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HF Forever Forever HF


I’ve got no specific, personal beef with Hiroshi Fujiwara — the man ultimately responsible for bringing A Bathing Ape, Undercover, Head Porter, Goodenough, AFFA, Visvim, Soph., Base Station, Neighborhood, Sarcastic, Real Mad Hectic, Original Fake, Visvim, and Bounty Hunter into this world and ushering in the Golden Age of Underground Crossover in the 1990s. He has been rewarded handsomely for his promotions and innovations of Japanese consumer culture over the years, and everyone now concedes that the man is the coolest Japanese person to ever walk the Earth. I do not contest the general conclusions of that assessment.

Seeing his face on the cover of Tokion in June 2007, however, has a very clear subtext:This hazily-defined, yet specific cultural enterprise in which many of us are actively or passively invested has succumbed to total and utter contraction. Terminal decline! Messages and dialogue now depend on a constant stream of flashbacks stuck somewhere between nostalgia and amnesia. Hiroshi Fujiwara is only on the cover, because They/We have yet to find a modern day replacement.

Tokion knows fully well that there is nothing new to say about HF unless somebody suddenly decided after all these years to pry open the Pandora’s Box and start asking the hard questions about the mechanics behind his success. (For example, is nobody interested in pointing out the contradiction of a master capitalist and friend to wrestling dons un-ironically displaying portraits of Marx and Engels in his studio?) But no, HF’s the same-old tight-lipped magician — never betraying his fellow practitioners by revealing the nature of his marketing tricks. Unlike Nigo — the once Cornelius clone with Buddy Holly glasses who underwent a complete tenkō conversion into the Church of Hip Hop over the last six years — HF remains the same old mysterious HF. There is something comforting, however, in the dependability of his enigmatic existence. The only thing new about HF at this juncture is that intentionally-unglamorous thing on his nose — which would have kids lining up at pharmacies if “kids” still did that kind of thing.1

Now I don’t blame Mr. Fujiwara for being on the cover. He’s not asking for more press — he’s just the target of the aimless media machine. The problems lie deep within the anachronistic cultural rules that still guide the hands of editors and other gatekeepers. We continue to live in the shadows of living giants like Fujiwara, and their massive and manifold successes set an impossible standard for new-found stardom. There is no new Hiroshi Fujiwara, and there will be no new Hiroshi Fujiwara. No one will ever pilot independent underground street clothing into a massive empire and a penthouse in Roppongi Hills again. Nike is not flying the head of FatYo! around in the corporate jet. So while everyone is waiting for the new Hiroshi Fujiwara, they have no choice but to put the actual Hiroshi Fujiwara #1 on the cover.

And you can’t just abandon Hiroshi Fujiwara, because he is currently the only living-and-breathing relic of the dream still integral to the foundations of the Tokion Weltanschauung — that historic-specific delusion that somehow niche tastes and DIY can cross over to mainstream success and fame. But at what point does Fujiwara cease to be a role model and start mutating into a symbol of cultural oppression from history’s past. I remember seeing “Kill Your Idols” on a t-shirt from one of the myriad brands in his orbit, but no one is actually reading the text: HF is the least likely icon to die of regicide.

1 On Saturday, I passed by the Ice Cream/BBC store in Harajuku, and about 15-20 kids were lined up. How many people were they letting into the store at a time? 1. One! And you wonder why it looks like there is a line outside…

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

24 Responses

  1. Carl Says:

    In fairness, didn’t the Rolling Stones play the Super Bowl last year? If the Boomers can have an eternal recurrence, why can’t the Gen-X Japanese?

  2. marxy Says:

    Is Tokion Japan a “retro mag” for those in their 30s or a vanguard for up-and-coming talent? There’s where the confusion lies. I think it wants to be the latter and in that case, yeah, it’s the Rolling Stones.

  3. Mulboyne Says:

    Marxy wrote: “No one on earth thinks that the Rolling Stones are the coolest band ever.”

    “T-Sides is going old school today. They have some timeless Rolling Stones tracks posted, so head over there now if you’re in the mood for some classic rock by the coolest band ever.”

  4. marxy Says:

    Nice. You commented on something I wrote before I edited it.

  5. Mulboyne Says:

    My doorbell went while I was mid cut-and-paste. I intended to ignore it assuming it was the NHK man. Then I remembered I’m in a hotel room and it was my dry cleaning.

  6. neogeisha Says:

    can somebody explain the thing on his nose?

  7. Chris_B Says:

    its an anti snoring strip.

  8. Adamu Says:

    some sort of attempt at nelly style?

  9. trevor Says:

    it’s a breath right strip. its popular among sports people (mainly american football). it sticks to your nose, but has a stiff bar in it. that want to keep it flat. so it in theory pulls out that part of your nose. increasing the amount of air your nose can pull in. the theory continues that its suppost to help you from “gasing” (start huffing and puffing). why he’s wearing one? no idea. style has no law, it just waits for someone to say its cool. my guess would be, since its a sports thing (though designed as a anti-snoring thing).. it would show that he’s a player.. get it?

    nellly wears a band-aide on his face to represent that he is broken, because his brother is in jail, or was killed. something like that.

  10. michael Says:

    reminds me of morrissey when he wore a hearing aid. tres chic.

    the contradiction of marx and engels on the wall–kind of like slavishly making marxist observations and then crossing over to doing it for a corporation. it happens.

  11. N Says:

    The Marx picture was a gift to him from Michael Koppelman (Gimme 5, UK) – as noted in a recent interview of Street Wear Today. Its a nod to HF’s McLaren/Westwood/Sedittionaires passion/collection, as they used Marx on a few of their shirts.

  12. marxy Says:

    “the contradiction of marx and engels on the wall–kind of like slavishly making marxist observations and then crossing over to doing it for a corporation. it happens.”


  13. marxy Says:

    “Its a nod to HF’s McLaren/Westwood/Sedittionaires passion/collection, as they used Marx on a few of their shirts.”

    I like that both Marx and Nazi swastikas are “punk rock.”

  14. clh Says:

    again, i m amazed to see which words get adapted into English.

  15. marxy Says:

    I think I am abusing it. Ich bin nicht down mit die proper usage.

  16. statiq Says:

    I don’t thin you are.

    I also use it that way (but in french sentences)

  17. car Says:

    he uses the strip on the nose for biking. he is a fix gear bike maniac

  18. Aceface Says:

    And here we are back at the fixie topic again..

  19. pts Says:

    God, of course he is a fixie rider.

    I find the connecting between indie elitism and this somewhat rarified form of cycling utterly inexplicable, and more than a little infuriating.

  20. pts Says:

    and by “the connecting” I of course mean “the connection.” Sigh.

  21. Aceface Says:

    I just found out that there are no Japanese wiki entry for HF.
    Could this means:
    a)Because HF is such a man for all seasons,you just can’t define the man in a few terms.
    b)Because HF is so 1992,wiki generation have little or no interest to the outdated pop icon.
    c)Because HF is the guru of cool and not the king of geek,wikipedians had no idea who he is or how grand the man is.
    d)Because HF looks so resembled to NIGO that people thought the two are actually the same individual thus felt no need for new entry.

    I take c).

  22. marxy Says:

    “I just found out that there are no Japanese wiki entry for HF.”

    I found this odd too. My guess is that 1) he is a “fixer” and not a star. 2) He has never been an Internet star and 3) Details about his background and financial situation are murky at best.

  23. Brown Says:

    Sounds like a job for a certain non-native-speaker-of-Japanese blogger, I’d say!

  24. Aceface Says:

    “His back ground and financial situation are murky at best”

    and I was always wondering how can he hang around KyonKyon simply putting addidas without shoe lace.
    I knew I could do that!