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…