Private story Naoki Sakai

My former teacher Hideki Kimura (at the Kyoto City University of Arts)  wrote this article, reviewing my way from the wild student till today  through his eye. He had a big influence on my life. May be everybody  knows somebody like this. I was & still am very happy about this! But,  if I look back over the last years of my life, in feel like looking at  another person...  And this is a strange feeling, don't you think?

Naoki Sakai: Design Concepter & Producer of Nissan's concept-car "Be-1",who was starting as an art student, with music events like MOJO WEST...

Brown-dyed long hair, a frilly shirt, light make-up, a lot of rings,  and of course very dark sunglasses, a perfect outfit for being a  
student in fine arts. The Kyoto City University of Arts (now: Art  University) is a public school, full of art students, who are taking  
the challenge of taking an examination, wearing grimy working clothes -  all that was over 35 years ago. Those days starting with creating the  revolutionary "Peacock-Fashion" for the singer Peter (real-name:  
Shinosuke Ikehata). Later with the "Be-1" (Nissan) or his camera  "O-Product" (Olympus), witch was selected for the permanent collection  of the San Francisco MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), he had his break  through as a designer. This is all about Naoki Sakai.

Sakai was born as the oldest son. His father was running the Sakai  Transport Company in the city of Shijonawate (Osaka), the same city the  famous writer Toko Kon describes as the "navel of Kawachi Town" (now  East-Osaka). And that's not all. Like a real wild "Kawachi Guy" he was  a part of the local rugby-team. His father came actually from  Yosakoi-town (Kyoto), from a family with very high respect for Japanese  classics. Even now his aunt is running a the antique house in  
Hakubaicho (Kyoto) called "Sakai Shunyodo". And Naoki Sakai, with all  this background switching bravery to fashion-business, could have been  easy misunderstood as frivolity. But perhaps the mixture of his rough  hometown Kawachi and the elegancy of the capital became the sources for  his ideas...

While studying Visual Design at the Art University, he was fascinated by Andy Warhol's pop-art or the evolution of electronic media theory  by Marshall McLuhan. Of course, it was impossible to chose such a study  program at that time. But in his teacher Hideki Kimura and in the  marketing-related design office "RR" he found something like that. Soon  he went more often to the "RR" office then to the university...

All kind of traditional values has been reviewed at that time. "Good  design" was may be good for the industrial society, but was is also  desirable for the people? You could see the beauty of modernism in good  design, but also it was inhumane. If you compare to that, there is a  warmth of the human in bad design. Naoki Sakai holds doubt about the  priority of modernization in the industrial society. Like no-one before  him, he was interested in the Japanese tattoo (Irezumi). In his younger  
days he liked Coca Cola so much, that he would like to use a tattoo of  Coca Cola on his back. But this was just the beginning... For advertise  his ideas, he made a presentation for "Dentsu" (the biggest PR agency  in Japan), witch costs 100 million yen! It was just a fantastic plan,  but then he seriously went to Dentsu to ask at their information desk!  However, tattooing was too much connected with the image of branding  iron a cow, and also in the American society a tabu! In the end his  advertisement was rejected...

"It is good doing whatever, but just stop the tattoo...", it was such a  hard day to hear this words from his own grandmother. But he did not  stop it! He still was believing in his tattoo T-shirts, like  kitsch-fashion. Carrying his T-shirts, he went to San Francisco where  he found a Chinese investor, who saw a kind of "Japanese Art Nouveau"  in Sakai's work. And, their were selling well! So they opened the  "Tattoo Company", which became like a small boom! So those tattoo  shirts became Naoki Sakai's debut and soon after he found himself at  the starting point of designing and producing.

Then he was doing a presentation for Nissan's compact car "Be-1", and  even now its limitation production continues at a company in Kyoto.  "More, faster and cheeper", those are the keywords of mass-production,  since the industrial revolution. And, with the Olympus camera  "O-Product" he challenged to the industrial myth, that using plastic  for the body of the camera was not possible. Naoki Sakai changed "the  concept of the specialists" (of that time) entirely. He said that I  just face upsquarely to feel fabulously interested from time to time.  To inquire the professionals world on perspective of the common people.  Production and marketing were caught in homogeneous dimension, but we  had to remove the professionalism, that disturbs the motivation of the  end-user. At the beginning criticized by those professionals, as  "unprofessional" & "imitating", but after his success at European  Motor-shows he became a "Design-Guru" by high reputation. His  management of such big projects gained him without even noticing  worldwide attention to his talent. The Asahi Newspaper described him as  "The Techno Tarzan" at that time...

The origin of the word "Concepter" comes from conception (impregnation  of Blessed Virgin Mary). Yasuhiro Hamano, who is producing anything  from fashion to urban design, described it with a coined word as  "Concept Work" (conception & method of thinking). The words describing  someone "who is making thinks" may vary: producer, coordinator,  director, designer - but what they are really doing is quite unclear!  So as he thinks, a "Concepter" is integrating everything, like a fusion  of designing and producing, more that the old system of dividing work  due to specialists.

Back in 1968 the art-student Naoki Sakai was seeking some "cool stuff",  something that people would "be mad about"! "We liked the street-life!"  Going every-night to the disco, planning fashion-shows and pioneer  "happenings", later known as rock-event called "TOO MUCH". Some times  later, this "TOO MUCH" event became very popular in a club called MOJO  WEST (in Kyoto), where the rock-movement was getting wilder and  wilder... But the beginning of TOO MUCH and those events will be  
unforgettable for all art-students.

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