A Tale of the Koenji Skate-Punk
I met Jewlien one hot night in September last year, in the park outside Koenji station. He was instantly noticeable, not for his facial tattoos, or the abundant hair, but for the fact that he was sitting amongst a bunch of inebriated friends, obliviously nose-deep in a book. I was on my way to shoot a punk gig that night, and when I left the show later on I found he and his buddies outside under the train tracks, wrecked on whiskey and whatever else they’d managed to imbibe.
Things kind of followed that pattern for a while. The next time I saw him was at an art show party where everyone thought he was some kind of Slash impersonator as he silently strolled about the night-time streets of Asagaya in his sunglasses. By the time Halloween rolled round, and everyone thought he was in costume (he wasn’t), I’d got to know him a bit better.
Jewlien has a particular taste for floral patterned shirts only a Japanese guy, or a guy with that many tattoos, could pull off. He certainly received a lot of attention while he was in Japan. Tattoos are still relatively taboo in a society which still associates them with gang-culture, so having facial tattoos really made him stand out. I quite enjoyed watching people react to him – most were taken aback at first, and then either became unsettled by his initial shyness, defensive ( I once heard someone call him a “hippy” in a fit of anger, and…well, where to start with that one), or doggedly persistent in winning him over.
Back last year I had this brilliant idea to start shooting portraits and interviewing all my tattooed friends who happen to be normal people, as opposed to raging criminals. Jewlien has a huge collection of tattoos, a lot of which he has inked on to himself, and I wanted him to be part of it. Just before he left to return home, I caught him in a bar one night and asked to shoot his tattoos. He graciously obliged.