Japan Trip Wrap Up!
From Nashville to Tokyo.
I suppose the headline is misleading, I was home for two days, which seemed like minutes. And admittedly unprepared for the Los Angeles surge; traffic, density, static, all things antithetical to Nashville, which I was the beneficiary of a certain sagacity of chill. The cicadas, the warm nights, the stippling breeze combing, riffling, and grooming the leaves of the trees with a soft percussive melody. The stars, too many to count, dotting the sky with light beams sent parcel from millions of years or more. Not to say Los Angeles doesn't enjoy a certain brand of nomadic curriculum and relaxation…it certainly does, and those fortunate to grow up near the beach are all too familiar. I love Los Angeles, and have grown to love Nashville, with romantic, and utopic notions. My heart will remain in Southern California, however the beeping, screeching, sunworn pavement was, at least for that moment, in stark contrast to the country skies, and nature’s hypnotic hymns sung like whispers over blades of grass in far out fields. Nonetheless, I had little or no time to adjust, just to say hello to my lovable dog, Roxie, make a quick stop into the office, and prepare for what lay ahead, stuffing my carry-on with books, a laptop, a snack or two, and all the goodwill for an adventure unknown.
Maybe unknown is too misleading. The good folks at Sanrio had, in all its delightful discipline, a robust schedule of activity, and meetings each day. In good faith in narrating this story, and in good faith a fiduciary duty to stray from impulses to deliberately mislead the reader, it must be known I was ill-prepared, underestimating the demand for the foot, and consequence(s) such demand warrants with it’s most notable mismatch and acrimony with the activity of sleep. I’ve been to Asia over 70 times, with nothing more than a carry-on, for weeks at a time, usually in small factory towns, in small, rural, provincial villages…certainly Tokyo has all the modern trappings of comfort…fear not, sleep is admissible when the opportunity strikes. I march on, literally.
I have been to Tokyo a couple times prior, only for business. I’m remised to have travelled so far, usually, and without pretense, unable to see Japan past the Tokyo boundaries. Business be business in it's form and function, there’s a job to do so that is that, and we continue on, lunch pale in hand. I was invited by Sanrio to Tokyo to take part in a group trip with the intent to pique my native interests, to spark ideas, to workshop with great, talented people, and to dine and discuss with the brain trust, including the President, Co-Chairman, Vice President, licensing liaisons, and Shintaro Tsuji, aka “Papa”, the patriarchal founder of Sanrio. At 91, still in suit, replete with vigor and pursuit of excellence, again, I would be remised to surrender such a unique opportunity as this. So my number was called, so I went, “give me the ball coach!”
Sanrio was right. The group activities, the workshops, the dinners, the human connections, the expressive spirits, all surrendering to this exercise, most of whom before, “stranger”, and by the end, “friends.” Creative thoughts are constructs, and creation happens with the sharing of ideas. Passing thoughts, like plates filled with articles across a communal dining table. Refining thoughts through collaborative communalism, and cooperation, sharing abstract constructs like shapes, and color, and more refined constructs like function…and familiar constructs like stories, anecdotes, feelings, emotions…all building blocks, establishing trust, establishing deeper connections, and ultimately widening the purview to great ideas, ones that were hopeful to follow us home so we can infuse our creative work with a dilated creative scope. And oddly enough, it worked, I came home loaded with inspiration, a new deal, and an appreciation for the collection of talented spirits.
We also walked 35 miles in four days. I’m glad I brought my Nikes.
The days were structured, usually starting at 8a, and ending at 10p, an exhaustive, yet rewarding work experience. Beyond the neon pastels, the kawaii, the chibi, the bleeping blooping carnival of absurdity, a pop culture cornucopia on steroids, a toy box come to life in a quasi-toytoypian temple, mashed between posterity, and Pinocchio’s misanthropic mishaps on an island that served up bright flashing lights, and candy in all it’s variations…Shibuya, Harajuku, the “pop” in pop culture. Down the alleys, off the beaten path were gems of the local variety – standing sushi bars with maguro nigiri, only $2,00 for two pieces, and as delightful as Pinocchio’s cotton candy adventures. Also, bookstores, local hangouts, Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, Japan! I ducked into a few alleys along the way, filled up with a fair share of sushi, and headed back up with the group at the next kawaii carnival.
Sanrio’s power is its story. Tsuji san tells it with conviction. As a college student the Allied forces had bombed Japan, including the town Tsuji san lived and attended school in. Upon the town being bombed, Tsuji san, a rescuer to his sister, leaped into the river which ran through town, with his sister strapped to his back, saving his sister, and himself from burning to death from the fire bombs which ensued, enveloping the town. The two survived. Sanrio was a thought, and as thoughts are material it developed into a construct, “No more war, no more death, no more suffering, just happiness, love, and trust. What can I do to make people happy? Give them a gift, a small gift, an expression of gratitude, of friendship, of trust…of love.” So, Sanrio was born. From tragedy, death, pain and suffering, the anecdote – peace, love, friendship, and understanding. The power of story. Great Brands with great spirits endure. This is why TLS is partners with Sanrio.
On the last day, I peeled off from the group, headed to Ginza to meet Toho, our partner with My Hero Academia. It wasn’t hard to find, it was in a very nice part of town, certainly a wealthy business community, and what made Toho’s HQ so easy to spot? A large Godzilla perched on top a roof of some sort, welcoming visitors as they rolled through his current.
After our meeting I searched out a local sushi bar, helped myself to a fair share for a weary traveller. I then set foot up Ginza, remembering a Kabuki Theater that I had crossed paths whilst with the group on an outing. It was my last night in Tokyo, my intent was to insufflate art and culture, a cleansing of the palette if you will. The Theater is called Kabuki-za. Kabuki; a masterful, sublime, august, ornamented, and noble indigenous theatrical art form, a cultural treasure, and I, lucky enough to participate as an eager member of the audience. The facade of the theater designed, reconstructed in the Edo period style, after being destroyed by Allied bombings in WWII. The theater itself having many lives, burned down at least twice before, and was originally erected during the Meiji era. I bought a ticket to sit close up towards the stage, the theater being most grand, most sizable, and the upper decks nearly peering down like birds to the grounds they follow below. I wanted to be close. I purchased a ticket for all the acts, 5 hours in total, and refused the English translation because I wanted to hear the play in all it's artistry without the interference of translation. I sat down, next to me a woman who could have been in her 90’s, to the right of me two women in their 70’s, all enjoying a night of art and culture. In fact, the whole lower level was filled with older patrons, I probably being one of the youngest, and from my vantage point the only westerner. The Japanese folks who were younger, and female, came dressed in traditional Kimonos. The woman to my left, the one possibly in her 90’s handed me a small perfume bag. I smiled, I shook her hand, I said “Arigato”. A sign of friendship, not a sign I “stunk”, although I had been hoofing it through 90 degree heat before I had arrived to the theater. Maybe I stunk. The stage curtain had a festive, playful repeating color pattern, each color symbolizing the seasons. As the curtain pulled back the audience clapped enthusiastically, the first booming voice of the actor in white face makeup with the black stylized wig, depicting the art and styles in the most artful context from eras past – Shogunate, or the Edo Bakufu. From then on I was treated for 5 hours with the most excellent, and majestic artistry of Japan’s best Kabuki actors, who have mastered the art, and all the nuances inherit in such fine arts, passed on by artistic geniuses from generation to generation – the sounds, the music, the chorus, the narration, the stylized speech, the poetic motions, the symbolism in gesture, the magnificent and bewitching makeup, and costumes…nothing short of brilliance, the most of refined arts. Actors entered the stage from a pavilion or ramp, which cut one side of the audience off from the other, furthering the dramatic and impactful, sometimes imposing effect. Each entrance met with thunderous applause, as the actor in command of his voice, and all movement, makes his way into the scene. The women, in the Kabuki tradition, are played by men, and attended by the most delicate, and commanding artistry of performance. During the first intermission, on the lower level, all of the older patrons brought food, and as the curtains closed for the intermission, they were quick to open their bento boxes, filled with compartments of treats of all sorts. I went to the lobby, purchased a cup of coffee, and some warm treats (a waffle of some kind shaped like a Kabuki actor's head). As I left, there was a lot to reflect upon. Moments like these make travel special, and I fortunate to have the opportunity to bare witness to such fine artists and performers, me being a theater major in school, it meant just that much more.
Alas, I’ve been home for a week, there’s ton to do.
La Comic Con – yes, we’re showing, I’ll post the details. The next 10-year anniversary products? Yes, I will post details tomorrow. There’s a lot to catch up on, I’m full force ready for the challenge, please stay tuned, I think we have a good amount of good news to turn you on! Here's to all the great lines coming up, and hitting retail these next 30 days!