Article on larp in Japan in the journal Replaying Japan (vol 1., 2019).
Adapting Live-Action Role-Play in Japan: How “German” Roots Do Not Destine “Japanese” Routes
Live-action role-play (larp), a mixture of improv-theatre and role-playing game where participants interact physically as characters in a shared story, draws thousands of participants in Europe but gained interest in Japan only since 2012 — with an exponentially increasing popularity. This young practice still faces various material constraints, one of which is the actual or perceived limited accessibility of space, another the availability of larp paraphernalia. Japan’s larpers, however, have access to resources less known in Europe: 100-Yen-Shops. These shops offer a broad variety of products for just 100 yen, useful for larp as outlined by Japan’s first “how-to-larp” publications. This paper discusses the development and current state of larp in Japan: How did “European-style” fantasy larp come to Japan? How was this practice adapted to local circumstances? How is it related to sibling practices, such as cosplay (masquerading) and pen & paper role-playing? Based on text-analysis, interviews, and participant observations, the paper analyses the ways of appropriation including the discursive and material constraints practitioners are entangled with. Conceptualizing larp as a network of heterogeneous human and non-human elements, the practice in Japan is hardly defined by a somewhat essential “Japaneseness” but produced through the tracing of these various elements. Fantasy larp as it is actualized in Japan combines “global” elements of larping with “local” materials so that the practice is (continuously) reassembled.
Keywords: 100-yen-shop, appropriation, heterogeneous networks, Japan, material constraints.
Citation: Kamm, Björn-Ole. 2019. ‘Adapting Live-Action Role-Play in Japan — How “German” Roots Do Not Destine “Japanese” Routes’. Replaying Japan, vol. 1: 64–78.