Children of Enlightenment

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What is Children of Enlightenment?

Japan, known only decades ago as a society of buttoned-down workaholics, is in the midst of a social revolution. “Japan, Inc.” – the old conservative system in which corporations ruled people’s lives from cradle to grave – is in decline, and in its place is a world of uncertainty. And so Japan’s young people are walking away from corporate serfhood by the millions. Much like their Western counterparts in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, they are seeking fulfillment in more creative, individualistic pursuits, and challenging the social conventions of an older time.

Children of Enlightenment will bring you face-to-face with Japan's own Flower Children: underground musicians, starving artists, and the world's most colorful fashion maniacs. You will feel the quiet revolution in the bars, galleries, and coffee shops where young people meet to talk. You will see it on the street and in the amazing styles on display. You will find it in the city parks and hip neighborhoods that have become exhibition halls for the latest ideas. And you will experience it in the epic music festivals, art fairs, and fashion shows where the counterculture comes together.

You will see how Japanese kids are tuning in, turning on, and dropping out.


In the 1980s, Japan was known as a nation of hard-driving, suit-wearing businessmen and their picture-perfect apron-clad housewives, ready to dominate the world with hard work and rigid obedience. The few socialists and other malcontents who strayed from the beaten path were sneered at and forgotten. But a funny thing happened on the way to corporate nirvana. In the 1990s, crony capitalism and poor leadership helped send Japan’s economy into a tailspin from which it has yet to fully recover. Suddenly, entrance exams and a college degree were no longer the fast track to success. Millions of young Japanese people began to question the straight and narrow path. They began to abandon the corporate climb and look for a life with more fulfillment, self-expression, freedom, and human interaction. Slowly but surely, a vibrant and colorful new Japan was born from the ashes of the old.
These days, Japan is already “big” in the West, and getting bigger. Japanese pop-culture mainstays like anime and manga are household words, subcultures like "cosplay" and "lolita" culture are gaining an overseas following, and American and European designers and artists are beginning to take inspiration from the colorful, intricate Japanese styles visible in books like Fruits. But relatively few Westerners are yet aware of the full magnitude of the youth culture revolution that is bubbling in the neon urban mazes of Japan itself. The purpose of Children of Enlightenment is to deliver the direct experience of Japan’s wild, untamed bohemian underground to the American living room for the first time.

The Film

Children of Enlightenment is an immersive documentary feature film that will depict Japanese counterculture in its raw, lush, colorful reality, focusing on the worlds of art, music, and fashion, and on the new lifestyles explored by pioneering youth. Inspired by music documentaries like Woodstock and arthouse films like Slacker and Sans Soleil, Children of Enlightenment will immerse the audience in the world of its subjects.

You will have a chance to witness the amazing spectacles of iconic events like the Fuji Rock festival (three days, 250,000 attendees) and the Tokyo Design Festa (100,000 attendees); these pageants of chaos and creativity are where the riot of Japan’s youth counterculture reaches its pinnacle of energy. In addition, the film will cover a vast number of smaller events: vocational fashion school graduation shows (usually involving music and dance routines); underground rock concerts; art shows; a “Yosakoi” college dance festival; a cosplay parade; and dance parties in urban and rural settings.

We will also explore places frequented by the counterculture, including trendy neighborhoods like Shimokitazawa, Kichijoji, and Ura-hara in Tokyo, Ame-mura and Nishi-Umeda in Osaka, and others in Fukuoka. You will get a chance to explore the “furugi-ya” (“remade”) fashion stores, cafes and bars frequented by Japanese artists,  “live houses” used for rock and fashion shows, skate parks, and vocational schools for fashion, drawing, and film.

And we will follow the “Children” to their hangouts and homes. You will learn what these young people talk about, how they party, how they form relationships and fall in love. We believe that you will be thrilled by the openness of the Children’s experience; the ease with which Japanese music, art, and fashion fans mingle and accept newcomers can be astonishing. Finally, we will explore the social issues surrounding Japan’s art generation – the failure of the corporate/government system to support creative industries, the rigidly segmented labor market that keeps creative employees from earning high incomes, and the regulations that inhibit entrepreneurship.

Children of Enlightenment will show you what it is like to be an “alternative” youth in modern Japan.


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