lenny [guitarist Lenny Kaye] and I wanted to write a song but we didn’t want to write specifically about the disaster. Lenny was working on some chords and the words just came to me. It’s a simple song based on 16th-17th century Japanese literature. It’s a prayer to the mountain to shelter the people.”