And So We Went - part one - JAPAN

The past three months have consisted of the most interesting projects that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of. Spending time in some of the most beautiful parts of the world while travelling with the most motivating people that I am lucky enough to call friends has left the strongest feeling of contentment and a burning sense of adventure. Similar to most things in life in recent times, it all started with a message on facebook. 

I was going to be spending the next three weeks collaborating on a new film with my good friend and casually brilliant artist, Art by Eoin. Eoin was undertaking a new light based photography project that was going to have us happily between the contrasting neon cityscape and lush landscape of Japan. During my time in Japan, I also had the opportunity to document the curious body of artists that is 9th Wave Gallery

On landing, my jetlagged eyes met the computerized voice and face that had flown us to this bright and beautiful city. Jay Celat, the man behind 9th Wave Gallery, stuck out from the sea of Japanese people while strolling casually through the airport. Sunglasses, t-shirt, board shorts and a pair of flip flops - he was quite easy to spot. Another of the 9th Wave Gallery artists, the talented Patrick Parker, flew in shortly after us and we made our way to our Japanese home. The 9th Wave artists were flying in for the Tokyo Arts Fair, a two day international event showcasing artists from all around the world.

I woke, repeatedly, the next morning to the views of the thin sliding partitions that my mind had always pictured when imagining Japan. The house consisted of too many doors and low ceilings that some of the taller artists could never quite get accustomed to. The sound of a bang and a shout was as frequent as the yawns that flowed throughout the house. We went for dinner that night and got our first real glimpse of the hectic video game of a city. Walking along the river, jetlag still strong but the feeling of wonder nicely taking preference it finally hit that we were embarking on a dam nice project. 

The following morning Jay got a call from a friend of his in Shonan, a small town about 40 minutes drive from Tokyo, saying that the waves were good and to come down. In all my planning for this project never once did I take into consideration that I would get time to surf in Japan. This was pretty much giving my sixteen year old self a high five. We spent the next two days by the sea with the welcoming Eri, getting to see a much different side to Japan. I was instantly overwhelmed by the surf culture in Shonan. The streets were filled with bikes with board racks. The sea, even at a not so inviting two foot, was packed with an army of retro boards and the most stylish custom wetsuits I have seen. My sun cream covered face was greeted with pleasant smiles as I paddled out saying hello to everyone along the way.  From the water, on the right day, you see Mt. Fuji looming above the clouds. A strong element that both Eoin and I wanted to get across in our film was the harsh contrast between city and country. After just a couple of days in Japan we were already seeing the beautiful differences.

The following few days the rest of the 9th Wave artists arrived and were getting ready for the show. Spending time with people who have made a career from their passions is refreshing. Always a unique and interesting tale of bumpy roads told with a content smile.  

We wrapped the arts fair and were in search of a wall at a skatepark that Eoin had prepared to paint. Google maps was not our friend in this country and on this particular day a one hour drive turned into an eight hour drive with no wall found at the end. The roads in Japan were like nothing I have ever seen. You drive into an eight story over pass and just have to smile. We called it a day and headed to the sea to visit another 9th wave artist – the interestingly energetic Ben Wai. Our over driven heads poured out of the rental car to be greeted with the most perfect canvas that Eoin could have asked for. Eoin produces his work in some of the most intriguing places that I have ever seen and this time spent with him was no different. Like everything in life, our eight-hour time in the maze had been for a reason. We had dinner with Ben and his wife and spent the night creeping around a disused building. Meeting Ben Wei was one of my many highlights in Japan. Surfboard shaper, musician, WSL presenter and all round nice guy, he created some of the most memorable moments on this project. On walking into his house and seeing a range of synthesizers lying around the floor, I quickly realized that we would probably get along.

We spent the next few days surfing and shooting around Chiba, another small surf town, before going back to the city for the next part of filming and to say goodbye to some of the 9th wave artists. The sharp contrast within a short train ride in this country is eye opening. Minimalistic rice filled countryside casually blends into the flickering neon lights of Tokyo. This was the first part of the project that we really had time to explore the city. First stop – technology district.  My glaring eyes were pleasantly met with lights, crowds and waitresses while the sound of distorted music spilled from every similar shop.  My favorite quote from Eoin on this particular evening was, “Jimbo, check out the guy walking the duck”.  Just before making our way to another part of the city we stopped by an arcade. A multi coloured flickering room filled with zombiesque people and an ear piercing sound that oozed from the pachinco machines. 

We were busy getting interviews for the 9th wave documentary with one of the final ones being with the talented photographer, Eddie Miyoshi. Eddie is the president of Volcom Japan, a brand that works with one of 9th Waves most interesting artists – Drew Toonz

 

After a few days in the city we were happy to be walking around the temple filled town of Kamakura, a small town steeped in history and wonder located near the coast. Saturated in temples, tori gates and culture it was exactly the kind of place that we had been looking for. We spent the night under the stars for what was a game changing shoot for everyone. We said goodbye to the talented Brian and both Eoin and I changed accommodation-moving closer into the centre of Tokyo. From my time in this country I got to see and hear about a range of accommodation types. My favourite being the capsule hotels – rooms just big enough for people to lie in and then close the door behind them. They are exactly what I picture when I think of sleeping quarters in space. Welcome to the squashed and cramped future of busy over worked cities.

The next few shoots were night shoots in Chiba. We would take the train out to the coast in the evening, shoot all night and then get the train back to Tokyo the following morning. The sun would come up so fast that it was always a struggle to get everything finished with content before the light would break. It was an interesting flip from normal exterior shooting situations.

One of the most beautiful night shoots that we did was Eoin’s homage to another 9th wave artist, Clark Takashima. I heard nothing but the most interesting and inspiring stories spoken passionately about Clark from Patrick, Jay and Eoin. Please take the time to look at some of Clarks work here.

Working closely with Jay and Eoin on the night shoots was some of the most fun that I have had shooting. We were driving the coastline searching for locations. Other then finding our fair share of 7/11 sushi and coffee and getting lost repeatedly on our favourite roads, it lead to some of the most beautiful places I could have ever imagined. We would abandon the car and make for the sea. Jay would scout ahead in the darkness while Eoin and I shot. He would return with the biggest grin on his face at what was lying around the corner. We ended the project with a bang - we shot some fireworks into a cave while watching the night sky break into the enchanting purples of early morning. 

 

Three weeks in Japan didn’t even scratch the surface of this eye opening country. A return trip is already safely lodged in my head. A teaser for our 9th Wave Gallery Japan documentary will be going live within the next number of weeks, at the moment I have a few more photos from our project here.