Trunk Show Tag-a-Long: In Japan with Starlingear


Brady Miller

For years I have seen the pictures, videos, and heard the stories of Starlingear’s popularity in Japan and the legendary “Trunk Shows”. When Ryk called and said “Yo Brady, you want to go to Japan with us to check things out?”, I was already packing my bags!
As it turned out, not packing much in those bags. The Trunk Shows take place all over Japan and are really like a tour. That means, lots of traveling. Trains, cabs, multiple hotels, etc. I was told to pack extremely light as we would be on the move almost constantly. I managed to get 7 days of gear as well as all my food (more on the food in a minute) in a GoRuk GR1 and an Osprey Ozone carry on size wheeled duffel. I was pretty thrilled with myself.
With regards to the food: a few years I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Basically, I cannot eat gluten, which is found in wheat and barley,  or I will get extremely sick. Turns out, there is almost zero awareness of what gluten is in Japan. Their MSG has gluten in it, as well as soy sauce. Therefore, I had to pack protein bars, powder, freeze dried meals etc. So the food part of traveling was going to be kind of a bummer. We flew out of LAX on an Airbus A380 which is the largest passenger plane flying. Even coach on Singapore Airlines was like first class with hot towel service, constant drinks and snacks.
I would be rolling out with my buddy Jade as well as Ish. Ish is an amazing leather craftsman who primarily makes custom horse tack, but also hand crafts the braided leather goods of Starlingear. Ryk is cool in that he is happy to spread the spotlight to the other craftsmen that work with Starlingear, so he was having Ish out on tour to custom braid gear on the spot at the Trunk Shows. After an 11 hour flight, and a quick clearing through Japanese customs, we were off for the first of many train rides.
To say that Japanese hotel rooms are small would be an understatement! No big deal, had everything I needed and there would be little time spent there anyway!
The view right outside the room window was of a Japanese cemetery.
I managed to figure out almost everything I needed to in Japan, however, these thermostats had me swearing like a sailor trying to get some AC. It was so humid there! Many Google searches later, I managed to finally get some AC going and get to sleep. There would be little down time, as we left for the first show in Shibuya first thing in the morning.
Now, I guess that I ought to explain the Trunk Shows. Starlingear has a huge following in Japan. All of the sales in Japan are handled by Beyond Cool and they have about 40 stores across the country. Once a year, Starlingear holds special Trunk Show events which are basically like Starlingear parties. Ryk comes and hangs out with everybody... food, drinks, the works. Shibuya would be my first taste of the Trunk Show madness! The Shibuya show was held in a rented room off site as there is no way the Beyond Cool showroom could accommodate all of the people. People were lining up before the event even started.
Once the doors opened it was Starlingear pandemonium! The counters were swamped with people.   One of the cool things about Trunk Show is that you can get your S-Gear items custom engraved by Ryk on the spot. From an inscription, to Slickster etchings, Ryk does it right in front of you!
On this particular cane, the owner has Ryk engrave a new section at each year's Trunk Show.
The other big deal at Trunk Show is that Ryk brings what is called “Personal Collection” items. These are literally one off, full Ryk Maverick custom, Starlingear items. There were some freaking amazing pieces! These new custom dog tags were crazy popular and disappeared quickly.
There was also a great assortment of Personal Collection rings. While no two items are the same, if you want a Personal Collection piece, you can contact us and we can see what we can do to accommodate.
Probably the most jaw dropping piece was this solid gold, Takeuchi engraved, full size, Reaper Knuckles.
They did not last long as this guy wanted to add them to his collection! He already had the full size copper version!
Speaking of Takeuchi, he was at the show as well (sorry I did not manage to grab a pic). For those of you that don’t know, Takeuchi is one of the world’s best traditional hand engravers (as in just using a small hammer to tap, no machines!). An incredible craftsman who has ties to the knife industry via none other than Bob Loveless back in the day. He had a handful of engraved Starlingear pieces on hand.
Also on hand, were the amazing Japanese pinstripe artists Makoto and Mr. G. (You can also see Hide Nakayama in the back there).
Makoto and Mr. G work with a guy named Nash who runs a Japanese Kustom Kulture magazine and owns quite a ride. It was a trip later that night to see this parked between a Lamborghini and a Bentley at the baller hotel where I ate the best steak I've ever had in my life.
Hide Nakayama was there with more amazing work. That guy never stops putting out the coolest hand crafted pens, carvings, and gear. His newest piece is this mini lighter holder that provides the user with “options”.
I have been dealing with Hidetoshi for several years and always look forward to seeing him when he comes to the US for the New York Custom Knife Show. It was great to be able to see him on his turf, so to speak. Somehow, Hide knew that I was really into monkeys and presented me with this amazing gift of a hand carved pondering monkey netsuke. I was honored and blown away! Watch for more stuff from Hide coming soon!
Ish was on hand, custom braiding for people on the spot. This girl was amazed by it and studied as Ish braided her up a custom piece.
Kimo is always floating around with the camera documenting the event. Kimo is the photo master. He has taught me a ton about photography and still puts up with my constant pestering and questions!
Jade and I managed to grab a nice dram of scotch during all the excitement.
Turns out, it was a good thing, cause he was gonna need it!
It was a seven hour, non-stop, whirlwind event with many folks staying there from the opening line to close. The die hards gather for a group shot to cap off the night!
Stay tuned for Part II!


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