I remember listening to the British philosopher, Alan Watts, describe a method or upaya employed by Buddhist teachers in which while the student is in a state of deep meditation and concentration, trying to find, “what it is”, the teacher, would all of a sudden exclaim, “HAP!” and effectively completely shatter that moment of concentration. Why would he do this? Well the intent is to break that moment to actually bring the student to exactly “what it is” by breaking the separation of the contemplation from the self and allowing the student to actually find that “what it is” is in fact, him!
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Nobu, whom, for the better part of the last two years, has been diligently and successfully focusing his efforts on making Jump a brand of import in Japan. As is typical with Nobu, his email was short and vague. Hahaha. The subject was “new project” and it read simply:
How are you?
I just want to tell you…..
My partner’s “Leonard Mochizuki” will send you e-mail regarding a new project.
Talk you soon,
Shortly thereafter, I did indeed receive an email from a “Leonard Mochizuki” outlining a new venture in Japan. Nobu, Leonard, Ken (whom had already been instrumental in much of our activities in Japan prior) and Mukae San representing a well established Japanese footwear company called Akakura had the intent of opening a Jump flagship in Tokyo and expanding our distribution base throughout the whole of Japan. Reading this, I was not only stunned but deeply excited. Nobu’s email did little to prime me for this you can imagine what Leo’s email did. Within a week, this group, which they incorporated as Five, Inc., representing five members of the group as well as the five elements had made plans to come to New York to see our SoHo store, to develop a further understanding for Jump and for us to meet and to discuss the opportunity. The week following, I found myself face to face with them on Spring St. and Broadway.
The karma was, as John Lennon put it, instant but ours was a very positive one. I quickly found that not only did this group share the very same vision for Jump but they were quite simply the most interesting, eclectic and fun lot of individuals that could’ve possibly taken on this endeavor. This became glaringly evident over espresso martinis and beers at our first meeting at Merc Bar up the street from the store. Here’s Ken, Leo, me and Mukae san.
Apparently they already had secured a two story prime location in Shibuya at an intersection between the Ron Herman store and the trendy Harajuku and already had a strategy to quickly bring Jump to all parts of Japan thru Akakura. Of course, prior to our meeting, while excited, there certainly was a degree of trepidation. This completely dissipated after our initial discussions and I knew these were the guys I wanted to be handling Jump in Japan.
The next day, Nobu arrived and we were all to meet for lunch. For whatever reason, perhaps from Dallas, it’d become customary that we always eat Korean food whenever Nobu and I met but that day he suggested we eat something very American, so I took them to 2nd Ave. Deli for some pastrami. For whatever reason, they told Mukae san to wear a suit while the rest of them wore casual which was actually quite funny.
I soon learned just how hilarious Mukae san was as he tried to engage the pickled tomato in his business attire. Look at Ken all poised for a tomato explosion. Hahahaha!
Following that we had further discussions regarding strategy and their intentions for the store and our expansion into Japan. Soon after it started raining and I suggested we take the meeting to my apartment in Brooklyn.
Where’s Ken? Hahaha. Look closely and you’ll see. Heavily jet lagged, we all thought he was sleeping but every so often when some point would come up in conversation, you’d hear Ken chime in. Haha. As we were finishing our discussion, the rain cleared and from the window you could see a rainbow. I suggested we go to the 38th floor roof to check it out and sure enough…
There it was. A DOUBLE RAINBOW!! It was the first time these gentleman had seen such a thing and they took at as the first of many omens of what would be a successful venture together.
That night I took them to eat what had become an obsession of mine, Artichoke’s Pizza by the Highline which is essentially like a soup on pizza. Hahaha.
After dinner we did a bit of partying in the Meatpacking, beginning at Hogs and Heffers where they got to see American women dancing atop a bar trying to show off their goods. Oh yea, the women were in their 50s. Haaaaaaaaaa! I then took them to Avenue where we met up with my friends Deborah and Charmaine and did a bit of Nonde nonde nonde Nonde nonde nonde Nonde nonde nonde…NONDE! Hahaha.
On their last day, Joy and I thought it was important for them to see how Jump is positioned at Bloomingdale’s and Saks as well as to see all the different shops in New York to further inspire and inform the design for the Tokyo store. It was a long day of much walking, much research and by the end, Ken, president of the Japan Surfing Association, suffering severely from jet lag was asking, OK already, when can we go to Saturday’s Surf!? Hahaha. So to Saturday Surf we went. For our final dinner together we went to Ma Dang Sui in K-Town for some Korean barbecue which they thoroughly enjoyed. The next morning they flew out to what I thought would be back to Japan but what I’d later find out would be to LA and Hawaii for surfing! Ha!
So you’re probably asking why the hell I wrote that whole bit about the Buddhist teacher and the “HAP!” Well this was my “HAP!” The Jump endeavor since it first launched in New York 5 years ago has been a deep meditation into the brand. And through this journey, I’d uncovered a myriad of facets of what a brand could be, how it lives in a world through good economies and bad economies, developing product and ultimately leading to what had become a very introvertially (word?) reflective moment for myself as a propagator (propagandist) of a brand. Though at a certain point, it had become almost rote and procedural, perhaps even cyclical as though I had fallen prey to the sansara, as it were. Who knew that what began as an email from Nobu entitled “new project” would become so apropos as to break me out of that moment of concentration to reinvigorate the very essence of the Jump brand.
As I sit here in my hotel, on what is now the fourth day of my visit to Japan, this “new project” has become a turning point for the brand and for myself and as I share the brand’s 30 years of history with all the amazing individuals dedicating so much effort to the unflagging and uncompromising pursuit of excellence for Jump Tokyo, I’m understanding, exactly “what it is” and that “what it is” is exactly the meaning of Jump. And for this, I am infinitely grateful. Oh yea and Tokyo is fucking awesome, but I’ll get to that in the next post.