A portrait of Tokyo’s street culture and youth by tokyovitamin

Founded in 2015, tokyovitamin has grown into a creative community in Tokyo. The loose collective consists of DJs, VJs, photographers, music producers, and more. Each person has their own separate career, but they come together to host parties and events. Their peers look to them as a contemporary, creative crew that represents Tokyo. They’re also expanding their presence in the fashion industry, as seen in their collaboration with the graphic artist VERDY. Last December, tokyovitamin even had their first pop-up at Portration, a vintage shop in Harajuku. Countless friends and fans visited the shop to get their hands on the merchandise.
I’d like to investigate what tokyovitamin is through Vick’s interview.

Coming up with the name, tokyovitamin, to kick start a project

Vick is one half of the people at the helm of tokyovitamin. It all started when he met Kenchan, the other half. Throughout the years, the pair have taken on creative endeavors involving music, alongside friends who have come and gone. As such, tokyovitamin hasn’t been formed as a proper crew per se. “A hang-out spot for creative minds” might be an apt description. Instead of working with the same people, they keep an open mind, respect their friends’ views, and waste no time to get things done. Their work ethic is a breath of fresh air. What’s the origin of tokyovitamin? Vick answers:

“I used to live in New York, but I came back to Tokyo when I was in high school because that’s where my roots were. I wanted to make a collective centered on music from that time, but I didn’t have friends with similar interests that were as serious about trying this at the time. So, I just started going to parties and events I thought I would like. I searched for like-minded people who wanted to do something creative in those spaces.”

This dates back to 2016 when Vick was 22 years old. By going to and hosting many events, he met Kenchan. They didn’t talk too much for several months after they first met. However, they bumped into each other once again at the now-gone Trump Room in Shibuya, and they began hanging out. He also met rapper and community of tokyovitamin, Duke of Harajuku, around the same time. Vick met Duke through Kenchan, who went to the same university as him. He recalls back on this era.

“As people with a sense of drive, we naturally became friends as we started hanging out. I started to meet more people who thought we could make something happen together. Once we got to talking, we came up with so many ideas and things we wanted to do. I was still young and had a lot of time, so I started a project under the name tokyovitamin to get things going. I was like, ‘It doesn’t matter what we do, let’s just do it.’ That was the beginning.”

They started Vitamin Drop, the crew’s SoundCloud mix series, after thinking about releasing something. The guest DJs aren’t limited to the collective, as it features a varied roster of friends from around the world. People who work outside of music, such as clothing designers and those in retail, contribute mixes too. In this way, Vitamin Drop showcases diversity:

“Putting out mixes and hosting parties were things we first did as tokyovitamin. Aside from our communities, people who rarely DJ make mixes too. That’s because they seriously listen to new, current music. As I began to make more friends, I began to become close to people who love music. I started Vitamin Drop because I wanted to show their individuality and charisma. Simultaneously, by having guests from varying fields, I think we could communicate what tokyovitamin is to the world. I was excited to see what songs everyone selected, and putting a mix together is such a worthwhile thing.
“In terms of our parties, we try to create a playground for ourselves. It might sound like I’m trying to make our own scene with only the same people, but I consider those that come to our parties as friends who think the same way as we do.”

Vitamin Blue, tokyovitamin’s next steps as a label

In October 2020, around five years after the collective started, they released their first album under tokyovitamin titled Vitamin Blue.

“It’s a compilation album featuring rappers and DJs we’ve become close to. In other words, it’s an album we made with friends we connected with on our playground. This goes to people like Duke and Disk Nagataki, but everyone’s individual careers were picking up, so I thought the timing was right to release an album properly. We started making it in 2019, and we went back and forth about the release date, with coronavirus and everything. But we wanted to release it while it was still fresh, and that’s how we settled on the date. We wanted to throw a release party, but we couldn’t because of coronavirus. But releasing the album wasn’t enough, so we put out four music videos we had made beforehand.”

Accommodating Vitamin Blue is a video of the same name, featuring the four music videos and Vick breaking down what tokyovitamin is. Anyone who comes across the album and video will understand what it is tokyovitamin is doing.

The things tokyovitamin has accomplished so far are packed into Vitamin Blue. Partially thanks to the compilation format, the album is diverse and true to tokyovitamin, as seen in how they have hip hop as the laying foundation alongside house and dance tracks. Vick explains:

“Some communities like house music, and some like hip hop. We all listen to music regardless of the genre, and I feel like our generation — in the house and rap scene — is making interesting stuff. So, I wanted to mix [different genres]. Jin Dogg’s remix, LITTLE DEMON (DISK NAGATAKI BOOTLEG), is one example. I’ve always wanted to do something like this with tokyovitamin.”

The track in question is a blend of hip hop and house music; it truly represents how Tokyo is today. Bobby Yamamoto of YouthQuake created the cover art of the album. Vick asked Bobby to use a blue background with pink-colored pills in the foreground because he felt like the imagery of pills matched tokyovitamin’s vibe. The crew is closest to YouthQuake, which is a testament to tokyovitamin’s reach.

A sense of community fostered by clothes

After going through tokyovitamin’s history, Vick touches on their first pop-up shop. “I wanted to have a pop-up shop at the same time as the release of Vitamin Blue, but to be honest, the overall mood of the world was uncertain, and shops weren’t open as usual even in December. Of course, we didn’t have a party. But we couldn’t just do nothing, so we tried to do something during the day. On top of the pandemic, this was our first pop-up ever, so I was worried about how it was going to turn out. But as a result, so many people came, and I was happy. It wasn’t just our friends who came. People we didn’t know visited us, and they came wearing our friends’ clothes, like VERDY, CreativeDrugStore, YouthQuake, and FAF (FAKE ASS FLOWERS). When I saw that, I felt a sense of community through clothes. Like, ‘There are so many people who like our culture and relate to us.’”

There’s a reason tokyovitamin makes clothing aside from music:

“I’ve liked independent labels since I lived in America. For example, New York’s Fool’s Gold, PEAS & CARROTS INTERNATIONAL, and so on. I would watch them throw events and make merchandise with rappers or their friends, and it was so cool. I know what I like, so I want to expand the world of tokyovitamin’s merchandise. Instead of simply being a fashion brand, I want to produce goods we personally use at events and parties we go to.”

Like many artists, as a crew that has mainly done things where physical locations are key (such as parties), tokyovitamin is facing a predicament because of the pandemic.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I had anxiety over not knowing what the future was going to be like. But we have to accept that this is the new normal now. We have to look for things we could do in this condition. Each person will work on their own thing — Kenchan will continue working as a VJ, Duke will continue making songs as a rapper, and Disk will continue DJing and producing — and our challenge is to do what we can in this situation. We might focus more on making clothes later on. Even if we can’t host events, we still want to release things we’re satisfied with. As a label, we still have a long way to go. So, I want to study more by creating [music], establish who we are as a brand, and work on our next compilation album.”

Recently, tokyovitamin had a pop-up at Ima:zine, a clothing store in Osaka, at the end of February. They’re planning on collaborating with clothing shops and releasing more music in the future.
tokyovitamin’s creations are unique and have no boundaries. Perhaps there’s a similarity between them and the explosive emergence of Tokyo’s youth culture in the 90s. What awaits tokyovitamin and their generation in the future? I can’t wait to see it.

Vick is the director of tokyovitamin, a collective with a focus on music. He’s also a DJ and produces music for Shibuya or Harajuku-based crews and artists of the same generation. tokyovitamin’s first compilation album, Vitamin Blue, released in October 2020, became a sensation.
Instagram:@vickokada / @tokyovitamin

Photography Ryo Kuzuma
Translation Lena-Grace Suda

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Ryo Tajima

Ryo Tajima is a freelance director and editor. He became independent in 2016 after working as an editor for a street culture magazine. Since then, he has become an editor for culture magazines, online fashion media outlets, and so on. He's also involved in directing music media and artists' works. Tajima is a tanned city boy ferociously riding this bicycle through Shibuya, day and night. He fills himself up with protein as he lifts weights to get more fit. Instagram:@ryotajima_dmrt