89 Keita Maruyama(Fashion Designer)

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Since launching a brand named after himself, fashion designer Keita Maruyama has been at the forefront of his profession for more than 20 years. Maruyama is from Shibuya, and he told us that while growing up, he learned many things visiting the neighboring area of Roppongi. We asked him about his memories of Roppongi and what he thinks can be done to make Roppongi an appealing place for the younger generation who will bear the future.

update_2018.2.7 / photo_mariko tagashira / text_ikuko hyodo

The uneasiness of talking about individuality

People talk a lot about individuality, but I don't know what the fuss about. Individuality just means that every person is different. Each one of us is made up of different cells, and everyone living is individualistic. Individualistic doesn't mean you have something prominent. Society is simply a gathering of individuals.

Out of the necessities of food, clothing and housing, perhaps we can express ourselves most easily through what we wear. But I don't agree with people who say, "Be individualist in fashion"; I don't have that concept at all. I think that it's individualistic to want to be yourself by wearing different clothes from other people and that it's just as individualistic to want to blend in with the crowd. Some people feel comfortable wearing uniforms, and of course, some people don't care about fashion. I think society is interesting because there are all kinds of people.

In Japan, it's considered a good thing to adjust yourself to a certain extent to other people. This notion itself is very individualistic; it's a pity that some people feel it's an inferior custom and can't take advantage of it. In short, the Japanese tend to think in stereotypes - they think that "individualistic" means certain things and they ought to be doing those things. Hiding your individuality is really an individualistic act, but the Japanese don't think that it is. The Japanese otaku culture is highly appreciated abroad by fans who think with awe, "We wouldn't be able come up with such ideas"; the otaku are regarded as being very individualistic. But for some reason, the Japanese think negatively of otaku, which is a pity. Anything that doesn't fit the stereotype of the ideal is not recognized.

Society is made up of people who fit the ideal image, and those who don't; in a country where this notion is prevalent, I'm sure people would find it uncomfortable talking about the subject of individuality. I wish that the way the Japanese people think will change. It's only natural that everyone is different, so there's no need to bother pursuing that. Basically, we should be free to be anything.

Acting grownup when visiting Roppongi

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An Italian restaurant that opened in 1960 in Azabudai 3 chome. The establishment had a relaxed and sophisticated atmosphere like that of a European salon which was rare in Japan at that time, and it drew many intellectuals, artists and celebrities. During the bubble era, the restaurant became a symbol of the glamourous life, and the word "Chianti-zoku" (Chianti-tribe) became popular.

Square Building

A 10-storey building with two basement floors which housed numerous discos, and which was a symbolic Roppongi landmark of the bubble era. Almost all of its floors were occupied by discos such as Nepenta, Giza, Xanadu, and Castel. It had a famous glass-paneled elevator. The building was demolished in 2007 and the site has become a car park.

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A café and cake shop that opened near the Roppongi crossing in 1964. It temporarily closed due to the renovation of the building, and re-opened in the same place in December 2010.

I was born in 1965 in Shibuya ward's Jingumae in Shibuya. I'm of the generation that adored the 70s Roppongi culture and the adult atmosphere of the streets. I began visiting Roppongi to have fun when I was in the first year of senior high school. It was in the early 80s and Roppongi was a place where I would try hard to act grownup. I admired the adults who gathered at Chianti. A little later, there was a big fad when girls wore long, one-length hairstyles and dressed in tight-fitting clothes. (laughs) I guess that young people now don't know about Square building. Roppongi in those days was filled with tremendous energy - I almost feel sorry for the people who haven't experienced that time. You would try to hail a taxi but the taxis wouldn't stop. Boys needed to own a car if they wanted to get the serious attention of the girls. Later on, the club culture shifted to Nishi-Azabu and then to Harajuku, but since it was my starting point, Roppongi for me, still seems like a place for adults - even though I'm very much an adult now.

While the building has unfortunately been renovated, Almond Roppongi is a place that symbolizes the era when I used to have fun in Roppongi. "Let's meet in front of AlmondRoppongi" was like a mantra in those days; an amazing number of people would gather here on weekend nights. Almond holds many memories for me going back to my childhood; I remember there used to be cream puffs called Paris-Brest (now called Ring Choux Classic).

In Roppongi, and in Tokyo as a whole, there are areas which have evolved and changed drastically and areas which have still somehow retained their downtown atmosphere; I think the co-existence of both kinds of areas is appealing. In Roppongi, there are still residential areas a little distance away from the main roads, and though they have become fewer, there are still some long-established confectioneries like Almond. Roppongi can almost be said to be a place where the Western culture started, and it's a cosmopolitan place.