There's a denim brand in Japan that has no store. Rather, it sells its jeans out of a traveling RV. The co-founders of the venture are brothers Yohei Yamawaki (age 25) and Shunsuke Shimada (age 23), whose mission is to share the craftsmanship of little-known denim artisans with customers around the nation. By connecting denim factories with enthusiastic consumers via face-to-face sales, they hope to preserve the skills and techniques of factories that have elevated "Japan quality" around the world.
Becoming the "Bridge"
During his college years at Okayama University, younger brother Shunsuke visited numerous denim factories in Okayama prefecture, a region famous for its denim production. During those visits, he marveled at their artistry, while also learning the reality of the Japanese apparel industry, which does little to recognize the behind-the-scenes work. A devoted jeans-wearer since childhood, Shunsuke recruited his older brother Yohei and launched a website featuring the works of these craftspeople. Quickly feeling the pull to do more, the two launched their own brand to act as a go-between for skilled makers with a love for their crafts.
Connecting Person to Person
In the beginning, the brothers held in-person events in which they shared the products and stories behind the jeans directly with customers. Soon, they realized they had to take their shop on the road, if they wanted to reach more people. They now travel and open up shop all over the country, sharing the works of artisans with those they meet. Another goal of theirs is to collaborate with craftspeople in the regions they visit, coming up with innovative product ideas not ordinarily associated with denim. Tune in to see how the brothers, traveling around Japan in a used RV, are spreading the word about Japanese artistry and craftsmanship.
Harry reports from the JAPAN GENKI (Energize Japan) Project, an event produced by fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto for the purpose of energizing those areas – namely the Tohoku region and Kumamoto Prefecture - that have experienced devastation due to earthquakes. Catch the designer's latest runway show, as well as an exciting array of traditional Japanese performances. The house is brought down in this heart-pumping event, in which Harry also appears as a runway model.
Designers with an Eye on Fun, Girly Fashion
Are you familiar with that figure standing behind Harry?
He's Domo, the NHK World mascot! He's an interesting fellow, born from an egg and now a huge TV-lover, we hear. If you visit NHK, a giant three-meter Domo awaits you in the garden!
Harry appears with Domo regularly on a domestic TV program, and apparently, he's not actually that big.
Yohei Yamawaki is one of the two brothers featured in this episode. We thought his painted nails were a fashion statement of some sort, but it turns out it's dye from their denim production process! It's proof of his dedication to the work.
Featured in our Hot Picks! segment is the "Nippon Genki Project", held at an outdoor stage in Roppongi. Upon entering the venue, I ran right into Kumamon, the ultra-popular mascot from the prefecture of Kumamoto. He's loved around Japan, but why is here today?
He's participating in the event in an effort to spread the word and help bring joy to people around Japan who are still trying to rebuild their lives after two devastating earthquakes in recent years, the 2011 disaster in the Tohoku region, and the 2016 quake in Kumamoto Prefecture. Go Kumamon!
Harry was up on stage during the fashion show, screaming into the microphone as part of a performance. That's something you don't get to see on the program! The venue was on fire!
Legendary Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto is the executive producer of this extravaganza. He was kind enough to answer a few questions right before the show began. We were blown away by his endless energy, which he shares with all of his performers and the audience, with more to spare! Phew!