It’s been 12 years since I first set foot in Japan. So, when Cool Hunting asked me to make a limited edition product for their upcoming Japan travel experience, I was ecstatic. But, while the opportunity is a large part of it, I’m also excited to return to somewhere so close to my heart—somewhere I try to replicate in everything I do.
It all began when my college roommate asked me to tag along with him on a trip to visit his parents in Tokyo. He’d been telling me for years how everything was better in Japan—from tomatoes to textiles—and now I was going to find out first-hand. We spent weeks taking trains from one corner of the country to the other. I was impressed by the people and the sites, traditions, food and hospitality they hold dearly throughout the country. But there’s one memory that stands out to me more than any other: I recall walking through the busy Shinjuku Station late one evening shortly after the crowds had died down. There, on their hands and knees with a small toothbrush-like tool was a worker reverently cleaning the tile grout—a seemingly endless stretch of tile. To put it into perspective, Shinjuku Station averages 3.5 million visitors daily, while NYC’s Grand Central averages only 750,000. I couldn’t believe the amount of care going into such a task—little did I know that this sort of dedication abounds in Japan.
I spent the better part of last month traveling throughout Japan, dually taking it all in and working on our collaboration with Cool Hunting. Before flying to Tokyo, I wondered if my memory of Japan had become exaggerated, an idyllic recollection that differed from reality. But upon arrival, I was quickly reminded of Japan’s greatness; it was even better than I had remembered: the kindness of its population, the rich history, the tireless hospitality, and the incredible food. But a familiar scene is what truly stopped me in my tracks: workers, on the grounds of Kinkaku-ji, wearing hair nets and uniforms, on their hands and knees, weeding with great reverence. It brought me back to that moment in Shinjuku Station 12 years earlier when I began to understand, in a profound way, what Japanese culture means to both me and my work.
More to come:
Admittedly, my recent trip to Japan was jam-packed with meetings, production visits and photoshoots. The only moment of rest was the visit to the grounds of Kinkaku-ji. Even then, my crew (who had worked non-stop for 10 days) were hard at work: from taking pictures to analyzing how Japan presents itself in our products.
Because of the work we’re doing with Cool Hunting, I’ve been invited to join founders Josh and Evan on their upcoming 10-day travel experience in Japan. There, they’ll be doing what they do best: not just showing us what the world sees in Japan, but taking us to see the true DNA of the nation. So while they like surprises and I'm not totally sure what they have in store, I look forward to a trip filled with what I prize most in Japan: the unmatched dedication of its people, the meticulous nature of the society, and the time they afford for silence and moments of meditation. As evidenced by Cool Hunting’s exceptional publication and curated products, it’s going to be an incredible adventure. Follow my personal instagram account (@curt.mc) to see what Cool Hunting has in store for me. Back home, my Anson Calder team will be posting a more condensed version of what I’m loving in Japan—so stay tuned.