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      'Chomp' Magazine Offers a Queer Look at Japanese Street Culture

      January 22, 2016
      From the column 'Ink Spots'

      If you really sat down and tried, you could turn a lot of pages in the space of 30 days. While we've spent over a decade providing you with about 120 of those pages every month, it turns out VICE isn't the only magazine in the world. This series, Ink Spots, is a helpful guide to which zines, pamphlets, and publications you should be reading when you're not reading ours.

      All images courtesy of Chomp.

      Mitsu Sucks seems like a good alias for someone who runs a gay Japanese magazine called Chomp. A bookseller by day, Mistu (real name: Mitsuhiro Kawano), created the zine back in 2011 to fill a gap in the Japanese arts and culture market where cutting-edge, queer-friendly publications are few and far between. Like the famous gay magazine Butt, Chomp places erotic photographs of dudes alongside personal profiles and interviews, but also is sprinkled with beautiful, abstract illustrations. Plus, it's funny.

      A labor of love, Chomp only features the work of artists and photographers that Mitsu is passionate about, and he often includes diverse subjects you might be surprised to see in a queer magazine, such as macho skaters and straight boys. Though skate culture and queer culture might not appear to overlap on the surface, Mitsu believes things that "exist on the edges of society" share more than meets the eye. Constantly surprising and resolutely DIY, Chomp is now on its fourth issue.

      We talked to Mitsu from his current home in New York about where the zine is headed next, what it tells us about queer subcultures in Japan, and where he finds the cute pictures of boys' butts that are nestled between Chomp's pages.

      VICE: Where did the idea for Chomp come from?
      Mitsu Sucks: As a gay guy, I always had trouble identifying with the mainstream gay scene in Japan. And I could never find a publication that spoke to me. Gay themes in Japan are very one-note and tend to fall into one of two categories: They're either full-on porn or fashion-related. They also take themselves very seriously. I wanted to create something different and definitely more lighthearted.

      What's the zine scene like in Japan—are there a lot of people getting involved in DIY publishing? Are there other queer zines like Chomp around?
      I feel like young people in Japan love zines, especially fashion-conscious young people. But then in Japan, most young people are fashion-conscious. It's almost like zines are mainstream over there. Popular fashion and art magazines write about zines, and even give suggestions about how to make them. My friends in Tokyo all make zines and show them at zine fairs they organize, big and small. In terms of queer zines, however, I would go as far as to say there's no such category as of yet. But based on the reaction to Chomp, the demand is definitely there.

      How do you cast the faces and asses you shoot for the publication?
      Interestingly, all the models I used for the sexy stuff so far have been straight. I usually rely on my female friends to hook me up. One let me shoot her younger brothers. Another introduced me to her fuck-buddy. For Chomp #4, I saw one of my friends post a picture with a guy whose look I liked. I asked her to persuade him to pose for me. Straight guys will do anything girls say.

      The magazine takes a queer look at street culture including skateboarding. Is there much of a queer contingency among skater communities in Japan?
      No, skateboarding is such a macho, boys-only club. It's one of the places you'd least expect to find a queer presence. That's what's interesting to me, uniting the two. It's almost like fantasy. But, at the same time, I believe queer and skateboarding cultures do have things in common. They both exist on the edges of society. They're both often misunderstood.

      What's cruising culture like in Japan these days? To what extent have gay dating apps taken cruising off the street and online?
      All cruising in Japan happens online now. Up until a few years ago, indoor "cruising spaces" called hattenba were the norm, and they catered to every possible fetish you could imagine. Hattenba for athletic guys under 30, hattenba for chubby guys, hattenba for guys with short hair and big dicks. People knew about them either through word of mouth or from online guides and message boards. You went, you paid the fee, got naked, and hooked up in the dark. They were all over the city and some were very selective. These days, it's all apps. But what's interesting is that Japan has its own apps, too. The most popular one is a Japanese one called 9 Monsters, followed by Jack'd, and then finally Grindr—but only guys who are into foreigners use Grindr.

      The magazine features interviews with regular people about sexuality. What do you think this concept achieves?
      How a person talks about sex says a lot about them. Answers vary so much from one person to another. You can gather a lot about what someone is like, even from a few questions. Basically, it's the best way to get to know a person and what makes them unique in the shortest amount of time. Reading these interviews in Chomp, I hope people see the diversity within the queer community and beyond. Because even if you identify with a certain group, you're still a unique individual. That's a universal thing.

      How has Chomp evolved over four issues? I feel like it's become more graphic.
      Some issues are more graphic than others, but there's no strategy behind it. I've been doing a lot of experimenting, in regards to both design and content, trying this and that. But I feel like Chomp is finally growing into its more stable, adult shape.

      What's next for the mag?
      Issue #4 just came out. Issue #5 is on its way (I'll hopefully finish it by fall). And I'm hoping to do a group exhibition soon, show work from all the artists I've featured in the zine so far. Ideally, I'll be able to organize it both in Japan and outside, like in New York where I live now. I think that'd be pretty cool.

      And finally—what does being queer mean to you?
      It means being honest.

      For more on Chomp visit the zine's website here.

      Follow Amelia on Twitter.

      Topics: inkspots, chomp magazine, chomp, mitsu, Mitsuhiro Kawano, lgbt, queer, lgbtq, queer art, culture, arts, artists, magazine, print, publications, print publications, mags, magazines, zines, zine, zine culture

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