MOGRA: Deep and Dope, the Otaku After DarkMusic
Night in Akihabara is quiet, in stark contrast to the noisy electronics shopping district it is during the day. The district is not without a nightclub that holds edgy parties nightly, though. The name of the nightclub is MOGRA. Some say it is the most famous nightclub in Japan. It has been covered by UK Mixmag as a place to go to in the Tokyo night scene. A large bulk of the supporters consists of those who associate themselves with “Weeb.” These are otaku (synonymous with “nerds”) of the Japanese pop culture. If you like anime and games, and cool music, MOGRA is a must-go location during your trip to Japan.
Games, anime, idols... Akihabara is a world-famous mecca for so-called Weebs. Amazon may have overtaken several markets, but many still come to Akihabara to see everything in real life. Things that happen in Akihabara often only happen in Akihabara ― hence, “that’s so Akihabara” makes sense to those who know what Akihabara stands for. And MOGRA is one extreme example of what Akihabara has to offer. It is Weeb culture at its best ― at its coolest and dopest. House and techno in the context of anime and games ― yup. Doesn’t really make sense? Then check out this video first:
I bet you’re like “WTF... I have to see that again.” Don’t worry. That is expected of most non-Weebs that come into contact with this culture for the first time. MOGRA sees its tenth anniversary this year, and they have continuously blended Weeb culture and good music for all these years. A member of the staff, Kyo, says, “seriously, there are more and more young producers and DJs that aspire to stand in MOGRA’s DJ booth. They can write music and play music. The fact that near-major artists like Aiobahn and YUC'e continue to perform here helps a good circulation of artists, too.” Kyo is also a producer and a DJ. Many members of the staff create in one way or another. The booking manager, hara (HyperJuice), explains, “there aren’t many clubs run by performers in Japan. I think that is one of the strong aspects of MOGRA. We all belong in the scene, so we are quick at incorporating new trends in our events. Our events like ‘Anison Matrix!!’ and ‘Anison Index!!’ are often featured in articles, but I think our artists in general also deserve more recognition.”
The manager of MOGRA, D-YAMA, is also an active DJ that performs all over Japan. “In the beginning, people would say things like ‘a night club in Akihabara? Impossible!’ Now, no one makes such remarks, but it was tough in the beginning,” he recounts. As I wrote at the beginning of the article, the nightlife is not a big part of Akihabara. There were environmental and zoning issues even before the distance between Weeb culture and dance music. However, many people visit Akihabara today for MOGRA.
If you consider yourself a hardcore Weeb, you may have wondered whether anyone could ever really understand your niche fetishism. Don’t worry. A glance at MOGRA’s schedule should reveal that there is a party for almost every person. When I visited MOGRA for this article, I quickly forgot about work and found myself immersed in a conversation about the director Makoto Shinkai with a random clubber visiting from the United States. By the way, he says he came to Japan because he “couldn’t wait for ‘Weathering with You’ to premiere in the States.” Although he doesn’t speak Japanese. He explained, “‘The Garden of Words’ and ‘Your Name.’ were quite different, so I am looking forward to what the director has to say through ‘Weathering with You’.” I wonder if he safely made it to the theaters. I’d love to hear his impression of the film one day. Anyway, I went there without planning and found a good buddy. You would have no problem finding someone who you can share your interests with.
I’d like to quote a Spanish friend of mine in closing. “As a stereotype, everyone thinks Spanish folks like rodeos. We’ve always thought that Japanese people all love anime and games. The difference is that the latter is true. Crazy true.”
■ ANISON MATRIX!!