Limited Edition G Shocks are often associated with fashion labels like Stussy or Bape. However, in a peculiar Japanese fashion, G Shocks have also been issued in celebration of people, places and even trains. This article is an attempt to travel through Japan from North to South on the backs of G Shocks while making a few notes about the places and the G Shocks we meet.
Ainu in the early 20th century (Picture Credit Wikipedia)
Our journey starts in the very north of Japan on Hokkaido Island. Hokkaido is the second largest of the four main islands constituting Japan. It was the latest settled in modern times but may be the earliest populated part of Japan. Hokkaido is the primary settlement of the Ainu, an indigenous people living in Japan and Russia. Official estimates of surviving Ainu is about 25,000, but intermarriages make the figure more like 250,000. The Ainu are considered to be more related to eastern Russian tribes than to mainland Japanese.
The watch for this part of the journey is the 5600 Hokkaido Model. This watch was issued in November 2008 by the Hokkaido Tourist Board in cooperation with Northern Voice Made design, a Hokkaido based marketing and fashion company. It was a limited run of only 100 watches. The most interesting design features of this watch is the Ainu-inspired pattern on the strap and the keeper.
Takeshita Street, Tokyo (Picture Credit martback)
The trip brings us quickly to the heart of Japan; Honshu Island which is the largest of the Japanese islands. Honshu Island is home to about 75% of the Japanese population and the island where big Japanese cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are. Let us begin our trip in Tokyo, the capital of Japan. The Tokyo metro area has about 30 million inhabitants, making it one of the most populous and densely populated areas in the world. Tokyo (then known as Edo) became the capital of Japan in 1868, succeeding Kyoto. At this time, the name was changed to Tokyo, meaning Eastern Capital.
Godzilla in the Movies (Picture Credit Wikipedia)
The first watch on our Tokyo visit is the DW-6600BGZ-1AJF Godzilla Limited Edition. The legendary Godzilla monster first appeared in a 1954 Japanese movie made by Ishiro Honda. For a western audience, Godzilla is probably best known from the 1998 movie Godzilla by Roland Emmerich starring Matthew Broderick. This movie had our favourite monster moved to New York, which was not a good idea. In Japan, Godzilla has starred in 28 movies made by the Toho movie studios and destroyed countless monsters and skyscrapers. In the final Japanese movie, Godzilla vs Destoroyah, Godzilla is killed but quickly replaced by his son. The Godzilla watch was issued in November 2001 with a special Godzilla backlight and the Godzilla slogan “King of the Monsters” printed on the strap. Relatively expensive at 28,000 yen, the set included also a plastic Godzilla figure and a video.
Cinderella castle, Tokyo disneyland (Picture Credit Wikipedia)
Our second Tokyo watch, the Jam Home Made x Ships Jet Blue collaboration DW-5600VT Mickey Mouse takes us to Tokyo Disneyland. Tokyo Disneyland, opened in 1983, is actually only one of the parks in the Tokyo Disney Resort complex located in Chiba just outside of Tokyo. The other park is Tokyo Disney Sea, which opened in 1991. The Disney parks (which is actually an incorrect name as they are not owned by the Disney organization) had 13.65 million visitors in 2009 making it the third most visited theme park in the world behind Florida’s Disney World and Disneyland in California. T he Mickey Mouse 5600 was issued in August 2010 with a classic Mickey Mouse print on the dial and the mouse silhouette as backlight.
Inoki Food Business Advertisement (Picture Credit www.g-com.jp/inokifoodsbusiness/img/inoki_posta.jpg)
Continuing on, our journey takes us a short distance to Yokohama; about an hours travel from Tokyo City center. Yokohama, with 3.6 million inhabitants, is the port city of Tokyo and was for a long time the major port of entry to Japan. Yokohama is also the birthplace of Antonio Inoki, the most famous Japanese pro wrestler. Inoki (born Kanji Inoki in 1943) formed the dominant Japanese Pro Wrestling organization New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1972. He beat the then WWF champion Bob Backlund in 1979 but refused to accept the title. In 2010, Inoki was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame, becoming the first Japanese to receive this honor. Known as Killer Inoki, his trademark move was the face slap.
The DW-6900BIN-9JF Inoki Limited Edition was released in December 2001, priced at JPY 14,000. It has a red dial with the Inoki label and a Inoki signature backlight and caseback.
Kinakuji (GoldenTemple), Kyoto (Picture Credit martback)
Old Samurai Quarters, Kyoto (Picture Credit martback)
Continuing two hours by Shinkansen high speed train from Yokohama will bring you to Kyoto, the old capital of Japan. Kyoto literally means Capital City and was the capital of Japan for about 1000 years until 1868. Spared the destruction of World War II, Kyoto is the cultural centre of Japan with thousands of temples, shrines, palaces and gardens. Kyoto has also been the centre of politics and rebellion, often in contest with Tokyo. One of these movements in the late 19th century was the Shinsengumi (or New Chosen Ones Group) based in Kyoto. The Shinsengumi was a special police force formed by ronin (masterless Samurai) in the 1860s, initially as an official police force protecting the shogun but soon moving to the edges of the law. The most famous exploit of the Shinsengumi was the Ikedaya Incident of 1864, where they fought bands of ronin opposing the shogun. It is said that the involvement of the Shinsengumi prevented the burning of Kyoto. The Shinsengumi was dissolved in 1869. The interest in the Shinsengumi was reawakened with a very popular NHK television series in 2004.
Shinsengumi Uniform and Flag (Picture Credit Wikipedia)
The Shinsengumi G Shock DW-5600-VTSSK-1TJR introduced in 2008 uses the distinctive red jagged band on both the dial and the strap. This band comes from a jagged edge used both in Shinsengumi uniforms (then in blue, white and black) and in its flag. The red color is also the dominant flag color.
Ichiro Suzuki (Picture Credit Wikipedia)
South from Kyoto is the city of Kobe; known for its beef and the 1995 earthquake which destroyed large parts of the city and killed thousands of people. Kobe is also the home of the Orix Blue Wave baseball team. Until 2001 Orix (which is the name of a financial services company based in Kobe) was the team of Ichiro Suzuki, Japan’s most famous baseball player. During his time at Orix from 1992, Ichiro had a record seven straight batting titles. In his nine seasons in Japan, Ichiro had 1278 hits and a .353 career batting average. Playing in a generally non-competitive team, Ichiro won only one Japanese title in 1996 beating the Yomiuri Giants.
The Ichiro 6600 Special Batting Champion G Shock was issued in 2000 to commemorate his 7th straight NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) batting award. The watch has special Ichiro text on the dial and uses the 51 number and logo on the strap. This number was used by Ichiro in Orix and continued with Ichiro’s move to the USA playing for the Seattle Mariners.
Ryoma Sakamoto (Picture Credit Wikipedia)
Closely related to the Shinsengumi G Shock is the DW-6900BRYO-9JR watch which was issued at the same time as the 5600. This watch brings us to Kochi, a city on the island of Shikoku, the smallest of the four main Japanese islands. Kochi was the birthplace of Ryoma Sakamoto, one of Japans most famous reformers. Born in 1835, Sakamoto was instrumental in joining the different clan factions in their opposition to the shogun government. He wrote a manifesto, the Eight Point Program, published in 1867 which heavily influenced the modernization of Japanese government and society. Unfortunately, Sakamoto did not get to see what his work achieved as he was killed in November 1867. His assasination was initially believed to be by the Shinsengumi but later established to be done by another pro-shogun group. During modern times, Sakamoto has achived an almost iconic status and is revered as a symbol of the strength of commitment and unwavering belief.
The Ryoma Sakamoto G Shock was issued to commemorate the 140 years since Sakamotos assassination. It has a print from a famous Sakamoto photograph on the strap and uses the Sakamoto family crest as a backlight. The red and white naval flag on the dial has also been used as a Sakamoto symbol.
Shinkansen 700 Series (Picture Credit Wikipedia)
Himeiji Castle outside Osaka (Picture Credit martback)
Japan is a nation of trains. There are trains everywhere. Slow trains and fast trains with the fastest of them all, the Shinkansen, probably being the most famous train in the world. To get to the Shinkansen, we will have to leave Shikoku and go back to Honshu, the center island and in particular to Shin-Osaka. Shin-Osaka (which means New Osaka and is the same Shin as in Shinkansen or New Main Line) is one of the terminus for the Sanyo Shinkansen going south to Hakata station in Fukuoka, a distance of 553 kilometers. The Sanyo Shinkansen is the second oldest Shinkansen line established in 1972 carrying 63 million passengers per year. The trip from Osaka to Hakata takes 2 hours 17 minutes with a top speed of 300 kilometers per hour (or almost 200 mph for those that do not speak metric).
The 6900 Rail Star G Shock was released in August 2008 along with the 5600 Rail Star which will be described below. The watch has a custom dial with both the Rail Star logo and the Sanyo Shinkansen stations. The caseback has a picture of the N700 series train and the backlight says Hikari, the name of one of the train sets on this line. T he 6900 strap is printed to resemble the side of the train with the holes in the strap as windows.
Portugese Carrack in Japanese 16th Century painting (Picture Credit Wikipedia)
Our journey is nearing its end as our Shinkansen train brings us to the final stop; Fukuoka, located on the southern island of Kyushu, the third largest and last of Japans main islands. Kyushu has, since the 15th century, traditionally been both the gate towards the west and the base for a number of western influences such as guns and Christianity. The clans of Kuyshu have also formed strong resistance and a power base for rebellion against the central government. The first Europeans landed in Nagasaki on the western side of Kyushu in 1543, and Nagasaki continued to be the main center of trade with Europeans, mainly Portugese and Dutch until the middle of the 19th century.
Our final watch, the 5600 Rail Star G Shock continues the theme of the 6900 Rail Star. The 5600 is themed around the N700 Nozomi train. The Nozomi runs on the Tokaido (Tokyo to Shin-Osaka) and Sanyo Shinkansen lines. The first N700 train entered service on July 1, 2007 (a date also noted on the caseback of the 5600). The watch has a “Nozomi” backlight and the same side of train-style strap as the 6900.
This concludes our Japanese journey with a G Shock and everyone is now free to continue exploring the many wonders of Japan.