THE STORY OF EL CHAVO : Kanji Maehara and STYLE OF CHIKA

As we talked about in the previous interview, the one and only iron flowerpot was created through the cooperation of Kanji Maehara of MASSES, Toshimi Murakami of M&M, and CHIKARA of STYLE OF CHIKA. Here, Kanji Maehara and CHIKARA talk about the “EL CHAVO” event, where the precious Agave plants and new flowerpots carefully selected by STYLE OF CHIKA will be unveiled.

INTERVIEW WITH KANJI MAEHARA

Kanji Maehara

——How did you come to organize this event?

Only people who know me really well know about these kinds of places and stores. However, I would like people who are interested or have recently gotten into gardening to see the flowerpots we made, and to put the Agave plant in front of them to see what they think about it. As for the pots, they are free to use them for whatever plant they like, but I would like them to see the pots with Agave up close at this event. Even with this age of the internet, it is still very important to see, touch, and feel. I believe it is a necessary part of life. I also believe that it is very important to see and hear the opinions of the people who are making the products, because such chances are normally quite rare. This is the reason why we held this event.

STYLE OF CHIKA

——Is this the first time Kanji and CHIKARA are holding an event together?

Yeah. I was really attracted to the Agave that I saw when I was abroad, and I was looking for this plant in Japan when I met CHIKARA. I think I told you mentioned last time that we promised each other that we would do something together someday, and I saw how having such a small space made it difficult for him to import plants from overseas. I've been watching him work very hard to overcome the language barrier and transportation risks. There have been times when dozens or even hundreds of plants have gone bad. But since he kept working hard and holding on through it all, he was able to import good plants consistently. The plants he collected are very rare and precious, so I want people to see them at the event.

——So it's really a lineup of top level stuff.

CHIKARA has collected a good stock yet again. It's not often that we get the chance to see such a large collection of high-quality Agaves. At this event, we will be showing not only Agave, but also three new flowerpots. One is the same three sizes as before, but this time I am making a short iron flowerpot. I also made two of the three sizes I have been making, but this time made of aluminum. I love the process of iron rusting and changing over time, but I know there are people in the world who don't like it. Aluminum is a material that almost never rusts, so this is aimed at those kinds of people.

——What is the origin of the name of this event, "EL CHAVO"?

"EL CHAVO" is Spanish, but "El" is “the” in English, and "Chavo" means boy or child. The fact that I continue to do what I love and cherish plants is an extension of my childhood. I think we were all like that when we were children. We all spend money differently when we grow up, but at the root of it all, we still like the things we liked when we were kids. In my mind, what I'm doing is the same as carefully raising a big crayfish with giant claws at home. That's why I chose the name "EL CHAVO", which can mean "boyhood" or "childhood”. The reason I chose Spanish is because it was in Mexico that I met the amazing Agave that means so much to me.

——I heard that you are also developing a soil.

We used to talk a lot about how it would be nice if we could provide everyone with the ideal soil to grow their favorite plants, not just Agave. Whenever we got together, we talked endlessly, discussing our experiences with soil, fertilizer, light, wind, and water. Kazu from Candy Red, who is a farmer by trade and sells CHIKARA's Agave, and Ishii from Menosuyama in Koenji, Tokyo, are essential figures in the plant industry who do whatever they want without too much fanfare. They collaborated on the development of this project, with Kazu at the helm. Both of them will be helping us with this event. They will be selling the soil after the DAYZ event, so please look forward to that, too.

Candy Red Kazuharu Yoshii

Menosuyama Kazuaki Ishii

INTERVIEW WITH CHIKARA

—— How did you get started with Agave?



When I traveled abroad to see a real Agave, I found a solitary Agave surviving on the edge of a cliff that had somehow avoided being stepped on for years. Actually, Agave only blooms once every 30-40 years. When it does, the mother plant in the middle of the plant dies, but it produces a lot of offspring to leave behind. When I saw this in person, I was so impressed that I decided to start growing them. Up until that point, I had lived in a world where Japanese horticulture was all about how to make things beautiful and where blemishes were taboo.

——Please tell us about your thoughts on holding this event.

My job is to sell plants, but I don't think of it as selling plants; I think of it as selling atmosphere and mood. I think that this method of showing plants, in the same way as fashion and interior design, has led to the current boom. Plants are believed to be healing for people who live in the city. And this time, since it's a such special flowerpot, I'm going to make a work of art with a special plant in it. I think this is the form that Kanji and I obsess about. At the event, I want the people who will be growing the plants to know the motivation behind the project. The trust that we have built with people has brought us to this point. I’d like to tell a story from last year. When we were all reeling from the corona crisis, a plant shop in the U.S. that I had a good relationship with was about to go under. I asked one of my local friends to go there to see if there was anything I could do to help, and they showed me into a special room full of rare plants that they don't usually let people into. In other words, what I am selling are not just imports of plants; they’re something much more special. Through all of these efforts, I have a good collection of plants at my place. If I was only focused on making a profit, I wouldn't be able to gather good plants. Basically, I do what I do because I want to tell people about it.

—— What is your goal, CHIKARA?



As I mentioned earlier, Agave can have baby plants. If you replant the babies in different pots, it takes a very long time, but they keep growing. Doing this over and over again will make the plants more accessible to the public. What I want to do is to spread the word. If I see them and don't buy them, they will soon go to another country. When I've got something good, I don't want to sell it to a reseller; I want to give it to someone who will take good care of it. And if someone is interested in Agave, there are many Agaves that I have named so that they will eventually find their way back to me. I can’t wait for that to start happening.

Toshimi Murakami

Interview & Text: Yu Yamaki

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