1/19/15

Honyarado Burned Down

Honyarado, Imadegawa Street, Kyoto 16.1.2015 (FG)
Sadly, the famous Kyoto cafe Honyarado, built in 1972 and home to a long line of political activists, folk singers, poets, photographers and other artists, burned down in the early hours of 16 January 2015. Here is my attempt at a translation of an article in the online publication "Nihonjin no Wasuremono".

The Sadness of Those Associated with Burnt-out Hub of Counter-culture
A cultural hub where folk song and poetry has been transmitted since 1970s has burned down. In the early morning of 16th Jan 2015 in Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto city, Honyarado cafe, an important place at the center of the youth movement was lost. Various cultural figures involved in the shop expressed their sorrow.

Honyarado was opened in May 1972 when counter-culture was rising and the youth was protesting against the Vietnam war. Former Seika University Principal Hajime Nakao, folk singer Nobuyasu Okabayashi and Fusayoshi Kai, who were then in their 20s, built and opened the cafe (Honyarado) by themselves. Poetry readings, folk songs, exhibitions and plays, self-made movies and cultural activities were held. Many people, mainly youths, were positively involved with political and contemporary issues and took part in the movement to release Korean poets and S. Vietnamese political prisoners from jail. Since then Honyarado became symbolic of counter culture alongside Kyoto University's West Atrium (Kyodai Seibu Kodo).

Folk singer Nakagawa Goro, who has been performing since 1970s and lives in Tokyo, said, "This is not just a burned building, this is a huge loss for the culture of Kyoto and Kansai. When a short story, published in a magazine, was criticized, all those involved with the shop supported them. Honyarado was a place not for mainstream but for alternative music, culture and theater and was an interesting peoples gathering place."

Singer songwriter Ravi Nakayama, who, influenced by this shop, runs a cafe of the same name in Tokyo's Kokubunji area, remembers building the Kyoto Honyarado together with Mr Okabayashi and others and making food for the workers. "Lots of people came from Tokyo as well and felt it was a comfortable place", he said.

Prof. Shoichi Inoue of the International Japanese Cultural Research Center sadly said, "This was a place where young people could be proactive in Kyoto."  He has been going there repeatedly for the last 30 years and used the cafe as a meeting place for the 'modern customs research group's  pro-wresting cultural research group. He feels sad for the diminishing vibe of good old Kyoto. 

Here is an update from John Einarsen 16 Oct 2015:
Photo: John Einarsen 16.10.2015
John Einarsen
It has been a while since Kyoto's cultural and literary landmark coffee house, Honyarado, burned down. It hosted countless meetings, exhibitions and poetry readings, which included such luminaries as Kenneth Rexroth, Kazuko Shiraishi, Katagiri Yuzuru, Allen Ginsberg, Allen Lau and many others. The Kyoto Connection had its beginnings here. It was run by Kyoto photographer Kai Fusayoshi. Sad to see it gone. 

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