Radio Home Run


When Tsuda and the other members of Radio Polybucket graduated, they established another very low-powered radio station in the Shimokitazawa neighborhood of Tokyo called Radio Home Run. The members of Radio Home Run, including Kogawa, soon discovered that the limited power supply of their legally permissible FM transmitter and the limited coverage area it produced had many unforeseen benefits. For instance, as Kogawa explains, “Listeners who lived close to the station began to visit,” and soon the station “became a meeting place for students, activists, artists, workers, owners of small shops, local politicians, men, women, and the elderly” (Kogawa 2003: 179). The practice of walking to the station soon became an integral part of the Radio Home Run experience, and members began developing special programs that encouraged listeners to walk to the station or to move around the Shimokitazawa neighborhood in a new way.

By participating in these programs, listeners changed their relationships to the material conditions of radio and their urban surroundings, while also becoming part of the station's collective of producers. This caused the experience of Radio Home Run to become doubly strange for the person accustomed to everyday one-to-many broadcasting applications of radio technology. First, Radio Home Run transformed listeners into producers by inviting people tuning in to physically travel to the station's nearby studio. Second, Radio Home Run became a catalyst for kinetic interaction with the airwaves, because it gave people a reason to move around a relatively small electromagnetic field and experience what happens to the signal when the configuration of materials in the urban environment changes over time. 

By encouraging people to be literally not-at-home in their experiences of radio listening, the practice of walking to Radio Home Run’s studio not revealed new possibilities for interacting with the airwaves, it also revealed how strange typical everyday experiences of radio through listening alone — actually are. It demonstrated how easily members of an atomized radio audience could be transformed into a collective of radio producers, and it modelled new possibilities of radio that caused the medium to become something more than a broadcasting apparatus. This double strangeness made Radio Home Run’s practice of walking to the station particularly potent, since it made old habits suddenly seem strange and revealed new techniques for interaction via the airwaves that could be implemented in the present and the future. 


A short film created by Radio Home Run member, Itaru Kato, in March of 1985 documents the path that a listener might take on their way to the station and shows how kinetic interaction within the electromagnetic field produced by the station’s transmitter creates an ika experience that allows people to perceive new aspects of radio’s potential. The film opens with a stop-motion animation that illustrates how the station's transmission radius of about 500 meters relates to the Shimokitazawa neighborhood by drawing it on a map.[7] A little red pin, representing the station’s antenna, blinks and emits a little lightning bolt that circles around the pin and traces an outline of the coverage area. This is followed by a montage of building roofs that provides a panoramic image of the neighborhood from the antenna's point-of-view. The next sequence provides glimpses of individual points within the Radio Home Run coverage area, such as a train station, a market, a street corner, an intersection, an abandoned lot, and a long avenue going uphill. All of this is rhythmically enhanced with catchy upbeat music that plays in the background.

When the music stops, viewers see the apartment of Masato Fukuda, the Radio Home Run member that allowed the entire collective use his home as the station’s studio. Fukuda is still curled up in a comfortable nest of blankets, and he mumbles about all the people that visited Radio Home Run the night before, causing him to get only a small amount of sleep. [8] The next scene shows Fukuda’s apartment at night when it has transformed into a very low-powered FM radio studio. Members of the station sit on the floor, speak into microphones that they pass back and forth to one another, play music, laugh, share food, and drink drinks. The camera zooms in on a poster for one of the station’s most popular shows, “Fuck & Funk,” a program run by Masaki Saito, who played funk, soul, salsa, and South American music from his record collection on Friday nights. Then, another animated sequence details just how much it costs to run Radio Home Run before cutting back to the map of the neighborhood, where the little red pin and the sound of speedy footsteps indicates the position of a listener, who is making the journey to the station. The red pin follows the listener's changing position over time, tracing their winding pathway through the streets of Shimokitazawa.

Radio Home Run by Itaru Kato (video taken from posted by Syntone, 12 October 2011).


Sped up documentation of this journey reveals the material conditions of urban life in Tokyo that the listener encounters along the way: there are bicycles, crowds, store signs, buildings, lamp posts, food markets, power lines, trees, fences, pavement, and a dog. When the listener reaches the apartment complex where the studio is located, they travel up the stairs to the rooftop where the Radio Home Run antenna proudly stands.

Though the film does not indicate whether the listener tuned into the station during their journey, it does illustrate that this listener had an opportunity to experience radio in a new way. They experienced radio as a multisensory phenomenon that allowed them to physically travel to the station to become a producer. Along the way, they encountered all sorts of stimuli and material conditions that are not typically considered to be part of the radio listening experience. Sounds, sights, smells, and maybe even tastes all became part of the journey, revealing radio's potential to become more than a medium of auditory information and communication.