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Infiniti Brand Journey: Kyoto

Néojapnisme Infiniti

The original idea was to blog our activities on this two-week German-language road trip around Japan with relative frequency, but with twelve-hour shoots and a mild head cold, I have found little time to recap the day in WordPress form.

Everything has changed, however, thanks to the power of technology. We are currently somewhere between Aichi and Shizuoka Prefectures, connecting to the internet through a wireless router in our “location bus,” which I am pretty sure is not an English word. The only highlight of nighttime highway driving is the odd conglomerations of love hotels in remote areas, but when waiting for those, I can now look up production notes on late 1980s R.E.M. albums via Wikipedia.

We sadly just left Kyoto where we filmed Mizra Jeans and some of their favorite local craftsmen. Just hours ago we watched a Japanese indigo dyer open up a big vat of fermenting indigo and drop in some silk on bamboo sticks. The goop is a brown-green, and it delivers a putrid-looking earth tone to the yarn, but in a magic moment of oxidization, this color suddenly explodes into electric blue. Japanese indigo in this organic old-fashioned fermented style is only practiced by 4-5 places in Japan, but can provide a unique and rich blue that essentially never fades. An experimental batch of jeans made with this real Japanese indigo worn by the master dyer looked brand new even after heavy usage, but unfortunately these would retail at ¥100,000.

Mizra Jeans’ clothing uses a lot of these old-school processing techniques: charcoal dyeing, etc. Everytime I get to meet designers from these small, detail-obsessed Japanese labels, I am reminded how little the garments themselves are able to explicitly say about their production process. Maybe it’s a chore to have to study up on every T-shirt purchase but it’s likely that delving deeper into the manufacturing history will accompany a post-materialist future. This doesn’t just meant production ethics but just no longer taking the miraculous birth of a complicated product for granted.

A lot of time in Kyoto was also spent doing very “Kyoto”-things, including driving an Infiniti up to the top of Kiyomizudera, which we are likely the first and last people to ever attempt. I personally got to drive around the scenic backstreets of Gion as well as do loops around Heian Jinja. I picked up some super cheap Hemingway in Book Off on Sanjo. We had a nice meal last night at Sarasa Mange — one of many old Kyoto establishments refurbished into trendy cafes, as an alternative to being completely demolished.

Heading to Hakone at the moment to film two ryokan over three days. While ryokan impressarios are not exactly “craftsmen,” there are a few similarities that we can discuss at a later time. I also have a feeling that we will be enjoying one of the great national pastimes of the Japanese people: the Gotemba outlet mall.

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W. David MARX
May 18, 2010

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

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