Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A shoemaker

The other evening a friend and I were looking for a restaurant in my neighborhood and we ran across this place that seemed to be selling a pair and a half of shoes.

I could see some leather rolls in the back, however, so I pointed out that it was probably a shoemaker's and, of course, we proceeded to get into an argument about the place of hand-made shoes in the modern world.

Eventually, the shoemaker saw us out there carrying on this discussion and invited us in to see his shop.

He seemed to me to be pretty young for a shoemaker. He was definitely younger than me, although, speaking frankly, this can no longer be regarded as much of a criterion for youth.

Apparently, he was trained in various famous shoemaking shops in Italy and England and he seemed to care as much about shoes as anybody who has taken the time necessary to develop real skill in something cares about that thing for which they have given so many of their hours.

He was able to talk endlessly about the various leathers - where they come from and what they are best suited for - the machines - all of which came from Germany - and that each pair of shoes is entirely custom made based on a cast of the client's foot. His shoes start at around 100,000円.

My friend asked him what was the most difficult thing about being a shoemaker and he said that all ladies want an elegant shoe - something that is slim and graceful - but the ladies who could afford a 100,000円 pair of shoes tend to be both fat and ugly, and it is only with great skill and diligence that a shoe that looks slim and graceful can be made to bear such a lady.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tokyo Trip

I went up to Tokyo last weekend to give a talk at a small conference on history of mathematics at Tsuda College (津田塾大学), a girl's school famous for its superior mathematics program. I stayed at a friends house that night and the next day, before I went home, I did some shopping and took a walk around the campus of the Waseda University (早稲田大学).

Here are some shots of the interior of Blue Lug, a specialty bike shop in Tokyo kind of near Shibuya Station that has the endearing motto It's only bicycle, but we like it.

Here's a apartment building near Waseda. The front has a some shops, including this hair salon.

The entry to another store goes over this wicked tiled demon with a big, long tongue.

The demon looks like it has some kind of piercing with an ornament in its tongue. Or maybe that's just a bug.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Miyuki Frame

I bought this Miyuki frame in a little shop under Shinimamiya Station (新今宮駅), down near Kamagasaki. The shop used to specialize in BMXes, but lately they've been getting a lot of old track stuff in. I picked up this Miyuki for a number of reasons. I've been meaning to get another frame for a commuter and this one was pretty suitable. It's a handmade steal frame and it was a reasonable price (20,000円).

I had never heard of a Miyuki frame before and that was one of the reasons I decided to buy this one. From what I have found out, Miyuki was a small factory in Tokyo that has since closed down. Apparently one of the frame builders went on to work at 3Rensho. This frame is marked 130 on the BB and is probably the 130th frame they built. It is made of Ishiwata Croston 019 double butted cromo tubes.

Aside from having a cute Japanese girl's name, or rather a name that you could imagine belonging to a cute Japanese girl, there are a number of other endearing features to this frame. The logo, for instance, is somehow strangely incongruous with the name and appears to be a snooty rooster starring off into the middle distance.

There are also a number of platitudes stated on the frame in various places. For example under the striped Miyuki label on the seat tube, in Italian, it reads, Campione del Mondo.

In a number of places, and shown here on the top tube, we find the English phrase GAZING AT THE IMPOSSIBLE, which appears to be a sort of motto. One wonders, then, if the rooster is perhaps not so much a snob as somehow transfixed by this act of constant gazing over such vast distances. Or perhaps, long hours of such gazing has lead to a certain frustration, and in turn a sort of anger at the pain and absurdity of it all.

Finally, we have a personalized adaptation of a John Lennon lyric, You may say we are dreamers, someday you will join us, which is signed by the frame builders or the owners of the shop. I don't really know what a statement like this means in the context of being stuck on a non-drive side chain stay. I guess it's more to do with the impossible and the kinds of responses they had been getting for staring at it all the time.

I don't really know what to make of it all, but I couldn't say no to riding a bike called Miyuki rocking an angry rooster.

If anyone has any real information on Miyuki, drop me a comment.