Queueing could almost be considered a national pastime in Japan, so when there’s really something to line up for, people take it very seriously indeed. Outside Rapha Tokyo the queue had started before first light. This was just for tickets. Later in the day Sir Paul Smith would be signing copies of his new book, Paul Smith’s Cycling Scrapbook and people had travelled hundreds of miles in the hope of meeting him.
Before a single book was signed, RCC members headed off on a guided tour of Sir Paul’s favourite locations in the city on a meandering route that would take the group through the high-fashion district of Harajuku, passing Yoyogi Park and Kenzo Tange’s National Gymnasium, on to the quieter, riverside streets of Nakameguro where the great man often explores the small stores and restaurants.
Sir Paul’s association with Japan spans more than three decades and he now has more than 200 outlets in the country. His love of Japan and the time he invests here has influenced Sir Paul’s own development too. He says the Japanese work ethic and attention to detail still inspire him every day.
After pausing to spend some time at the award-winning Daikanyama T-Site bookstore (where Sir Paul has been known to surreptitiously sign magazines), the RCC ride continued, calling in at two of his Tokyo stores; Paul Smith Space in Omotesando with its third floor gallery and English garden, and the newly-opened location in Roppongi, where, completely unscheduled, we were greeted by Sir Paul himself. Bubbling with enthusiasm after arriving from London only a few hours earlier, he quickly requisitioned a bike from the group and began cycling around the store, ascending the walkway along the 23 metre gallery wall leading to the second floor and circling a free-standing Sol LeWitt inspired cube – a subtle reference to his first three-metre-square shop in Nottingham.
Back at the Clubhouse the people who had queued for tickets to get their books signed were returning and the anticipation for the final event was reaching a modest but noticeable hum. The Clubhouse had been lined with a selection from Sir Paul’s ever-expanding archive of jerseys, all neatly labelled by hand with swing tags describing the details of each item.
Then Sir Paul swept in, greeting staff and guests alike with a disarming and infectious charm that spread through the room. The devotion of the guests was evident in their outfits – watching them file up to get their books signed was like witnessing a retrospective of Rapha + Paul Smith collaborations.
After the signing there was only one exit Sir Paul could reasonably make, so he got back on a bike and pedalled out of the door, slaloming through the crowd outside, finally disappearing around the corner leaving a very happy Clubhouse in his wake.