Like all great club nights Department H grew out of the frustration of its promoter Gogh Imaizumi feeling he had no club night that truly catered to his late night clubbing desires. It’s a common story across the globe. The dispossessed and marginalised become dissatisfied with the clubs on offer to them and come up with the best and most obvious answer ……. start your own club night. Not surprisingly most of the best clubs in the World started like this.
1990 – Gogh Imaizumi is in New York. It’s the era of club kids. There’s money and a booming economy, and hedonism and creativity are alive and well in NY clubland. Promoters such as Susanne Bartsch and Michael Alig have helped build an army of living mannequins, blazing creatures that push the bounds of fashion, costume, sexuality and gender. Their clubs provide a fertile playground for new ideas and a redefinition of what nightlife should be après the death of disco and the main stream absorption of punk and new wave. At the same time clubs such as Hellfire and The Vault cater to those on the more bizarre fringes of sex, a nether World of bondage, fetishism, BDSM and myriad role play fantasies. Gogh Imaizumi is an illustrator, he see’s all this through the eye’s of an artist, absorbes it, and, when he returns to his home city of Tokyo he is ready to start his own night.
Department H is a quirky club. It has a conscious policy of not playing overly loud dance music. Unlike virtually every other club in existence it DOES NOT sell alcohol. Instead it offers a bring your own policy and it allows patrons to nip out to the all night convenience store – close by – to stock up on drinks of their choice and snacks. Most clubs try to attract those perceived by straight society to be fashionable and beautiful. Department H has always sought to attract the strange, the unconventional, the outsiders. It sets its own standards of fashion and style. This means you are less likely to see the latest Dolce and Gabana than you are to see an inflatable latex pig. Maybe you won’t meet a fashion model but perhaps you will encounter some human size furry creatures, a rubber maid, or someone who’s sex is indeterminate owing to their giant latex head . Department H is performance based. The venue is an actual theatre with the sound system, lighting, and staging abilities required. Throughout the night there are performances of all types …… some are polished, planned, and rehearsed, others are spontaneous and instant in the open mike style. There are two floors. The main floor is for shows and performances. The second floor is a kind of chill out, hang out zone. The area is punctuated by small stalls (pop up shops) selling all manner of oddities …….. cosplay guns, Rubber mags, amulets, plastic toy models. On the night our reporter attended there was an installation of posed love dolls and, in another area, saline injections (a recent Japanese body mod craze). This is a club for people who want something more from their night out than booze and speed dating. On stage during our visit there was a cat fight performance featuring Mistress Amrita. MC for the stage is Tokyo club legend drag Queen“Margaret”. Off stage is an indescribably eclectic crowd of typically “unclubby” people. Welcome to Japan, this city is called Tokyo and it’s the Capital.
The next Department H takes place on Saturday September 7th. Check the Skin Two calendar for details and, If you click on the event title – in red – at the top of the page it should take you to their website or FB page!
Dave Darcy Edmond
Department H Photos courtesy of HYODO YOSHITAKA