Girls Rock Japan – a transcontinental zine cooperation by Verena Spilker

For MOM#3 we’ve been collaborating with the organizers of Ladies Rock Camp Japan quite a bit. Nami, one of the organizers, drew the amazing poster that functions as a cover for the magazine and also made an illustration for one of the stories in the magazine. Ritsuko, who I met while she was visiting Berlin earlier this year, introduced us and helped with translating things.

So while we were sitting in Germany getting the magazine ready to be printed, Nami and Ritsuko were in Japan and preparing Ladies Rock Camp Japan. Communicating back and forth, the idea came up to publish the story that Nami illustrated as a zine in Japanese. Together with a tape by Ritsuko’s band gummybear both came out in April 2015 in Japan to support Girls/Ladies Rock Camp Japan, a month before MOM #3 was released in Germany.

In order to give you some background information about our amazing partner in Japan, they answered some questions for us:

TQU: How long has Girls Rock Japan been active?

GRJ: Girls Rock Japan was founded in Matsumoto, Nagano in 2013. Two of our founding members volunteered at the Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for girls in Portland that summer to learn how to organize Girls Rock Camp. While being impressed by the women supporting the girls as positive role models there, it seemed difficult for us to do the same thing right then in Japan. Because in most cases in Japanese society, free and creative expression by women is less respected, and the percentage of women taking leadership positions or participating in decision-making at the community and societal level is still quite low, compared to most Western societies. We thought that a lot of grown-up women might feel uneasy sticking to the rules of the Rock Camp and acting as good role models for the campers. So, we considered it preferable to start with raising the self-esteem of adult women in order to gather women who can be role models for young girls. That’s why we decided to start with the camp for grown-up women: Ladies Rock Camp.

TQU: Where and how often does it take place?

GRJ: We did our very first workshop in in Matsumoto in October 2014. Then we moved our location to Tokyo and organized our first Ladies Rock Day Camp in April 2015. We made it a Day Camp because we realized that it is not very easy for average working women or women with children to take 3-days off in a row to attend a rock camp. We decides that we’ll start shorter and smaller. Our next Ladies Rock Day Camp will be in October this year.

TQU: Who are the people organizing it?

GRJ: The base members of GRJ at the moment are: Nami, Kasumi and Atsuko.

TQU: Who’s attending?

GRJ: Female-identified adults over 18 years old.

TQU: How is Girls Rock Japan different to music education in Japan in general?

GRJ: Helping the participants improve their music skills is not really our main goal. Our mission is to encourage self-expression and self-acceptance in girls and women, to support the campers’ self-esteem by playing music. We intend to make it possible for them have successful experiences that can give them confidence down to their core and also to foster a community where women and girls respect and support one another.

TQU: Is it more an underground thing, or is there a wider (media) reception?

GRJ: It is an underground and DIY thing right now. We hope and try to make it known more widely.

TQU: Are there any funny stories about something that happened that you’d like to share?

GRJ: When we did our first workshop in Matsumoto, there were two bands and we needed two rooms for them to practice in separately. We could only arrange two places that were good distances apart from each other. So Nami, the band manager, had to ride back and forth between the places on her bike, swinging her hair and loosing her breath, and all that in total darkness except for a few street lamps and cars driving by right beside her. It must have been so hard for Nami, but we can’t help laughing when we think about it now.

photo by Girls Rock Japan

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