The coolest geek in town.
Gifted illustrator, virtuoso DJ, Jun Inagawa is the perfect example of how to turn passion into success – and overcome obstacles. We join him on a spin around Tokyo’s creative hotbeds in a MINI Clubman.
MINI Cooper D Clubman Automatic: Fuel consumption combined in l/100km: 5.3 – 5.0, CO2 emissions combined in g/km: 138 – 130. All values based on the combined WLTP test cycle. Further information: www.mini.com/disclaimer.
Tokyo is widely considered a creative powerhouse. From music to video games, mangas and animes, Japanese popular culture is constantly bringing forth new artists who aren’t afraid to experiment in search of that new style or that new sound. There are few places on earth that serve as a creative melting pot in the way that Tokyo does, and particularly Shimokitazawa. This district is a hub of creativity in all its aspects, and it was no surprise to learn that we would find Jun Inagawa there. The 23-year-old is one of the city’s best anime artists, and he also happens to be one of the hottest DJs. Inagawa is an exceptional talent with the ability to cruse and create across cultures.
As we arrive at his apartment, a Sage Green MINI marks the spot. Its metallic exterior glinting in the morning sun, the car owns its place on the streets of Tokyo, which is no small feat in a city that moves as fast as Japan’s capital.
The artist greets us at the door. Stepping into Inagawa’s apartment is much like watching the opening scene of a well-crafted biopic. Everything a person could need to know about the artist is here, either in plain sight or subtly hinted at. Posters and art referencing international street culture hang above DJ decks, the shelves are laden with manga comics and figurines of anime heroes. His desk, strewn with the tools of the illustrator’s trade, looks as though he only left it to open the door to us. Inagawa – slight, dark-haired and dressed from head to toe in black – lights a cigarette and bops his head to a smooth techno track playing softly in the background. “This is my favourite place. My favourite bookstore, studio, everything,” he smiles.
Jun Inagawa became very successful at a very young age, which in his world is something special. While it can be said that Japan is brimming with some of the world’s most unique and progressive illustrative talents, many of those who have made a name for themselves do so later in their careers. But Inagawa is not about to rest on his laurels: “I’m constantly changing every day, always learning, growing. You have to”, the young illustrator muses. “My anime has been in development for years, but I wrote the story for it when I was 19, so for me it’s like looking back at the old Jun, while at the same time I’m looking forward to the future and what I can do next.”
Inagawa has been drawing since he was old enough to hold a pen. His family fostered his talent and introduced him to art and cultures beyond his own. “My father is an automotive designer, so growing up I was always watching him draw. And my uncle, he was very much into international cultures, particularly that of the UK, so he helped me look beyond my own surroundings and introduced me to a whole world of music and subcultures I never knew existed,” Inagawa explains. He spent a large part of his childhood in the United States, where he attended school for several years. All this helped to shape his vision and broaden his world view. After taking time to show us some of his hand-drawn artworks, the young artist spins an impromptu electronic set for us on his personal DJ decks. We listen and marvel as the morning goes swiftly by. Around lunchtime, Inagawa grabs the keys to his MINI, ready to take us into the parts of his world that lie beyond the walls of his apartment.
Cruising through the bustling streets, the MINI’s practical design speaks for itself as we navigate the tight, unforgiving turns and one-way streets for which Tokyo has long been known. “It’s great for getting around the city,” says Inagawa. “It’s small on the outside, but still comfortable with plenty of room on the inside. The speakers are really good too, which is obviously important for me,” he laughs, as he turns up the music.
Before long, we pull into Ebisu, the birthplace of the world-famous Yebisu beer, which these days is renowned for its prominent art museums and out-of-the-ordinary shops. Inagawa heads straight to Post, a famous bookstore. Known for its unique collection of high-end books on a variety of art and design mediums, Post is the kind of place you visit when taking a deep dive into a particular subject, which today, for Inagawa, is architecture. “While I don’t necessarily design buildings, I do draw them for my manga and anime, so to see what architects can create, to me it’s another level of art,” he explains.
Running his eyes over a wall of books bearing the names of influential design figures like Herman Miller and Charlotte Perriand, Inagawa doesn’t take long to select a book and sit down with it. While the world rushes by the MINI parked outside, Post serves as an island of calm, where only the turning of pages can be heard. But much like the city he calls home, Inagawa knows we have to keep moving. Before long, he looks up from the book. “You guys ready?”.
On our way to our next stop, Inagawa tells us how his artistic career started. During elementary school, he would practise by creating his own manga for his classmates. Their reaction encouraged him to turn his hobby into a profession, a calling. But while this level of dedication to manga and anime is considered cool by today’s standards, it wasn’t always like that in Japan. Typically referred to as “otaku”, those with a deep love for the culture were until recently often branded as outcasts by the mainstream media. “I was one of them,” Inagawa recalls, “but I’m proud of that. An otaku is a person who knows what they love and what they want to do.”
We arrive in Shindaita, a more laid-back neighbourhood dotted with small cafes and boutiques, where Inagawa takes us to one of his favourite second-hand clothes stores, Chillweeb. It boasts a pristine collection of vintage anime fashion, including long discontinued pieces bearing the artwork of anime titans such as Akira and Astro Boy. Flexing its inner-city practicality, the MINI glides into a space right outside the front door and Inagawa hops out to greet Chillweeb’s owner like an old friend. Browsing through the racks, Inagawa explains why skate culture is such a big influence on his work: “Like no other subculture, the skate scene combines street culture, music and fashion. I fell in love with how it felt like you could see so much of someone’s life through skating. That’s how I want my work to feel.”
After picking up a couple of fresh vintage t-shirts for his own collection, Inagawa is all smiles as the sun sets and we cruise back into Shimokitazawa, where our day began. We pull up outside Spread nightclub, a local hotspot where Inagawa is a regular on the DJ line-up and appears to feel right at home.
Taking a moment to watch Inagawa on the decks in Spread while looking back on the day that has been, it’s clear that whether he’s adjusting dials on a mixer or putting pencil to paper, he’s a master of the crafts he puts his mind to. Inagawa shines as a brilliant example of what can come from staying true to yourself and never giving up. “I always tell people that the first manga I ever pitched was rejected by a publishing company, even though I knew it was good work. It’s hard, but you have to keep going. You can’t worry about what other people think. Just focus on what you’re doing and your true self,” he muses. “Too many people forget to be themselves nowadays and, in the end, that’s what’s most important.”
With the day coming to a close, we say our goodbyes as Inagawa hits the ignition and brings the MINI to life. With its headlights piercing the Tokyo night, the car’s metallic paint gleams as it sails off and through the traffic, soon becoming one with the lights and ambient sounds of Japan’s culture capital.
Photography: Steve Gaudin &Sebastian Stücke, Text: Ben Cooke.
Hinweis (English disclaimers below):
Die offiziellen Angaben zu Kraftstoffverbrauch, CO2-Emissionen und Stromverbrauch wurden nach dem vorgeschriebenen Messverfahren VO (EU) 715/2007 in der jeweils geltenden Fassung ermittelt. Die Angaben berücksichtigen bei Spannbreiten Unterschiede in der gewählten Rad- und Reifengröße. Die Werte der Fahrzeuge basieren bereits auf der neuen WLTP-Verordnung und werden in NEFZ-Äquivalenzwerte zurückgerechnet, um den Vergleich zwischen den Fahrzeugen zu gewährleisten. Bei diesen Fahrzeugen können die CO2-Werte für fahrzeugbezogene Steuern oder andere Abgaben, die (zumindest unter anderem) auf CO2-Emissionen basieren, von den hier angegebenen Werten abweichen. Die CO2-Effizienz-Spezifikationen werden gemäß der Richtlinie 1999/94/EG und der Europäischen Verordnung in der jeweils gültigen Fassung festgelegt. Die angegebenen Werte basieren auf dem Kraftstoffverbrauch, den CO2-Werten und dem Energieverbrauch nach dem NEFZ-Zyklus für die Klassifizierung. Weitere Informationen über den offiziellen Kraftstoffverbrauch und die spezifischen CO2-Emissionen neuer Personenkraftwagen können dem "Handbuch über den Kraftstoffverbrauch, die CO2-Emissionen und den Stromverbrauch neuer Personenkraftwagen" entnommen werden, das an allen Verkaufsstellen und unter https://www.dat.de/angebote/verlagsprodukte/leitfaden-kraftstoffverbrauch.html erhältlich ist.
The values of fuel consumptions, CO2 emissions and energy consumptions shown were determined according to the European Regulation (EC) 715/2007 in the version applicable at the time of type approval. The figures refer to a vehicle with basic configuration in Germany and the range shown considers optional equipment and the different size of wheels and tires available on the selected model. The values of the vehicles are already based on the new WLTP regulation and are translated back into NEDC-equivalent values in order to ensure the comparison between the vehicles. [With respect to these vehicles, for vehicle related taxes or other duties based (at least inter alia) on CO2-emissions the CO2 values may differ to the values stated here.] The CO2 efficiency specifications are determined according to Directive 1999/94/EC and the European Regulation in its current version applicable. The values shown are based on the fuel consumption, CO2 values and energy consumptions according to the NEDC cycle for the classification. For further information about the official fuel consumption and the specific CO2 emission of new passenger cars can be taken out of the „handbook of fuel consumption, the CO2 emission and power consumption of new passenger cars“, which is available at all selling points and at https://www.dat.de/angebote/verlagsprodukte/leitfaden-kraftstoffverbrauch.html