Based out in Osaka punk-rocker Hirokazu Emura has been vegan and straight edge for more than 20 years now. In that time, he’s been doing a lot of stuff for both vegan advocacy and the DIY hardcore scene. Booking Japanese gigs for international hardcore bands and himself playing in obscure local bands such as Undivided, Positive Outlook, xThe Best Defencex, or xStart Revengingx, Hirokazu is now the main force behind the punk-rock band Violent Technologies. Starting out as a vegan punk band to play The Ethical Vegan Fest in Osaka, they are now the only vegan straight edge outfit in town, if not all Japan. Here’s a brief interview with Hirokazu that I hope you’ll find interesting.
Hi Violent Technologies! Can you introduce yourselves and tell us how did you get together and what‘s the main driving force behind your band?
Hi, I’m xHirokazux, the singer of Violent Technologies. The other members at the moment are xGenkix on guitar, xYoheix on drums, and Yukino on bass as a support member.
Our main driving force is the desire to make this planet a better place; not only for humans, but also for the non-human animals and the entire environment.
What are your personal experiences and reasons to live a vegan and drug-free lifestyle? Why do you put an emphasis on the ethical veganism in first place?
Because vegan straight edge feels the most simple and natural lifestyle to me. Being vegan doesn’t mean merely to stop eating meat, but being aware of the responsibility each of us have in the process by which all products are created. That’s why I think ethical veganism is so important.
You also sing about the dangers of GMO and palm-oil extraction, so how important is the environmentalist and anticapitalist aspect in your message? What’s the meaning behind the name Violent Technologies?
Actually, we are not against capitalism as a whole. But we are against the greedy capitalism, such as the neo-liberal global system which focuses only on profit above anything else. The name “Violent Technologies” represents bio-tech companies like Monsanto.
What being a vegan is like in Japan? Do you support the work of any activists or organizations that promote veganism and animal rights? Are you involved in any such groups yourself?
In the large cities, such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, the number of vegan restaurants and places that offer vegan options is drastically increasing. If you’re a vegan, you don’t have to be worried about meals, when living in these cities.
I’m a president of The Ethical Vegan Society of Japan. I’m also an organizer of the Ethical Vegan Fest in Osaka, and a staff member of Anonymous for the Voiceless.
The Ethical Vegan Society of Japan was launched in 2015. It is the first and one of a kind such organization in Japan. It aims to represent the voices of the Japanese vegan community as a whole in order to make major progress in spreading its ideas. If you are searching for vegan/vegetarian restaurants, the society has a comprehensive list for you. The organization also supports other vegan / humanitarian / animal welfare groups in Japan, and acts as an umbrella group for various projects including Farm Sanctuary Japan Project, which aims to create a facility near the metropolitan area where people can feel the true nature of the farm animals they are unintentionally hurting.
Traditionally, spiritual teachings like Buddhism and Shintoism both promoted plant-based eating. It wasn’t until the World War II when the country got hooked on meat consumption, so what kind of arguments do people use to justify the meat on their table? Do you think that meat eating, whale hunting and environmental destruction will continue to grow and what alternatives do we have beyond going vegan?
After adopting many facets of the Western culture during Meiji era (late 18th century), the Japanese society rapidly started to eat meat. In 20th century, experiencing the occupation and reconstruction by the United States as a result of losing the WWII, meat-eating culture had spread all throughout the country.
Today, Japanese people celebrate New Year by visiting Shinto shrines, while celebrating Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Weddings are done in a Christian style, funerals in the Buddhist way. Japan has taken on a variety of different religious and cultural practices. Whale-eating culture has almost disappeared. Actually, only Government and some private companies are still promoting whale hunting.
Japanese people now tend to unintentionally follow new cultures. If a bigger ethical or vegan movement arrives here from Europe or the US, it would be rapidly accepted, I think.
When we talk about the vegan straight edge, we usually think about bands influenced by the 90s hardcore scene with a significant metallic sound attached to it. Why do you play a straight up punk-rock and what are your main musical influences?
What affected me the most to adopt the vegan straight edge way of living was the song “No More” by Youth of Today. Yes, of course, I like Earth Crisis, Vegan Reich, and Framework. Actually, I have invited bands like xPurificationx, xReprisalx, and Liar to play in Japan. They all have toured throughout the country. As a punk-rocker, I think the best way to spread the idea of veganism is to play punk-rock music.
Tell us about the DIY punk scene in Osaka right now. Are there any good places, interesting bands, zines, political collectives, etc.?
I highly recommend you to go to Revenge Records when visiting Osaka. They sell a lot of rare and interesting records that could attract hardcore punk freaks. They also kindly support our band.
Are there are any other vegan straight edge bands around? What about the Japanese straight edge scene in general? Do you care about youth crew or any other offshoots of straight edge hardcore that are not necessarily vegan or political?
There might not be other vegan straight edge bands in Japan right now, as far as I know. Although, there were a few straight edge bands in Japan in the past. It seems that some people are becoming straight edge now too. Generally, I don’t care whether they are vegan or political, or not.
Do you think that the hardcore punk music, the vegan straight edge and the DIY ethos in their broader sense can constitute a real alternative to the outside world on both a material and spiritual level?
I don’t think so, as I observe the present situation.
Yes, there are many activities such as liberating animals from places of abuse, protecting earth’s environment, following spiritual teachings, and farming in sustainable ways. But these are all acts done quite separately, while they are actually all connected and correlating to each other. In my opinion, each form of activism is important and shouldn’t be underestimated. I think, it is necessary for people in every field of activism to act harmoniously. But the current situation is bad.
What kind of other influences do you have beyond music? Are there any interesting things that you can share about your personal life or ideas?
Recently, I started learning yoga. The fact that Ray and Porcell of Youth of Today, whom I respect so much, have become yoga teachers was a huge inspiration to me. Satish Kumar’s thought also really resonates with me, I’m now studying his books and would like to recommend it.
Thank you very much. Anything you would like to add?
We are working on a new Violent Technologies demo, and we are almost done with the recordings. It will be released soon, so look forward to it.
I’m really grateful for giving me this opportunity. Thank you, Mitko. And thank you all who have read this interview. Arigato!