Okinawa Tourism Information:“StockRoomGalleryKoza,”thePlacetoSendOutSubcultureArtinMulticulturalCity(OkinawaCity)

“Stock Room Gallery Koza,” the Place to Send Out Subculture Art in Multicultural City (Okinawa City)

post : 2018.03.12 22:00

Flourished in the 90s, and the area was once close to be a dead area. And now, it is rebooting as the area to send out the new Okinawan culture. That area is “Park Avenue” in Okinawa City, a.k.a. Koza, the most diverse area in Okinawa. “Stock Room Gallery Koza,” opened on March 2016, is one of the spots to send out the new culture of Okinawa. Art lovers who are 20-ish gather at this gallery / shop, and they are making it as a very exciting spot. 

After passing a wooden terrace, reach a gallery, everybody can witness a space of subculture art which really fits in Koza. The owner himself gave of his time to renovate this space. Drawings are displayed on the wall. These include a drawing mixed with solid and rational line & freehand drawing with emotional and wild touch.

Artworks by young artists are also displayed on the other wall. Each work has different taste but accepting each other and creates one harmony. This is what Koza is like.  

Not just artworks are exhibited at Stock Room Gallery Koza, but also original T-shirts are available here. T-shirts are necessary for most residents in Okinawa since they wear T-shirts nearly 10 months out of 1 year (American residents and tourists from Mainland Japan wear T-shirts even during winter, so some people wear them throughout the year). Unique designs of T-shirts can be purchased here, and the sizes are available from kids to adults. Also, posters are offered at reasonable prices, and you can look for stationery products, stickers, and other products as well (these must be good for those people who does not want to buy the exact same souvenir as others). 

The concept of Stock Room Gallery Koza is “Art your daily life.”

“The word ‘art’ isn’t verb. I made the word up. Generally, most people assume it costs a lot to purchase artworks. It is because they think only rich people purchase them to keep their high status. But actually, art is part of the play, and it is for everybody to have fun. It is not a special thing to draw, and it is a method to release themselves without thinking logically or common sense. Boys and girls who are in the process of growing always try hard to adjust themselves to others in all ages, but they seem uncomfortable. That is why I want to teach the attractiveness of art to young generations.” 

Ryosuke Asato, the 35-year-old owner, explained to me. He is a father of 2, and he draws his works under a name “DENPA."

He started drawing when he began to understand things, and he started working on his own artworks when he was around 18 years old. He enrolled at University of the Ryukyus and majored in Education. Later, he transferred to a college of fashion arts in Tokyo to be involved in fashion-related field. He returned to Okinawa and opened a custom-made T-shirt store on-base in 2010. After his business went well, his desire to work as an artist had increased day by day, so he opened Stock Room Gallery Koza. 

Anyway, young people started to get gathered at Park Avenue again around the year 2017, but there were not much people when Asato opened the gallery in 2016. Why he picked this place to open his gallery?

“I like the atmosphere of arcade. Many customers might come to my gallery if I opened it in Chatan or Naha, but I don’t want to just ‘use’ them. I want to invite them, give the best service to them, and want them to enjoy art as much as they want. Not one-time-only, and I needed a space to build a long-time relationship like long-time friends with customers.”

As soon as he opened the gallery, customers mainly in their 20s started coming here.

Some of regular customers are junior high school students or high school students. “Coffee was available at the gallery until recently. Young people paid 300 yen and had fun on their own while drinking coffee. There are some young customers who pour out their troubles for 2 hours or talk about their future.” Asato himself still has a hard time understanding general common sense and rules of society. When he shaved his head, others told him that he looked absurd. Shaved head supposed to be an icon of freshness and youth during junior high and high school ages. However, when adults shave their heads, others tell them that they look like yakuza. This is just an example, and he has been through many “conflictions.” 

“We live in the logical or verbal society such as common sense or justice, but we also live in a society of sensory such as intuition or nonverbal feeling. Art is a thing to release ourselves into a world where language is unnecessary. I can let myself out when I am working on my artworks.” Asato changes the layout and displays of gallery constantly to promote the value and “utility” of art. He said redecoration is his hobby, but I think he does it to make customers happy. 

“It is interesting to clip out moments like Instagram. Currently, many people focus on consumer culture in good and bad ways, so there is an importance of non-instantaneous art.” To Asato, art is not just a visual expression like painting or photo. He believes that word can be a playful art, so he holds exhibitions of his self-publishing magazine “ZINE” irregularly. Merit of Instagram is that anybody can be artists by spreading instantaneous art. Instantaneous art is attractive in a way. On the other hand, poem and prose are also attractive because these are not non-instantaneous.

These are not the only ways to enjoy art. Asato started an apparel project called “Scalper by DENPA” to remake and sell fast fashion brands, and to pay a part of profit to apparel manufactures that work under unequal working conditions. Also, he and a professor at University of the Ryukyus hold a seminar together to discuss about fair trade with college students. He does that to seek for a connection with a social challenge. 

“These days it is not easy to sell products easily, so people value spaces or time to spend. That is why I want to inspire those energetic and flexible young people and offer a space for them.” For Asato, his lifestyle, philosophy, and art are all borderless. He thinks everybody’s life gets better by meeting people at one place and exchanging something. Currently, he is trying to come up with a new business of buying and selling. 

“I am going to start an exhibition by artists who are 29 and under from tomorrow, and it is titled ‘BUDS.’ I wanted to do something for people in that generation to support them because most of them are considered as immature or worried about something. After running this gallery for nearly 2 years, I realized that Okinawa is a treasury of people who love to express something. Maybe because the sun is bright, or greens are dark in Okinawa? Not sure, but maybe there is something to stimulate their sensibility in Okinawa. Some of young people have not recognized with their talents yet, so I want them to realize how artistic they are. I am going to hold this exhibition once in a year for them.”

Even though Asato is still in the 30s, he already has the dignity of a good senior who loves to take care of young people. 

Stock Room Gallery Koza
Address: 2-7-40 1F Chuo, Okinawa City
Tel: 098-927-2432
Business Hours: 11:00-20:00
Closed: Tue & Wed

Okinawa CLIP photo writer Nobuya Fukuda