The times I participated in two Greek forums about Japanese culture and music, I understood that the Greek community is mostly focused on manga/anime and rock music. Since I am mostly focused on pop music and idols, I can’t really be a part of the community any more. There are all kinds of people there and you can expect to meet every kind of person. They belong to both sexes, all ages, they are from all over Greece and have many other interests besides Japan and many different viewpoints and attitudes. During the parties I went to, I noticed that their cosplaying revealed people with a lot of creativity. I also noticed that in the parties they tended to recreate what they do at home in relation to Japanese music: watching videos and cheering at their favorite artists. Maybe this reflects how much they want to watch their favorite artists live one day.
The few people that I hang out with and are interested in the Japanese community can keep me in touch with the current events. I also love commenting on my favorite j-pop group and fangirling in Facebook and Twitter. It can always brighten my day. I am sure, that since there are relatively few people interested in modern Japanese culture, it is important for most of us to be in touch with people with the same interests.
The second and bigger shock came not only to me and Keru, but to most people that were a little or a lot involved with the community up until that moment. At the second party that Jmusic.gr threw, that took place again in Bios in fall 2007, if you weren’t there really early to grab a seat or even a small space on the floor, then you would had to stand up all night together with an amount of J-Rock, J-Pop and Anime fans that was unheard of back then. They would dance, jump up and down by excitement, scream and hug each other when a favourite song came up (and I am guilty of all those actions as well).
“I can’t believe I’m actually listening to this without my earphones and this place is not my house!” I thought, and according to the reactions of my friends and to the rest of the people that attended, they probably shared the same feelings.
But hardly anyone stopped coming. Every week all these “people who don’t come to actually listen to poetry deliveries on the 1st floor” would go to that small room to enjoy sharing a favourite Anime together with others who had the same desire. Together with the anime projections, there were also various meet ups of certain forums that we were part of like Anime,gr and Jmusic.gr and those were the times that it sure wasn’t easy to find a place that had a table for 30 people and serve them coffee. The activities began to slowly but steadily grow even more. I volunteered to write in JaME.gr, since my first and as it seems eternal passion in contemporary Japanese culture is the music, and I was beginning to become even more informed about new artists and gaining more information about the artists that I already knew. Another highlight of that “in-between” era, before the real breakthrough of the community occurred, were the concerts of two Japanese bands that took place in Athens, and that was for sure a meaningful experience for all of us since it felt like a part of the place that we are all drawn to visited our home. And as a very good omen, that meaningful experience exceeded any expectations we had in April 2008, when Sugizo with Juno Reactor visited Athens.
“….I think you should know that Sugizo will be in an hour at Kavatza, you better hurry up” said Keru on the phone to me, the next day after Juno Reactor’s concert with Sugizo( Luna Sea’s and X Japan’s current lead guitarist). After a mind blowing concert, the information that I was listening sounded surreal to me. I hang up the phone almost run throughout my whole way to Kavatza, the place were a Japanese Music and Cosplay party was being held by “Ordre De Ciel”, a team that was still foreign to me at that time, except a collaboration that had been done with Jmusic.gr. From the moment Sugizo arrived until he left the place it was like living in a parallel Universe. A legendary Japanese rocker was actually flesh and blood at a bar in Athens, drinking and talking and laughing with us, people from the ridiculously small community of Japanese popular culture comparing to the ones in France, or Germany and many other countries.
But the important thing that came out from Sugizo’s presence that day in Kavatza wasn’t the sole fact that he was there. That day marks the beginning of, in my opinion, the best era of this community in Greece. We got to know Ordre De Ciel, and start attending their weekly events that consisted of Japanese music of almost any kind. At that time, a weekly event of this kind was something so unheard of that I was almost sure that it had zero chances of success, given the fact that the community was too small and wasn’t used to attending these kind events in such a frequent manner and even if it was possible they would all get tired of it within a month. However, the reality was that it was one of the few times in my life that I was happy I was so wrong.
From the moment Sugizo left in April until May 2008 the number of people who attended the events of Ordre de Ciel had already grown rapidly. From May to July, Ordre de Ciel’s events was almost every person’s from the community weekly party time. But what makes those events so important, in my opinion, is not only the fact that everyone considered each other family. Through all this excitement and happiness that filled that place every week, there was hardly any distinction between people who were more interested in Anime and people who were interested more in J-rock, or people interested more in J-pop and those interested more in Cosplay or any other sort of distinguished subcategories in the community.That was because everyone was motivated to learn something new through something that was already familiar. An anime opening song would be heard by a J-Rock fan and he/she would research the anime and watch it, or an Anime fan would listen and get to learn J-Rock bands through an Anime OST. Video gamers would get to learn even more games that interest them through cosplay or through the projections of various videos that were screened through Kavatza’s small TVs that were placed in various spots in the bar. The line between all those subcategories was almost completely invisible at that time and nobody seemed to complain about it.
Kavatza was located in one of the areas in Athens with a really bad reputation and criminal activity. Even today I’m still surprised that we managed to go there every week, without facing any sort of problem, (except the times that the neighbours would yell at us at 3am or throw us eggs because we were always too loud) and the fact that we didn’t seem to care about any warning of danger. It was almost as if the road from the subway until Kavatza was just the line that will get us to a different dimension. One time, I managed to go to an event right after an eight hour trip and walked that road in high heels and dragging a big suitcase behind me. Maybe we never faced any problems because perhaps we were the scary ones to the eyes of the rest of the people. But no matter what we looked like to outsiders, no matter how alien all this culture appeared to them, and no matter how many times they were confused whether it’s the Carnival time of the year or not every time they witnessed a bunch of cosplayers in public, anyone that managed to get a glimpse of those events in Kavatza would say that we sure knew how to have fun better than anyone.
On August 2008 the Ordre De Ciel events were transferred from Kavatza to Underworld club. Many were sad and disappointed because there was a big emotional attachment to the place by all the regulars but at the same time many conveniences came up like better sound quality, the place was more approachable in terms of both distance and safety, and more. But no matter what the advantages and disadvantages were, the people maintained their warmth and excitement for these events for approximately the first two and a half months.On November 2008 Ordre De Ciel changed their name to Le Ciel because of the departure of some team members and on December 2008 there was the final event in Underworld which was highlighted by Ryo Fujimura’s acoustic live. In the middle of winter 2009, Le Ciel put their activities on hiatus, and that’s when we started experiencing the biggest changes in the community that had either been happening a few months ago without us noticing or actually started to show their face from that moment and onwards. Many said that it was due to personal issues between people, othesr said that it was because everybody grew tired of the weekly happenings. Many theories were rumoured, but not matter what caused all this, the result was the exact opposite of what first made that era unique and that is the unity of the fandoms.d. Decline and future prospectsFrom winter 2009 we started facing the problems and the different attitudes of every fandom. The Anime fans wouldn’t stand too much J-Rock/Visual kei, J-Pop fans grew tired of listening to “too many guitars” and all the rest of the categories would have a reason to separate themselves from the others. Me and Keru, even though we have our own personal preferences, were always into most of these categories, so watching this semi-silent war, that was happening mainly behind the scenes, greatly disappointed us and mainly alienated us.However, we frequently attended Akai Panda’s events, a team which was created in early 2009. Even though it supported all kinds of music genres of the community ( even Kpop which had been around for some time but it was slowly becoming more popular) the best part in Akai Panda’s events in my opinion will always be the spectacular participation and organized nature of Cosplay contests. While walking towards Eksarxeia square to go to DaSein, which was the place that hosted most of Akai Panda’s events back then, we would spot a parade of cosplayers from miles away taking pictures of each other. Together with Akai Panda’s events, we were also attending Sakura Syndrome’s events, a team whose base was in Salonika, but they would visit Athens once a month to throw a party.
After half a year, Le Ciel began their activities again in Skullbar, and even though there wasn’t any change to the quality or the nature of their events, they were characterized as the team that supported more the J-Rock scene. But even though Le Ciel’s parties were back again and even though we greatly enjoyed Akai Panda’s and Sakura Syndrome’s parties, from the beginning of 2010 until today we started to be more and more absent from all the events. I can’t be sure if this is the actual reality of the problem or not, but two things happened from our perspective. The first was that the different fandoms grew even more apart from each other, to the point of mainly criticizing each other and forgetting the purpose of actually having fun. The second thing that happened was the departure of people we knew and the arrival of completely new people.
Of course, one could say that we consider ourselves elitists if we have this view on new people, but this really isn’t the case here. I was always happy to see new people getting in the community and for some time it was my actual purpose to get more people into it. But the problems with the new people were two; 1) Their age mainly varied from 14 to 17 and it was really hard to approach them 2) These new people were either hardly ever passionate or they showed it in a way which is foreign to us. None of them would get excited, none of them would dance, and none of them would headbang, none of them would talk or smile to anyone or anything else. They would all just sit there, existing in the place were the events took place. This isn’t generally a problem because nobody can force someone to express himself/herself, but it was definitely something that was alien to us in relation to this community and these events.
In 2011 until today our participation in the community has been unfortunately very selective. That is not because we have lost interest in this culture, because that is highly unlikely to ever happen, but because when we attend a happening we feel as if we’re alone inside a bubble. It’s not a matter of socializing; it’s a matter of being passionate about something. Passion, excitement and the desire to share these feelings with someone that has them mutual is what should really characterize this culture and its community in Greece. And even though things are not the same as they were before, the mere fact that they had reached the top in the past, it means that they can also exceed it in the future.