The Creature Issue : Interview with Yuji Okamoto from CYDERHOUSE


円谷プロダクションとコラボレーションし、ダダをモチーフとしたアイテムを制作するなど大の怪獣ファンとして知られるCYDERHOUSEのデザイナーYuji Okamoto。怪獣のデザイン性の高さに驚愕したという中学時代から、シュールレアリズムやダダイズムに辿り着いた高校時代などを遡る自身のヒストリーと、現在のデザインを巡る状況について考察を語ってもらった。

CYDERHOUSE’s designer, Yuji Okamoto is known for collaborating with Tsuburaya Productions and making items with a Dadaism theme, as well as for being an avid kaijyu (monster) fan. He talked us through how in middle school, he was astonished by the high-level design of monsters, and how in high school, he experienced things that have now ultimately landed him at Surrealism and Dadaism. He speaks to us about his thoughts on the situation of his current designs.


---Have you liked Kaijyus (monsters) since you were a child?

UG「子供の頃は全然興味がなくて、ウルトラマンも観ていなかったんですけど、キャラクターデザインが格好いいという理由で中学生の頃にハマりました。『ゴジラ』のガイガンを初めて見た時に『なにこれ!? 格好よすぎ!』と興奮してフィギュアを買ったんです。そこから怪獣のデザインに惹かれてなんとなく入っていって、初期のゴジラやウルトラマンも観返して、兄やその友達のコレクションを見せてもらったりしていました。その時代には周りにそんなフィギュアを集めている人間はいなかったんですが、地元の金沢のおもちゃ屋で『秘密基地』というレトロなおもちゃを集めているお店があって、そこへ行っては籠に入っている500円とかのやつを買ったりしていて。店に飾られているプレミア価格のおもちゃは眺めるだけだったんですけど、本当によく見に行っていましたね。だから僕はストーリーのなかに生きる怪獣というよりは、フィギュアとして自分の身近なところにいる存在として好きになったパターンです。デザインに魅了されたというか」

UG: “When I was a child I had no interest at all, and wasn’t even watching Ultra-Man, but I started getting into them in middle school because I thought character design was cool. When I first saw Godzilla’s Gigan, I said, “What’s this!? It’s so cool!” out of excitement and bought an action figure. From there, I was attracted to the design of monsters and somehow got into it – I re-watched Godzilla and Ultra-Man of the early days, and had my older brother and his friends show me their collections. At the time, there weren’t any people collecting those kinds of figures, but there was a local toy store in Kanazawa called “Himitsu Kichi (Hideout)”, a shop collecting retro toys. I would go there and buy the 500 yen toys inside the baskets. I would just stare at the premium priced toys that were showcased in the store, but boy did I go see them a lot. Hence for me, I started to like monsters not for existing in a story, but for being a presence close to me, as an action figure. I was fascinated by the designs.”




--- It’s interesting that you got into it because of the designs.

UG「今見ても、ルックスが素晴らしいですよね。あとは”悪者”というところも好きだったのかな。僕は次男なので、いつも兄貴が良いやつを先に取っちゃうんですよ。僕は余り物で。なんかそういうところから、陰の存在的なところに惹かれるんです(笑)。今日持ってきているフィギュアも陰キャラが多いですよね。半魚人は、MeMe's Parkという古着屋で大アマゾンの半魚人のフィギュアを見て以来好きになりました。スター・ウォーズのグリードも半魚人ですが、みんながファンになるようなキャラじゃなくてやっぱりこういう存在が好きなのは変わらないなあと。渋いところというか、掘って掘ってわかる良さのようなところが好きなんです」

UG: “Even as I look at them now, the aesthetics are amazing. Also, I probably liked the ‘villain’ part of them. Since I’m the younger brother, my brother would always take the heros before me. I was always left with the remains. Perhaps from experiences like that, I’m attracted to the dark presence of things, haha. Even the figures I brought today, a lot of them are villains. I started liking Mermen since I saw a Merman figure of the great Amazon at a thrift store called MeMe’s Park. Greed from Star Wars is a Merman too, but I like characters like him that aren’t necessarily characters that fans will like. It’s the cool part, like the goodness you get to know after digging deeper and deeper into something.”


----Around when did your personal fashion-inspired designs meet with monster character designs?


UG: “After monster, I started liking fashion and music. Around 9th grade, I got into Urahara fashion. Then, while being surprised at NEIGHBORHOOD releasing a Gigan T-shirt, I thought to myself, “Oh, there are people who can express things in a way like this.” There were other items designed like the Tsuburaya artworks. From there, I recognized once more the coolness of monsters, and realized they’re something within the same lines of design. SK8THING was the one who designed that T-shirt – amazing indeed.”




---This is exactly what you mentioned before, about how only certain people will understand the greatness of it. It’s amazing that you realized this in middle school. I’m interested in what kind of middle school it was?


UG: “During my middle school years, I held admiration for Sci-fi, and got into Sci-fi literature with dystopian societies. I watched Star Wars and Blade Runner. I especially liked cyberpunk and retro future things. As for music, I often listened to Ramones and The Crash. During my generation, Green Day and Hi-STANDARD were popular, but when I explored the roots, that’s where I landed. I liked the roots too much that when I started exploring them, I went deeper and deeper and couldn’t get myself to move forward, haha. But after all, roots and beginnings are important.”


---After hearing your story, it seems like those roots are being connected to your artwork now. When you design things yourself, do you take in inspirations from monsters?


UG: “I do collaborate with Tsubaraya Productions and make Dada clothing, but surprisingly, there isn’t much of it included in fashion designs. Rather, it’s influenced by more intuitive things. The two-dimensional influences. Toru Narita, who depicted Dada, adds a touch of graphic sense. I did not know this when I was in middle school, but when I studied art history in high school, I got to know Surrealism and Dadaism. I felt a link between the spirit that comes from there, and Toru Narita’s work. At the same time, I accepted it, realizing “That’s why I was attracted.” Apart from that, he was involved in producing ‘The Tower of The Sun’ and the designs and philosophy were closely tied – I was increasingly interested in that aspect, and grew fond. I like Dada a lot, and from there, I began liking a team called MAVO that pulled Dadaism from Japan. I heard that Mr. Narita was involved in that movement as well, and reconfirmed our connection. The author of manga “Norakuro”, Suihou Tagawa, was also involved in MAVO, so he greatly influenced the following Japanese pop culture. Because people like them were involved, pop culture during that generation is very high quality. In fact, product designs and visual advertising from that time are highly noted worldwide today.”


NeoL_UG2| Photography : Masakazu Yoshiba


---I wonder why such universally moving things were created.


UG: “It’s an extremely minimal design. Ultra Man was created without an original picture, and simply out of molding. I have heard that the source of that molding is an archaic smile of a Buddhist statue from somewhere. The molding is the result of observing various Buddha. Such designs cannot simply be thought of and then created. It could be made because of the attention to picking the ultimate shape, and I believe its fundamental essence will definitely be left behind. This goes for this generation’s advertising designs and thrifted T-shirts, but there are many hip, cool things with good tastes that Japanese people today are not aware of. Expressions with delicate sorrows like Dada and Mermen are born from the senses of Japan itself. Now, we are in a state where these things are being increasingly absorbed by foreign countries, and I believe people involved in design should carefully review their home country’s culture. Rather than losing characteristics from becoming global, specializing in things that were originally important such as minimalism is more fitting, and gives possibilities for the birth of designs that will awe the world.”

photography Masakazu Yoshiba(portrait)text Ryoko Kuwahara

Yuji OkamotoCYDERHOUSEデザイナー。1983年生まれ。文化服装学院アパレルデザイン科卒業。石川県金沢市出身。ライダースJKTのオーダーメイド制作から服作りを始め、10年CYDERHOUSEを設立。その他にグラフィックデザイナーとしても活動し、JohnUNDERCOVER等へグラフィックデザインの提供もしている。

Yuji OkamotoDesigner of CYDERHOUSE. Born 1983. Bunka Fashion College Apparel Design Major Graduate. From Kanazawa, Ishikawa. Started making clothing from creating order made riders jackets, and after 10 years, established CYDERHOUSE. Also works as a graphic designer, and designs for JohnUNDERCOVER and more.