I adore every location I’ve visited, including Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, Paris, and London. However, I find Tokyo’s unparalleled sense of pace to be thrilling. In addition, everything that’s great in the world—from cuisine to fashion to design—is right here. This city is a fount of information, and the way it coexists in its disorganized, jumbled state is both fascinating and exciting. I’m a native and have access to many networks, therefore I know a lot of interesting places to visit.TOKYO’S ARTISTIC DISTRICT


Higashi, where I live and work, isn’t that famous compared with its trendy neighbors Hiroo, Nishi-Azabu, and Daikanyama, and it hasn’t gentrified much yet. It’s really an up-and-coming creative neighborhood. Tucked behind ordinary homes are the offices of famous fashion stylists, such as Sonia Park, and studios like E, Draft, and Kigi, which are run by well-known art directors.

I’ve been running my own design studio, Samurai, since 2000. Many of my clients are Japanese companies that want to go global. A large part of my job is finding ways to answer the question, How do you express contemporary, cool Japan in a fun and universal way?

One of my most popular clients is the clothing chain Uniqlo. My first global gig was designing the Uniqlo store in Soho back in 2006. The CEO called me and said, “I want to bring this brand to the world, starting with a flagship store in Manhattan.” We wanted to give Gap, H&M, and Zara a run for their money in the global casual apparel scene.

I invented a font that represents the brand. Uniqlo is a very basic brand—practical, organized, colorful—so the font is also practical and organized. Because it’s a Japanese company, I used white and red with some black outlines, kind of like the Japanese flag. It’s a powerful graphic design system that creates uniformity for the brand.

Creativity comes both from my time at home and from my travels. I live above my studio, and this neighborhood is perfect for me—it’s not too loud for living and not too quiet for working. I’m just not the rowdy type. I like peaceful, intimate spaces. Nearby, Nishi-Azabu, to the east, is high end and vibrant. Roppongi and Hiroo, just a quick cab ride from here, are full of office buildings, nightclubs, and restaurants.

Higashi is kind of like a hybrid of all three of those neighborhoods. For example, just 100 meters from my house is Meiji Dori, a major boulevard lined with ramen shops, bookstores, and cafés. But once you’re in the immediate vicinity of my home, you’ve got schools, universities, and residences. Higashi is right at the intersection of business and education, and I think that intersection is spawning a new flavor of design.




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