I stood still in the middle of Shibuya scramble crossing one spring day when I was 18 years old, the crowd swarming around me in all directions like koi in a pond. J-pop played on the jumbo screen, it was a mix of words I could and couldn’t discern. It felt energetic…like a vortex, some kind of gravitational pull into an unknown planet in the center of some dream-like universe. I have always been a person of extremes; either go really safe or just go wild, quit cold turkey or inhale at once. So for American me to make a decision like this was a life-altering sacrament. I decided: “I’m going to live RIGHT. HERE.”
Well, I never expected this day to come, or that I would ever actually be saying this out loud, but I have lived in Tokyo… for TEN years! I know you all can count, but that’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (!) years in one of the places considered *most* different from the culture I grew up in… (and oh how grateful I am, because I couldn’t have made it this far without lots of support…..) There is so much I have learned in these 10 years, not only about living in Tokyo, but about working in fashion in general.
The thing that anyone who lives in a metropolis can attest, is that people will always come and go. Tokyo is no exception. I have made and “lost” friends who move away more than I can count. Their decisions I cannot protest, to each his own. But I have never had anyone look down upon my decision to stay in Tokyo for so long. Mostly because it wasn’t exactly a conscious decision…it just happened. And it helps that Tokyo is amazing.
It’s been a wonderful ride. People ask me if I will live in Tokyo “forever” and I actually get offended by that question. I mean, I cannot predict the future. Things change. People change. Technology changes, careers change, skills change. I am not currently tied down to Tokyo at all. If I wanted to move I could technically leave tomorrow. I have spent my entire 20s in this metropolis. I do know that if I ever had to depart, Tokyo will come with me as it has shaped me into the person I am, the aesthetics, the attitude, how I react in situations, how I talk, how I think, how I dress, how I judge others, my palette for gourmet, my creativity, my integrity, my relationships, and my outlook.*
Some of my Tokyo work. Photo: Yonehara Kitaro
*If anyone tells you that to “make it in fashion you HAVE to be a bitch” they are trying to sabotage you. This industry is all about using connections and working with other people, and no one wants to work with an asshole. Some of the most successful people I have met around the world are also kind and real. I’ll preach it to the choir.
*No one will steal your shit. If I was living abroad, I would be on my 14th iPhone by now. The perfect city for daydreamers, and people not always paying attention. I was in NYC and had a pair of used Tsumori Chisato heels pilfered from my *bag*. WTF.
*Low fashion crime rate. I often say this, but the reason that subcultures in Tokyo have been able to flourish is because people don’t bother each other about what they are wearing. In the U.S., it seems everyone makes it their own business what strangers are using to cover themselves. GET OUT OF MY GRILL. In Tokyo, you can wear whatever you want and people will leave you the fuck alone. Paradise.
*The fashion industry is HUGE. Everyone says that the industry is so small, which is true to a point… especially in places like NYC and London etc… but Tokyo’s is massive. There are so many segments and subcultures and levels and targets, and considering that the middle class is EXTREMELY fashionable (much more so than in the west), you get a huge mix of insiders/fans/pros *and* wannabes.
*The fashion industry is global but it is not one world. The fashion in Brazil is different from NYC is different from Oslo is different from Singapore. You cannot expect to sell the same ideas in the same way because you cannot meld an entire society to you ideals. Maybe just a handful of people. Japan is one muthereffing *unique* society and its people expect certain things to be laid out in certain ways. If you want to break into this market with a brand, you must compromise. Once you are trusted, the people are very loyal.
Pics by Mami Tanabe
After 10 years I start to reflect on who I am. I get it that many people don’t know who I really am…or WHAT I am. Let’s see some favorites…
-Cafe: Delicatessen at Park Hyatt Shinjuku
-Restaurant: Dazzle at Mikimoto 2 in Ginza or The Molecular Bar at the Mandarin Hotel.
-J-Drama: Miseinen (!!)
-TV show: (old school) Friends. (new school) Game of Thrones & American Horror Story
-Designer: Alexander McQueen
-Muse: Isabella Blow
-Photographer: Tim Walker
-Movie: The Matrix
-Manga: God Child
-Anime: Shojo Kakumei Utena
-Song: Halycyon+on+on by Orbital
-Final Fantasy: VIII (DO NOT ARGUE WITH ME)
-City to visit: Toss up between NYC and Shanghai
-Color: dark purple
-Lunch spot: Nicolai Bergmann
-Karaoke song: “Mercy” by Kanye West & Pink Lady’s “UFO”
-AKB48 member: *PSYCH* don’t have one, sorry…
-Blog: My own.
-Disney Movie: Sleeping Beauty
-Ghibli movie: Spirited Away
-Drink: Dry white wine, like a sharp Viognier
-Motto: Never say Never
*and 7-11’s soft-boiled salted eggs. I love them like a prodigal son.
-レストラン: 銀座のダズル or マンダリンホテルのモラキュラーバー
-日本のドラマ: 未成年 (!!)
-テレビ: 昔のだったら”フレンズ” 最近のだったら”ゲームオブスローンズ”と”アメリカンホラーストーリー”
-デザイナー: アレキサンダー マックイーン
-フォトグラファー : ティムウォーカー
-J-バンド : L’arc~en~ciel
-歌 : Orbitalの Halycyon+on+on
-ファイナルファンタジー: VIII (意見は受け付けません！笑)
-旅行するなら : ニューヨークか上海！決められない！
-色 : ダークパープル
-ランチするなら : ニコライバーグマン
-カラオケ18番 : Kanye Westの”Mercy” とピンクレディーの”UFO”
-AKBメンバー : 申し訳ないけど…いない。
-ブログ : ミーシャのブログ
-ジブリ映画 : 千と千尋の神隠し
-ドリンク: 辛口白ワイン, ヴィオニエ
-モットー : 絶対に諦めない
Thanks to all the people who have come and stayed or come and gone… thanks to all for coming into my life, for accompanying me to events, clubs, birthdays, wedding, births, tragedies, picnics, travel and many more.
4 replies on “東京へ来て１０年が立つ頃に伝いたい気持ち 10 years in Tokyo, a thank you and a look back”
Congratulations Misha! There is a lot I can relate to here, although I will have to dispute this FFVIII business to my dying breath… But I will confess to having a complete (and very, very rare) set of the silver jewelry…
Anyway, congratulations once again and I look forward to seeing what the next 10 years yield.
BABEEEEEEEEEE!! I can’t believe it has been 10 years!!!!!! I’m so happy to even find photos of me in your collage…I have never met anyone who has worked as hard as you and you deserve everything that you have achieved. Rooming with you in Vegas was so much fun and I will never forget the memories that we made. I hope that tho I am no longer in Tokyo, we will still see each other somehow in the future, maybe when Zooey is all grown up! Don’t ever give up!!!! love you long time. xoxo m
Lovely <3 so happy and lucky to be a part of your time here in Japan! Love you!
Thank you for sharing this, Misha! It’s wonderful to read about how much you’ve been through and how much you’ve grown. Not only that, I saw some of your older pictures and you look somewhat different back then. I like your current style better and you look prettier in my opinion.
Japan IS a fascinating place, I’m so glad you’ve chosen to stay there. I hope that you’ll continue to love what you do and do what you love.