[Serialization] VOICE Newtype No.061 – Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu #4: S is for Subculture

Released: 2016/9/26

※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

It was in my first year of middle school, when the class still had that starting-at-a-new-school restless atmosphere. I made a new friend, who I’ll call S-kun.

S-kun’s family was firmly into subculture, with both parents involved in various artistic activities. He was the one who introduced me to books by Tsutsui Yasutaka and Nakajima Ramo. I had grown up in a normal way, but since I was approaching the age when I wanted to embrace nihilism, these poisonous substances were very appealing to me.

One day, I told S-kun I wanted to listen to western music because it was cool, and he gave me an MD (there are probably people who don’t know what this is anymore). I immediately went home and put it in the stereo.

Track 1 was U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” It was fairly easy to listen to (I had no idea what the lyrics meant).
Track 2 was U2 as well, I believe.
Track 3 was the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” I loved this one a lot and quickly learned it.
Track 4 was a song by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It had a catchy synth intro, but it was ridiculously long.
Then came five or so progressive rock songs for some reason, after which Marilyn Manson wreaked havoc.
The second half of the MD was made up of Otsuki Kenji’s bands, Kinniku Shojo-tai and Tokusatsu. The final track was Tokusatsu’s “Azanaeru.” It was a serene song with a soft piano.

This MD shocked me. It contained a fascinating world of taboos, ferocity, and chaos. I had never heard anything like it before. We quickly became fast friends and eventually we formed a band. After high school, we became somewhat estranged, and we hardly keep in touch these days. But the current me literally wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for him. To me, he was subculture itself.

One of his phrases that made an impression on me was when we were asked to write our favourite saying or proverb or something like that. Most people would look up a list and choose something random, but he wrote “Make haste slowly!” in Japanese. I was impressed by his sense, and later, I looked it up and found that it was also a saying in English. What’s more, it was originally attributed to the first Roman emperor, Augustus (Octavius).

Make haste slowly… It’s a profound saying that’s different from “slow and steady wins the race.” A state where being slow and in a hurry coexist. Is that what you feel when you reach maximum focus? Like when an athlete or an artist enters the “zone”?

There are quite a few speed-related expressions that I like. For example, “polepole” which is Swahili for “slowly.” The nuance feels somewhat similar to the Kansai dialect expression “bochi bochi iko ka” (let’s take it slow). Speaking of which, my mother is from Kansai, and when I was little, she often said that to me when I was being impatient: “Listen Soma, just take it slow.” But now, when I occasionally visit home, she drinks beer at a rate that makes it feel like we’re racing to see who gets drunk first. I’m glad that she’s healthy, but I sincerely hope that she’ll “take it slow” in life.

How many years has it been since I lost touch with S-kun? The world is rapidly changing—if you blink, you might get left behind. Our treasures, happy memories, and arduous club activities overflow like sand slipping through our fingers. “Fortune and misfortune are intertwined like the strands of a rope.” But if we make haste as slowly as we can, taking it slow when we walk, I’m sure we can enjoy our journey. For now, I think I’ll walk to my usual movie theatre without taking a taxi or the train. I’ll pull out that nostalgic MD and go there polepole.

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