KANEKO Tomotaro

Namaroku culture in 1970s Japan: The techniques and joy of sound recording


In the 1970s in Japan, an activity called Namaroku (live recording), focusing on recording various sounds, became popular among audiophiles. Practitioners carried portable tape recorders and took microphones to the field to capture actual sounds, such as those of steam locomotives, traditional events, and wild birds. Articles on Namaroku appeared not only in audio magazines but also in various general-interest publications. A specialized magazine, contests, groups, and a radio program dedicated to Namaroku emerged at that time.
In recent interdisciplinary studies on sound and hearing, historically and culturally constructed modes of listening are termed “aurality”; studies on listening through sound technology are becoming especially popular. This essay examines the Namaroku culture of 1970s Japan to consider how its practitioners heard actual sounds through microphones. At that time, professionals often explained to beginners what it means to record sound and how human ears worked along with instructing them on the operation of recording devices. Referring to these arguments, this essay attempts to understand the mode of listening in the Namaroku culture. Furthermore, it also surveys the background of this culture, including the development of tape-recording culture in Japan and the role of audio makers, audio journalism, or and FM radio in Namaroku, then discusses how these factors influenced Namaroku’s aurality. The creativity of stereo recording was considered particularly important in Namaroku culture. This understanding seemed to be derived from the relationship between the diverse contexts noted above.

Keywords: Namaroku, sound recording, Japanese sound culture, aurality, tape recorder

→ Aesthetics  No. 23‐24