Letter from Tokyo is a documentary made by Morgan Quaintance, a London-based artist, writer and curator, about counterculture in Japan’s capital.
It highlights several key counterspaces in the city, such as the anarchist infoshop Irregular Rhythm Asylum and the “intersectional zone” Kosaten. There is also a brief shot from the legendary Shinjuku bookstore Mosakusha, which stocks a large number of political titles as well as a remarkably comprehensive range of newsletters, pamphlets, and newspapers by various political factions and activist groups.
The documentary features footage of recent street protests in Tokyo, such as an anti-racist counter-protest, the demonstrations against former Finance Minister Junichi Fukuda, Tokyo No Hate Festival and May Day marchers. Interviewees include IRA owner Keisuke Narita, Yasumichi Noma of the prominent antifa group CRAC and the photographer Ryūdai Takano.
In addition to the growth of LGBT movements in Japan, it also examines the wider issue of public space in Tokyo, noting the historical scarcity of open areas for people to use freely, and then the development of parks in imitation of Western cities in the Meiji era. Commentators note the threat that the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo poses for regulation of the streets as well as ushering in destructive gentrification and redevelopment initiatives, most notably in Tsukiji.
The 40-minute film was shot over a three-month period in Tokyo and was premiered in London in September at Jerwood Space alongside an installation of “images, objects and ephemera” collected by Quaintance during the filming of the work.