What’s your name and position?
Kosuke Aoki, aka, toydog88.
I’m a bicycle messenger, photographer, videographer, writer, sometimes director, etc. Basically, living my life to the fullest.
I’m the president of the religious group Slow Squad International, which includes world messengers and all homies around us from 18 countries, 26 cities all around the world. Ah yeah.
How are you getting through COVID-19?
What’s your schedule like from when you wake up to when you fall asleep?
I sleep when I’m sleepy, wake up when I’m ready to wake up, and I usually sleep for about 7-9 hours a day. My days and nights are kind of mixed up, so when I wake up it’s usually dark which is kind of a bummer. Then I start watching some Youtube videos, and when I’m ready, I’ll start working on some projects.
I have a lot of projects, but I’m usually the originator for these projects so I’ll do some here, do some there, depending on what I feel like. It’s like a project you work on around the house, you know? Then once a week, I’m a messenger running around town, even though we barely have any work right now. Messengers are optimistic and they’re trying to start something new in a time like this, which is why I want to help them out as best as I can; photo shoots, filming, broadcasting videos, directing our store, etc. And now, working on this worldwide underground magazine. I’m outside quite a bit because there is a lot that needs to be done, but I never use public transportation to begin with so I’m staying safe. I actually highly recommend cycling for everyone! The distance you’d ride in Tokyo is about the same as the ride to work in Copenhagen.
As for my schedule, it’s different everyday, but for example, here is my schedule from yesterday:
2:00 - 3:00 Staying in bed, breakfast (Curry)
3:00 - 5:00 Edit photos
5:00 - 7:00 Mange website, write
7:00 - 11:00 Nap
11:00 - 13:00 Watch a document on Michael Jordan (Netflix), Lunch (pancakes)
13:00 - 16:00 Lounge around, don’t really want to leave the house because it’s raining
16:00 - 17:00 Bike from Asakura to Shibuya
17:00 - 19:45 Office work, photo shoot, meeting
19:45 - 20:00 Bike from Shibuya to Ikejiri-Oohashi
20:00 - 21:30 Restaurant food photo shoot
21:30 - 22:00 Photo shoot
22:00 - 23:30 Meeting and Dinner (from the photo shoot)
23:30 - 23:45 Bike from Ikejiri-Oohashi to Shibuya
23:45 - 24:00 Cleanup
24:00 - 1:00 Bike from Shibuya to Asakusa
1:00 - 2:00 Shower, lounge around
2:00 - 3:00 Edit photos
3:00 - Sleep
You know. The usual.
Was your schedule different pre COVID-19?
Up until recently, I had a lot of jobs as a creator, and was running as a messenger twice or three times a week, so I had more of a structured schedule, but this quarantine has completely fucked up my rhythm. Not to mention how it’s taking a toll on my mental health. I’m not a structured person, so once you give me freedom, it’s all out of the bag. It is great waking up whenever though, and so is running as a messenger once a week without sleep. Haha.
I was fortunate to have creative projects in and outside of Japan because I have been a part of the messenger culture, which helped me to keep a good balance between my physical and mental health. But after the state of emergency was dropped in Tokyo, many of our clients didn’t need our services because they didn’t have important paperwork that needed to be delivered ASAP, which meant that messengers were running out of work. This is the underlying drive to promote the messenger culture on mass media. Even before COVID-19, the internet had been creeping in on our jobs (sending those paperworks via emails instead of using messengers, etc.), but with the state of emergency, we are in more of a pickle than ever and we are asking for support from anywhere we can get. But we know that there is still a need for messengers, so we are just trying to figure out where our possibilities lie. For example, some of our members have started a food delivery service recently.
Our motivation and mindset hasn’t really changed between before and after COVID-19 because many of us like to focus (aka have fun) in whatever situation we are in. I know that we are under some of the most extremely difficult times of our lives, but I feel the energy of the people who are trying to survive and they are thriving! On the other hand, people who complain, will always complain no matter the situation, but I think it’s best to keep a positive attitude, and have a merciful heart.
Can you explain about the photos you shared here? (Ex: What were you doing when you took it, etc.)
I chose some photos from pre and post COVID-19.
Photo 1. “Dogs of Varanasi, the holy land of India”
Right as the COVID-19 was starting to spread all around the world, I was traveling in India as a photographer for the Hentai Camera’s tour in mid February.
We performed 7 shows in 2 weeks in Goa, Varanasi, and Delhi. We had a busy schedule but it was the first time in India and we were extremely excited. We had a great time and I made so many good memories with the artists. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a whole lot of alone time, so I didn’t get to take as many street photos as I would have liked, but I felt that Varanasi had all of the essence of India: For example, when you looked down at your feet, you could see cow and dog shit everywhere. It was such a photogenic city, you can feel the Indian lifestyle. We were staying in a place in front of the Ganges river, and we got to see many pilgrims, as well as the local people living their day to day life. I think the biggest gain from this trip was being able to be in their presence and feel their lifestyle and religiousness.
Now having said all of that, I chose photos of dogs. lol.
There were many wild dogs and cows in the city, and you could feel that Indian vibe even in the animals which made me laugh so much. I was even considering making a portfolio of just dogs and cows. I mean, I love dogs more than I do people!
The local people were so kind to the wild dogs. I witnessed so many people taking care of them and coexisting, which made me feel warm. I saw the city functioning because they have a strong religious belief which gave them such merciful hearts.
A dog sticking their head in the leftovers and not being able to eat properly.
A dog who has a doughnut necklace around the neck because there was a festival, but not being able to eat it properly.
Photo 2. “Save the Messengers”
Illustration by my man, world renowned tattoo artist, SCUMBOY. Every year, he does an exhibition and some tattoo work at our messenger office, Mess Crib Tokyo. When he heard about our situation he drew an illustration for us. If you just look at the photo, it may look like he drew the illustration looking at the photo, but actually, the illustration came first, and we took the photo imitating the illustration. I feel like he really gets us and our lifestyle looking at the illustration. Genius. Messengers are basically day laborers. It’s a ghetto job so if there are no deliveries, you don’t make any money, and of course, nothing is guaranteed as a messenger. The thing is though, nobody complains about their situation, and if anything, it’s one of the things about being a messenger that attracts people to the job. But obviously nobody can live off of just being outside all day, unpaid, or with only one or two deliveries.
We started Mess Crib Tokyo to help the messengers earn some extra cash, because as I’ve said earlier, it’s not a career that will expand, and we know that. Right now, even this is in a tight corner, but thanks to the almighty SCUMBOY, I think they’re going to get through this.
This illustration is now our charity T shirt, so if you’d like to help out, be sure to get your own “Save the Messengers” T shirt!
A HUGE thank you to our suppers, and a big shout out to my man, SCUMBOY.
Photo 3. “ABENOMASK”
The infamous ABENOMASK.
I actually bought it on Amazon because I’ve been waiting for mine to come in the mail but it was taking forever. The funny thing is, the one I bought on Amazon came in two days, and the actual one came in the mail mid May. Anyway, this wasn’t to criticize Abe or the republicans, but more like social satire. I just wanted to give a laugh to those who've been in quarantine. Sorry if you’re an Abe fan!
I’m an anarchist, so I’m not interested in any politicians, or whatever their party may be. They will never understand our views on life, living a life as if they’re a thespian from medieval times. So, I look at it more like we’re taking the things from them, not receiving it.
I also think the government is a mirror of their citizens. I’ve traveled around the world, and those countries with high standards of living really showed during this COVID-19 crisis. Unfortunately, when I look around Japan and the people of Japan, I’m not surprised with the way they are. For worse or worse, it’s an island.
What do you think the world will be like after COVID-19?
(Including your work, world’s system, the show biz, etc.)
We may improve our technology and the way the world works, but I feel like people are living the same life they were living a thousand years ago, like karma. I’m sure it is improving little by little. If you think about it, people were killing each other a hundred years ago, and we don’t do that now. In a lifetime, I don’t think that there is going to be any kind of paradigm shift, but if you look at it in the long run, it must be happening in the world.
I think it’s rare to experience a paradigm shift in a lifetime, but I like think that I’m part of the gear in a wheel, helping the earth become a better place, a hundred years at a time.
When you think about it that way, COVID-19 is only a small part of the universe, and all I can do, is do what I am capable of in a time like this, so this question is like asking me what I would do with the shoe I stepped on shit with.
I think it’s more important to think about how to cope in a time like this, rather than thinking about how to change the world. Just by changing their attitude to a positive one, they may be able to figure out the best lifestyle in those situations.
As for music venues and clubs, it’s a place where people come to feel the ecstasy with sounds and lights, so once quarantine is over, I see it booming again. Probably more than before COVID-19.
Everybody is just trying something new, online, and nobody knows if this is the right path, myself included. I just hope that we can move towards a brighter future where we can use this work as a basis.
Do you think your work will change?
As a professional enjoyer of life, I don’t think things will be that different because I have about 6 different professions, and what I work on changes with how I feel at that time. Recently, I’ve really enjoyed broadcasting as a hobby.
As for things I want to do, coming back to what I said earlier about citizens, I only have awesome homies around me, so I want to broaden that circle even more. It’s all up to you, you know? It all depends on how you interpret things
Please tell us about the party you had planned in June!
I’ve been feeling the need for the different underground street cultures to come together so we may be able to accomplish more in this industry, because through my photos and videos, I’ve been extremely fortunate to make many connections within the street culture. Mess Crib Tokyo was one of the things that stemmed from that and I have realized that these are possible, because of my connections.
We set a goal to expand the messenger culture, and in the process, we had plenty of opportunities to work with different companies. However, they never really understood the importance of the culture, and neglected to expand together. As a result, they only used messengers as an added spice to their paychecks for the next month. For example, when there was a fixie trend, many of the companies invested in this culture, but we see nothing of that now. If we experienced it as messengers, I know that other cultures have experienced similar situations.
As long as I am a messenger, I can’t turn my back on this culture, and need to treat this place with the utmost respect. Which means that I need to be able to sacrifice myself to an extent.
Unfortunately, the bigger the company, the further away they are from this culture and lifestyle. But I want people to remember that the fixie trend came because of the messenger culture, yet these companies pretend to wear a mask of a messenger, and only value the profit off of it, not regarding the culture that lies underneath. If you can only think of give and take in a monetary sense, that is no basis for any relationship, only a mere figment of your imagination.
Disregarding the loss and gain in an industry, helping each other out, building a culture, isn’t easy. It’s something that takes time, but it is an important aspect for a business to succeed for years to come. Not trying to sound like a cliché, but I think this is the smartest way for a company to succeed. You need to be able to look past monetary profit to keep the company alive and increase the population in that industry.
The introduction was longer than I had intended, but regarding all of these things, I am blessed to be among the best people in the underground street culture, and I trust them with everything. I wanted to bring all of our skills and ideas together to build a stronger network.
Therefore, we had been planning on opening the biggest underground popup store since towards the end of last year. Kiosco, Aoi Industry in Shibuya, Voyage Kids in Osaka, and our very own, Hentai Works. We were going to invite SCUMBOY from Nagoya for some tattoo work as well. Others were brands from in and out of Japan, different artists and DJ’s affiliated with these different shops were invited also. The best of the best were coming together for this event, and it was also going to be my birthday as well.
As a pre-party, we were planning on going to Osaka in April, and Nagoya in May to do a popup store, and maybe some street racing, but, due to the COVID-19, they all got cancelled!
But do not fret my friends, we will reschedule with an updated version so stay tuned!
You know with this COVID-19, it just solidifies our hunch that big companies are protected, and local businesses like us need to figure out a way to survive. I am sure more than ever that what we are doing and trying to achieve is going in the right direction.
The party will be called “Tokyo Fair Trade 2020” Hoping for this to happen in the fall.
Keep your chin up and let’s party!
Any recommendations for things to look for online?
I suggest “The Last Dance” on Netflix, which I mentioned earlier.
“Breath of the Gods” was the last thing I watched on Amazon Prime.
On Youtube, of course, none other than “HENTAI TV”!!
The dopest channels are Hentai TV and MESS CRIB MAGAZINE! And Zendaman!
Check it out!
What are some things that you’ve purchased recently?
A video capture for the different videos we are broadcasting, a mixer, and a lot of cords.
Also, I’ve been spending a lot of money on my broken bike, computer, phone, and 2 cameras...Call me the destroyer. lol.
Your favorite take outs and deliveries?
Some of the messengers started a new service called “20 Courier Food Service” recently.
We carefully selected the restaurants and delivered their food. They’re still testing the waters and are working in the Setagaya and Shibuya area.
If you’re in the Kichijoji area, my man George started a delivery service there, called the “Kan Pai Sho store.” Go check em out y'all
Is there anything you wish was available?
Actually, speaking of my man George, I’ve asked him to help us out with creating a channel for all of our friends who are on Youtube and other social media. Like a TV column, we are looking for a place where you can archive each of their channels, and broadcast videos.
What I do, isn’t to increase fans, but to find more allies and keep creating a tribe. Let’s get more people on the inside and create a tribe that won’t lose, even to a company. Power rangers, unite!
Do you have anything you would like to promote or send a message to people?
Everything happens for a reason and how you interpret that is up to you, so try to stay positive, have a merciful heart, and help each other out. I’m still learning to control my anger sometimes, so let’s do this together. Ah-han.
Translation by kurumi