25 in ALIEN Years

4.90Well we’ve hit another milestone. Readers unfamiliar with the faustian world of gaijin publishing may not know that NAGMAG is just one in a series of names that began with a hand-written publication called THE ALIEN. That ignominious debut came 25 years ago this month and so we thought we should mention it.

THE ALIEN and it’s progeny began during an alcohol-soaked conversation in which the name was proposed as one befitting a magazine tilted towards the info-free zone of the gaijin diaspora. At the time these denizens were soaking up champagne in the soon-to-end golden era of the 1980’s Japanese bubble economy. There was no internet to occupy our time – just a bunch of bar-code salarymen swinging imaginary golf clubs while waiting for the train.

“It’ll never happen” was the retort when the idea was proposed. But happen it did. Again and again. Every month for 25 years.

For anyone who came to Japan after the internet and email, it may be hard to imagine that once there was a time when everybody knew your name – or at least your face – in this town. The foreign population of 1990 Nagoya had but a few night spots to call their own. Country Joe (still going!) was the spot to hang and the local band were a bunch of gaijin known as “The Salarymen”.

For that group of us known as the “Showa Gaijin” it was a rather halcyon time in our lives and getting together to talk was really the only way we found out what was happening in town. There were no cell phones or text messages, and we spent hours commuting on trains together, flung far into the hinterlands to teach Japanese factory workers. That was our facebook. That was our discussion thread.

THE ALIEN was a rag. At first we simply photocopied it and passed it around. There wasn’t much real news to share, so we attempted to write satire – occasionally genuinely funny stuff. At that moment in our lives as “gaijin” we really did stand out, and there was a need for humor to help us to deal with that. Sometimes we crossed a line, but on the whole I am rather happy with what we – all of us together at the mag – wrote, drew, photographed and designed.

The road from the Lawsons photocopy machine to here is littered with the mangled, tortured and enfeebled bodies of talented wordsmiths, designers and artists who have wrung the very essence of our lives into a glass and squeezed it between pages. We have all done this with the fervent hope that what we saw in our time here could be shared in ways that would make it easier for all of us to understand and enjoy, both foreigner and Japanese alike.

And while our name has changed and we have grown up, I like to think that behind it all is the same spirit that saw a sign at the airport that called foreigners “Aliens”, and laughed about it.

On behalf of all of us behind THE ALIEN, Japanzine, NAGMAG, The InfoGuide and other stuff, thanks for your many years of support.

Carter Witt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *