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Cloud Cuckoo Land: Deus Ex Machina x Ornamental Conifer, Tokyo MEGAPOST

Somehow it's already well over a month since I flew out to Japan with Bonzorro and Brink for the Mooneyes Hot Rod Custom Show and Brat Style Okie Dokie flat track race. God only know where the time goes. I might not even bother putting Christmas decorations back in the loft because it only seems like two minutes before I'm up the stepladder again to fetch them.

There will be a big feature from Japan in the next magazine, SB36, and, hopefully, more blogs from the Japan trip along the way too, but this is a good self-contained megapost that I wanted to share.

I met Bonzorro and Brink at Heathrow. They were already well into the Bloody Marys at 9am.

Bonzorro didn't stop drinking until he passed out. Here he is toasting the first of eight mini bottles.

The outbound plane was a third full. Joy!

I got some work done over Siberia...

Then watched a film or two.

12 or 13 hours after leaving London Bonzorro awoke telling Brink and I that this was the only way to do it: drink till comatose. He then started talking about wanting to hit the streets of Tokyo for Boss coffee and 'eye crack'.

Flying east meant we left on Thursday and landed early Friday morning. Our friend, Nico, aka Ornamental Conifer, had held an art show opening at Deus Ex Machina's shop in Tokyo the night before, and we'd arranged to meet him before he flew home to California. A failure of planning on his behalf meant he'd miss the Mooneyes show.

By the time we'd jumped in a cab at Haneda airport we were already in touch with Co-Built Geoff and Julian Heppekausen, who'd also flown in from California, but arrived the day before. I was sharing a room with Geoff, for budget purposes, so we met at Brink's landmark hotel, dropped bags at our far less opulent but adequate digs and hit the streets. It wasn't even 9.30am.

We were staying in Shibuya, apparently an expensive place to stay, but affordable if you're willing to stay in the room the size of a rabbit hutch with a welder/fabricator of your choice. Bonzorro and Brink knew the area and we walked the mixed residential/retail streets. Bonzorro ducked into a minimarket and emerged with his eye crack. It turns out to be some kind of menthol eye drops of varying strength. A couple of drips and your eyes stream with tears as you wonder why you let him pour an unknown substance in your most precious of organs, then the mist clears and everything seems brighter and you are more alert (but the 'high' only last so long, hence the name).

I have visited Japan once before, 15 years ago, and it was good to be back. There are interesting things that make it different to many other destinations, small things to notice like the lack of litter bins. Apparently, the local leave home with a little rubbish bag and collect their day's detritus to carry home. Awkward for the visitor who doesn't have their own bag and doesn't want to litter.

It was good to see fresh takes on familiar things. Like this motorcycle parking area with its own locks. They wouldn't see off a London thief, nowadays armed with cordless angle grinders, but it was a nice civic touch in a very civilised country (civilised if you ignore the whale hunting, but let's not start throwing stones from our glasshouse).

This drinks machine caught my eye. This is the kind of thing that sells Boss coffee, another Bonzorro favourite. It's a can of coffee that comes out hot or cold depending on your choice. It would probably have baristas threatening self-immolation, but I'm not choosy when it comes to coffee and quite liked it.

Then there was this almost impossible wedge building, that looks like the serving hatch opens to nothing with the server stood on a pile of shipping pallets. It didn't.

Isolated shops sat next to residential like it does in some of my favourite cities. The shops themselves had different tenants on different floors. Like the one in the photo above that has a bicycle shop on the top floor, but two different businesses below.

Residential garages opened straight onto the pavement/sidewalk and were examples of maximum packaging for a given square footage.

The street style was wonderful. I could've taken hundreds more photos of shop fronts, signs and delivery vans, but I refrained.

One thing that was clear is the absolute dearth of bikes on Tokyo's streets, fewer than lat time I went and even then that was less than I imagined. There probably isn't even a tenth of the bikes that there are on London's streets on a weekday, a very mild December weekday. If we thought there was a new blood biking crisis in Western Europe it seems nothing compared to Japan. This 1970s Yam DT250 was a treat though.

Then there was this quirky thing. What looked to be a Honda engine, perhaps a Chinese copy, made to look something like a 1920s Indian (if I had to guess).

We bumped into Nico briefly before he went for a meeting, then arranged to see him back at Deus for drinks later. So we went for interim drinks at Captain's Helm, a outdoor lifestyle/clothes shop/with a bit of bike stuff and a bar in the corner. It looks like Geoff has had too much eye crack and not enough Boss Coffee by this point. Despite being December in Japan, it was warm enough to sit outside in T-shirts drinking beer.

After prune ramen (really), we headed back to Deus.

By now I'd been awake for 24 hours (having not slept on the plane) and the drinks kept coming.

Nico and his wife Stef were back. Nico and I recreated one of his paintings (badly).

I've now been to three of the Deus flagship stores and adore them. Tokyo, though smaller than both Milan and Venice, CA stores, was a treat. It's spread over three floors and a mezzanine. A bar, gallery, event space is in the cellar; cafe and bar on first floor; motorcycle workshop, more tables and toilets on mezzanine; retail floor on top.

In addition to Nico's new blurred work, there were remnants of previous shows by...

Former Sideburn cover star Stevie Gee (SB15).

And the recently blogged about Paul McNeil. That's his furry wave behind Deus's superstar barista.

A bunch of folks from Mexico via Hong Kong turned up dressed identically, looking like Lee Van Cleef from the Good, the Bad and The Ugly, but I forgot to take a photo. Then a huge El Solitario crew arrived. We headed off for octopus ball street food, then to a Portland themed bar, then another art show of one of the originators of street graffiti, then some sushi, by which point I was dead on my feet. It was going to be a long week...

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