Sunday, April 22, 2007


Kiyoka progresses nicely on the Hedoran vinyl. Every one of these toys gets hand-painted by the Gargamel staff.

We get a lot of insight into the toy production process at Gargamel. Pictured here are some sculpts in progress, plus a finished sculpt for the mini Smogun figure. As you can see, from clay sculpture to the final toy, shrinkage happens. Kiyoka has to consider this when adding the fine details. A versatile master sculptor, Kiyoka acutally cut his teeth sculpting silver jewelry.

The gang at Gargamel. After the shoot, the fellas brought out some Japanese cakes. We ate and chatted while listening to death metal. Good times and a tremendous bunch of people!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


So far we'd hung out with some amazing toy and fashion designers, but it wasn't until we hit up the Gargamel boutique and behind-the-scenes workshop that we got a taste of what it means to hand craft a Japanese vinyl toy!
Insanely talented sculptor and equally nice guy Kiyoka Ikeda sculpted and painted in front of the camera. Our whole crew just sort of stared in awe during the process.
Here's Kiyoka smiling and laughing as he paints the recently sold out run of camo Hedorans.

Monday, April 9, 2007


Balzac's Hirosuke and Akio, and toypunks' Justin Kovalsky arrive at Three Tides Tattoo where the good times continue...

But first, we spot this amazing Three Tides sign made byTokyo-based sign painter, Nuts. Nuts has mastered the craft of traditional American sign painting and pushed it to the level of fine art.

Inside, we talk with Masa, owner of Three Tides and a genuinely cool guy. The shop is meticulous and overflowing with quality work. It becomes clear in moments that Masa is the soul of the operation. In addition to Three Tides, he also owns Trigger, an upcoming Osaka brand that's putting out sick art decks and clothing from the likes of Mike Giant and Usugrow. Keep your eyes out for a shirt collaboration that Masa has coming with BXH in the near future, too!

On the first floor, there's a spacious gallery housing dope paintings.
Back upstairs, Three Tides tattooer Mutsuo shows us his own sleeve. Mutsuo is super talented; he's also Akio from Balzac's artist of choice.

Vinyl inspiration! Bounty Hunter toys line the shelves in Mutsuo's work area.

Meanwhile, we talk more with Akio (below) about his history with tattoos and his own clothing sublabel through Balzac called Culture...

Here's a quick video still of Masa's right hand man, Ussun, as he shows off some wild Microman work. Ussun is also good friend of Secret Base's Hiddy and he's got the passion for toys and comedy to prove it!

All in all, Osaka was an eye-opening experience. The city felt a bit more gritty than Tokyo and it boasts a wellspring of killer creativity. Due to a tight filming schedule, we had only a day to spare for Japan's second largest city. We realize that we barely scratched the surface, so next time we're building in more time! Most of all, it was fascinating to uncover the deep connections and distinct differences between the Osaka and Tokyo creators we'd interviewed so far. Osaka is aces. Thanks a lot to everyone from Shocker, Balzac and Three Tides Tattoo!

Masa also hooked up some fresh shop t-shirts illustrated by Chris Garver. Before Miami Ink-ed stardom, Garver spent six months working at Three Tides with Masa and crew.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


One of the highlights of our Japan journey was a day trip to Osaka from Tokyo. To get the shoot rolling, we took an early bullet train to meet ill punk band Balzac at their boutique, Shocker, located in the heart of Osaka. Balzac is amazing because they're not only wildly prolific musically, they create a host of extraordinary fashion items and toys tied to their evolved horror film-meets-punk aesthetic. Here's a video still from our interview. From left to right, meet the band: Atsushi Nakagawa (guitar), Akio Imai (bass), Hirosuke Nishiyama(vocals) and Takayuki Manabe (drums). Balzac is radness personified and if you have the chance to see them live, don't waste the opportunity! They have a couple of solid releases available from Misfits records in the US, too.

Inside a lit glass case at Shocker, Balzac houses items that are inspirational to them. A sketch for a painting by master artist Suehiro Maruo sits next to a bass guitar given to Balzac by the Misfits.

From clothing to records and a plethora of insane vinyl toys, Balzac has been dropping the fresh goods since 1992 when the band began. Balzac's members all contribute design and product ideas. In the year 2000, Shocker opened its doors catering to fans of the group's music and punk fashion.

The Skullman toys in the picture below are ultra rare and absolutely stunning--from the well-defined sculpt to the pristinely clear Japanese vinyl. Balzac's Skullman mascot was designed by Hirosuke.

These posters were all over Tokyo record stores promoting Balzac's new CD box set...

After the interview, we begin the stroll to Three Tides Tattoo which is only several blocks from Shocker. On the way, toypunks' Carl and Hirosuke talk about music and art in Osaka.
Balzac bassist Akio's super sick sleeves are pictured here--one side in neutral blacks and grays, and the other in full color. Akio gets most of his work done by an Osaka-based artist named Mutsuo who tattoos at Three Tides. Next stop: THREE TIDES TATTOO!