Palladium boots have made this cool video documentary series about Pharrell Williams (you know, from N*E*R*D* and The Neptunes and Justin Timberlake and everything else he has done) going back to Japan and visiting Tokyo to see how it has managed to rebuild after the 3/11 tragedy. Apparently Tokyo is like a second home to Pharrell (?!), so it makes sense that he would want to go back and visit it after 3/11. Right.
In the five part series, Pharrell visits Tokyo and does a bunch of different things. In the first part, he interviews his buddy Nigo – who he owns the Billionaire Boys Club fashion label with – and his wife, as well as a bunch of other people about actually being in the tsunami/earthquake and what it was actually like. There’s also a really interesting part about how twitter was really important during 3/11 for people trying find shelter and help. Gotta love twitter huh?
In the second part Pharrell hangs out with the vocalist from the band Trippple Nippple, Yuka Uchida (who is kinda cute) and they visit a massive 6km underground cavern built underneath a soccer field (their words, NOT MINE) that is designed to fill up with water if the country ever experiences a natural disaster that causes the rivers to overflow. Yuka Uchida also talks about her experiences of 3/11 and there’s a section about the anti-nuclear power protests that have sprung up as a result of the nuclear meltdown suffered during 3/11. Unfortunately – like most protests – these seem kind of uneducated and missing the point as a guy shouting ‘fvck plutonium, fvck caesium’ and a kid who produces a fanzine blaming ‘the older generation’ for screwing everything up is hardly painting a good picture of the movement.
In the third part of the series, Pharrell visits Mitsu’s 3331 – which is ‘for artists by artists’ and is kinda like a gallery/community centre for Japanese artists – and checks out a bunch of the art that has been inspired by 3/11. 3331 is a ‘really impressive, cool space’ according to Pharrell. It seems pretty important as Mitsu claims that a lot of the photos are not being shown in the press and as such a lot of the Japanese/world aren’t getting the ‘real picture’ of 3/11. Pharrell then heads to a secret bar in the red light district where some members of a hip art collective are hanging out doing shots and smoking cigarettes and talking about how they added some protest art to a famous mural about nuclear power in a station. This was probably the coolest and most fun part of the series.
Part 4 of Tokyo rising focusses on how many Japanese people have become westernised since the end of the Second World War in a so called ‘remix culture’ which has borrowed identity and culture from all over the world to create a unique society. It looks at the Harajuku fashion world – allegedly based on American hippies – and how people creating colourful t-shirts over there like the ‘bathing ape’ have become millionaires and examines the DIY culture that has allowed this happen. Central to this is the Kita-Kore building, a disused space that has been tunred into a creative hub.
In the final part of Tokyo Rising, we get treated to a live performance from Trippple Nippples, the vocalist of which we met in part 2. Trippple Nippple is pretty insane – 3 female singers who carry huge balls around that pop and spray out loads of feathers onto the crowd supported by a drummer, bassist, guitarist and keyboardist playing fast Japanese trip pop – and definitely worth watching. Pharrell seemed to enjoy it at least, and even said he was gonna start working with them (!?). The series then concludes with a Dawson’s Creek style montage of all the people that we’ve met during it giving their final thoughts on Tokyo after 3/11.
You can watch the five episodes of Tokyo Rising below. It’s a great, well made and well shot series that really educates about Tokyo’s current situtation as well as entertaining the viewer. And Pharrell Williams hosts it!! What more could you want?