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CIRCLE OF DAYZ vol.8 Katsutada Mano

In Circle of DAYZ series, we take an in depth look at some fascinating people who have strong ties to DAYZ. In this eighth installment of CIRCLE OF DAYZ we spoke with Katsutada Mano, director of Tokyo-based brand RATS, about the "FULL BLOOD" exhibition held to commemorate RATS' 15th anniversary.

They changed my life.

――Please tell us about your background.

My mother was a music lover and tried to get me to play music. Dad was a drunk, and we all lived in a one-room, 2.5 x 3 m apartment, which was not an environment where we could play instruments, but my mother tried to force me to play anyway. At that time, it was popular in elementary school for the bad kids to play baseball, so I played baseball, but I also played the trumpet. My brother played saxophone and my sister played the mellophone; we all played wind instruments. We were in the brass band, and we had international exchanges and went on TV. That's how I started playing music. At the time, 50's stuff was popular, and my sister was also into 50's fashion. She was wearing flared skirts and such, and whenever she came home from Harajuku she just looked so happy. We lived in Shin-koiwa, which was a very low-lying part of the city, and it really made me think "I wanna go to Harajuku, too!". People around my sister were delinquents with pompadour hairstyles, and I was pulled in that direction, too. Then, when I was in the sixth grade, I went to Harajuku for the first time. I had a great admiration for the skull and crossbones design of the brand CREAM SODA, and my friend's father took me to Harajuku, where the store was located. I borrowed my sister's hickory clothes and went there, and when I overheard someone say, "he's so cute!" it made me so happy. But I couldn't go every week, so I had to save up my allowance. I couldn't afford to buy clothes because they were too expensive, so I bought buttons and wallets. When one day one of the older students stole my wallet as a joke, I asked my mom to get it back for me. The wallet was empty because I spent all my savings on it. But money or no money, it was super important to me. I have a lot of memories like that.

――What did you do for fun back then?

I didn't do anything. I just got together with friends and listened to music. I played trumpet, so they asked me to join the band. I was playing music out of a copy of Spectrum, and I played a little bit of upright bass when I was in the third grade. My mother was a very unusual person, and she showed me the movies "American Graffiti" and "Lemon Popsicle" as sex education. Her weirdness is probably why she fell for my dad. My dad is really kind of a punk. I think our home was pretty strange. But there were a lot of kids living in the apartment complex back then, so we helped each other when we were lonely.

――Even when you were in junior high school, you went to Harajuku.

In junior high school, I just wanted to experience the atmosphere of Harajuku, so I used to go to Harajuku every Sunday. I knew that the older students in junior high school also went to Harajuku on Sundays to get their cool new clothes. But while those kids were into Metal, the guys from the next junior high school over that I was in a band with were into rockabilly and we got along better. In junior high school, I went to Harajuku with some of my other friends, but it cost a lot of money. One way was 280 yen and the round trip was over 500. It's not easy to spend money on transportation in junior high school. So I desparately saved my money for transportation.

――What was the atmosphere like in Harajuku at that time?

It was a lot different back then, like an amusement park. The moment you get off the train, there were so many people, and smells. Pomade was popular at the time, and there were a bunch of other smells, too. Along with the different groups of smells, there were groups of people in different colors, too. Just looking at them felt like picking out clothes. I was about 15 years old. I wanted to go to high school, but I hadn't studied at all since the seventh grade. I didn't think much of it at the time, but now that I think back on it, there really was nothing I could do about it (laughs). I was told to study anyway, so I had a private tutor and various other things like that. The first motorcycle I rode was my tutor's Honda. I had ridden mopeds, but my father was very strict and motorcycles were absolutely forbidden in our house. He said, "You can do anything you want, you just can't ride motorcycles. My father's words were the absolute rule in our house, so I followed his orders. But I still really wanted to ride a motorcycle, and I finally managed to get him to let me. The first time I rode, I rode the streets around the house, but at the end I hit the brake too hard and fell down. That's when I realized how difficult it was to ride a bike. After that, I didn't ride for a while. Every time I thought of it, my father's face popped in my head saying, "this could go real bad".

――So your first encounter with motorcycles was at the end of junior high school.

Yeah. But I didn't end up going to high school. The graduation ceremony in junior high school was kind of uneasy because our friend group was going to be separated, and we had a deep bond because we had always helped each other through the good and the bad. I cried a lot. I ended up working at a local family business, a curtain rail shop. I wore work clothes and steel shoes to work every day, but everyone else wore cool high school uniforms and rode the train to school, so it felt like a huge gap. When I arrived at the plant, I would go to the morning meeting and listen to the day's goals. I hated that so much because it was like prison. I didn't last long, and I quit after a year and a half. I kept going to Harajuku during that time. Then I became a gambler in Harajuku, and I wanted to get to know the people I admired in that neighborhood, so my sister took me to Tsubaki House for the first time. At that time, I was wearing a stadium jacket, argyle socks, coin loafers, and a know, 50's attire. Then he said, "You look like you’re from Waku Waku". Waku Waku was a group of older kids at the junior high school next door. Their team name was Waku Waku Holiday. Of course I was friends with the kids from my hometown, but I was also friends with the kids from the next junior high school, so they invited me every week.

――Did you know the name of the team by their clothing at the time?

Characters back then had a strong style of dress. There were not as many brands as there are now, and it was more about style than about brand. There was a lot of vintage clothing, and the atmosphere created was different depending on the fashion. There were no smart phones or anything like that, so I guess I could tell where I was in Tokyo by feel in those days. I worked hard to get there. Gradually, I was gaining recognition, but the leader of the team, whom I admired the most, graduated fromt he school. I still hung out at Wendy's because it was my territory, and they would get mad at me if I didn't order properly, but other than that, they didn't get mad at me, and I don't think they ever called the police or anything. Next to Wendy's were Goro and his crew from [Goro's], and their friends. Mr. Goro was a great guy, of course, but he also had me guard his luggage. I was taking care of Mr. Goro's daughter, and it seems that he saw what I was doing. He took some feathers I had bought and made them into bracelets. He was very kind to us.

――After that, in the 90's, that's when Harajuku started to blow up, right?

About that time I just stopped hanging out at Wendy's and started playing around in Shibuya, but the gamblers started getting a little more difficult. It was a time when I was changing from the 50's style myself. Not to betray everyone, but started dressing more modern and went to Shibuya, and that's when I met Kei Henmi of TIMEWORN CLOTHING. Of course I had met him in Harajuku, so I guess I should call it a reunion. He was really sharp and cool, and told me to come every week, so I started going to Shibuya. There were a lot of temptations when I was gambling in Shibuya, so that kind of ruined it for me. When I left Tokyo and came back after settling down to some extent, my sister introduced me to a bar called VIV in Nakameguro, and I started working there. I didn't have any education, and I didn't put in any effort. All I could do was be a craftsman. I was a hard worker, and I had the grit to do it. But I liked people, so I wanted to open a bar. That's where I met Koji Kato. Makkoi Saito used to come in there as a customer, always looking very distinguished.

――How long did you work at that bar?

I think it was about three years. Takeshi Hasegawa of HIDE&SEEK came to visit me once in a while and told me that Harajuku was booming, so we all went to see it. Cat Street, which was originally our place, now had an eccentric atmosphere, and many small stores had sprung up. I thought, "What the hell is this? They painted Harley tanks and stuff". I was getting more and more jealous and annoyed [laughs]. I took it back to the bar, and Takeshi looked at me like he had a great idea and said, "Let's open a store! I was like, "what are you even talking about?" Takeshi said he handle the clothes, and I would do the bar.

――Many people know the name "HIDE&SEEK" but don't know that it was a bar in the beginning.

On the face of it, there was no way we could get official permission. But once we decided to do it, we had to do it, so we decided to make it a hideout and call it "HIDE&SEEK". The result was a space that was ostensibly a clothing store, but in the back was a bar. I decided that in order to make it in Harajuku, I would have to be at the top of my game. Then gradually I started having drinks at my own bar, and people started to feel at ease with me. Jonio (Jun Takahashi) from UNDERCOVER came to see me a lot, and Shin-chan (Shinsuke Takizawa) from NEIGHBORHOOD and Mura (Toshimi Murakami) from M&M CUSTOM PERFORMANCE would hang out in the garage under the bar and play with their bikes.

――So you closed "HIDE&SEEK" and then started "RATS," how did that go?

I think nobody knew that I was into clothes in the first place (laughs). The older students I was close with in the 80's knew a lot about fashion, and if I went into a vintage clothing store, they would say, "Oh, what a good idea! " I wondered why I was being forced to learn something when I was supposed to be having fun, but I learned a lot about clothes along the way. But what I liked was people, and I liked talking to people, so it was natural that I liked clothes. So, I had been living my life with my love of clothes tucked away somewhere in my brain. At the time, I didn't think I wanted to do it because I was told that I shouldn't make clothes until I had real experience. I really wanted to study and go abroad, but my main focus was to "make a living". My parents were poor, and the most important thing was to earn money for myself and my family. At that time, my friends were my emotional support.

――What was it like when you first started RATS?

When I was at a loss after closing the bar, I talked to Tetsu Nishiyama of "WTAPS" and he suggested I make clothes with myself as the theme. When I wondered what he meant, he told me, "Mano, YOU are a theme". Whenever we would get together, he would come up with a theme, and we would talk about it in great detail. Each time, I had to think about myself. I was a hater, and I was hiding. I thought that the rat is the perfect fit; I looked up the habits and attitudes of rats, and I though that sounds like me because I've lived on the edge my whole life. Everyone around me said it was a good idea. So we started out with T-shirts with a bar motif. Of course, we couldn't rent an office, so we did what the rats would do: took a laptop, borrowed a copy machine, did our work, thanked the people, and left. I did this over and over again, but everyone lent me their help without a single grimace;.that's why I'm so grateful to everyone.

――How did this event "FULL BLOOD" take shape?

I have tried not to look back and remember the past as much as possible. But the 15th anniversary of RATS came at a time when corona crisis changed all of society. It caused so many postponements and things I wanted to do were no longer possible. But when I wanted to do something for the 15th anniversary, everyone really helped me out. I am truly grateful, and I want to keep it that way. They changed my life. I think I always wanted to give something back. At the time, I had no choice but to rush forward, but then Bebetan approached me. I thought that if it were possible, I would like to do this event. So I asked him for it, and it happened. I'm getting older now, but things don't change that much. All the bad things I did when I was young, I have to carry them with me, whether I turn 50 or 60. So you should think it over properly and cherish each and every one of them. I think friends are really irreplaceable, and if you live, there will be times when you get out of sync with each other. But friends are friends. Even if you think that because you are young, you can only be friends for now, or that you don't know what the future holds, the time will come. That's why I wish there were more places and opportunities to talk with young people about such things.

Interview & Text : Yu Yamaki
Photo : Ryutaro Izaki