Photo by Lincoln Kawabata

The vegan rave where everyone devours an edible mandala at a set hour

‘Do you guys like raving’, my partner’s vegan friend asks us. I, for the record, do not. But then he mentions the edible mandala.

LIFE is an event held at Knock Koenji on the first Friday of every month, produced by Vegan Junk Experience: a sort of food-based, performance-art experience involving a giant edible mandala which all the partygoers consume at a set hour. Curious, we decide to go.

Knock is on the backstreets of Koenji, near the Momotaro Jeans store and other trendy retail spots. We descend some tiled steps and enter through an unmarked black door – recognisable only thanks to the bearded, fisherman-beanie-wearing locals smoking outside. We’re followed by a very, very drunk, middle-aged Japanese man and his companion, but we don’t see them inside, so assume they changed their minds.

The edible vegan mandala has humble beginnings. | Photo by Lincoln Kawabata

Knock is an intimate venue; you enter opposite the bar where you pay the 1500 yen entrance fee (which includes one drink). Turning right leads you down the room to the DJ and PA. Standing at a glass table, Vegan Junk Experience is neatly arranging ingredients into the famous mandala. With an 11pm start, it doesn’t take long to get hungry as we watch the tofu, couscous, beans and vegetables slowly take form as consecutive colourful rings.

The wait feels endless, the tension building as the mandala nears completion.

Finally, a chime rings out.

It’s time to eat.

There’s an extended moment of hesitation as everyone pauses to take pics, then it’s a free-for-all. There’s no cutlery, so we scoop lettuce, tomato, hummus and salsa with our bare hands, disassembling the mandala in no time. All the while, the DJ continues to spin pounding techno and house music.

Photo by Lincoln Kawabata

It’s a rare eating experience without any rigid manners or politeness between strangers, and if I am to clumsily search for an insight into Japanese culture here then surely the rapidity with which the spread disappears is a great example of mono no aware: “a sensitivity to ephemera.” It’s not quite the promised rave – the music is relatively calm and most attendees prefer to hang out and chat – but the experience of sharing in the wild consumption of something beautiful (and delicious) at 4 in the morning makes it worth it.

Follow Vegan Junk Experience and Knock Koenji to find out about the next volume of LIFE.

By - Lincoln Kawabata.