Tokyo Damage Report

interview with Suma-Q!!!

Suma-Q is a wonderfully talented fashion designer, DJ, shop-owner, and general scene pillar here in Tokyo. She’s one of those rare people who is  expert in both traditional Japanese things as well as the grotesque corners of the underworld. 
 
Her nickname  is a combination of “sumata” (a slang Japanese term for a scam where a prostitute takes a drunk customer’s Johnson and sticks it between her greased-up legs, and he thinks it’s in her vagina) and the English  letter “Q”, which (next to ‘X’) is the most enigmatic, mysterious letter in the alphabet.
 
When not attending “public visitors’ day” at science labs, or going to “beetle grub cooking classes”, she runs her own clothing store – CHOCOLATE CHIWAWA, located in Kouenji.
 
I interviewed her in Japanese (since she doesn't speak English). Behold!


TDR:When did you start your boutique, Chocolate Chiwawa?

 
SUMA-Q: 1998 – ten years ago! I wanted to start some kind of store, and I was interested in vintage stuff! Of course, you have to get a “secondhand-goods-selling” permit. So I applied for it, and then I was on my way.
 
TDR: Have you also been making clothes the whole time?
 
SUMA-Q: No. I made lots of clothes at my (clothing design and manufacturing) trade-school, but. . . when I started the store, I stopped doing hand-made stuff. I’ve only recently resumed making costumes!
 
TDR:How did you get interested in fashion design? Is there a particular designer that inspired you?
 
SUMA-Q: No, no, nothing like that! I just wanted to work with my hands, to have some kind of special skill – what we call “tenishoku” (手に職) (a term meaning, ‘craftsperson’, ‘artisan’ or ‘skilled-laborer.’ If you have a certificate stating that you are skilled in a certain area, you can always find work on your own terms. Examples: plumber, autoCAD, pottery-dude)
 
TDR:And when is Chocolate Chiwawa open?
 
SUMA-Q: 2 pm – 8 pm Tuesday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday it’s 3-8pm. Monday is YASUMI (day off)!
 
TDR: What kind of person orders your costumes?
 
SUMA-Q: Dancers, strippers, cosplayers, and stylists which work for ‘tarento’  (showbiz people like comedians or professional talk-show guests)

TDR: Are some of the strippers burlesque?

 
SUMA-Q: Yeah, a lot of them!
 
TDR:In addition to the Kouenji store, you also have a portable “chocolate chiwawa” booth that you take to certain suspicious parties. Can you talk about them, or are they top secret?
 
SUMA-Q: Well, there’s all kinds of parties – like “Department H” , which is a monthly fetish event. They have a show on stage, but the real show is the audience – there’s drinking and dancing but mostly it’s a place where one can have “hentai communication!” A place for all kinds of erotic outlaws to have freedom.
 
TDR: And what does your booth at “department H” sell?
 
SUMA-Q: Some costumes, lingere, and dead bodies.
 
TDR: Dead bodies?
 
SUMA-Q: The pink and purple mice and insects in little jars – you can attach them to your cellphone or use them as a keychain!
 
TDR:: Oh! They’re supposed to be snake food, for people with pet snakes, right?
 
SUMA-Q: Right, but I make jewelry out of them. It’s a bad habit of mine.
 
TDR:: What about other underground events you do a booth at?
 
SUMA-Q: I used to have a table at a burlesque party called TOKYO HAREM QUEEN, but they’re not doing that anymore. Then there was ERO-KAWAII, which was a women-only event.
 

TDR:“ero-kawaii”?

 
SUMA-Q: It means erotic-but-cute.
 
TDR:: Is that a goth-loli event?
 
SUMA-Q: There’s some of them, but if I can speak plainly, it’s a “men-hel” event. Because everyone there has some kind of problem with their “mental health.” Anyway, ERO KAWAII turned into TOKYO ALICE, which is still going on.
 
TDR: Ah! It’s the evolution of mental health!
 
SUMA-Q: At TOKYO ALICE, the main acts are bands and burlesque dance. The women at that event are pretty young, what we call “high-teens” (18-25 years old), so I try to sell things that are suitable for them. Also DJs.
 
TDR:If my memory serves, your first DJ gig was at ERO KAWAII, no?
 
SUMA-Q: So, so! That was 2 years ago. For my very first DJ performance, I played the entirety of a politician’s speech, acapella.
 
TDR: Why?
 
SUMA-Q: Well, the politician was Togo Ken – he was like the Harvey Milk of Japan. He ran for Prime Minister – not to win, of course, because he was openly gay. But since he got on the ballot, they had to give him air-time. So he got to go on nationwide TV and give a lecture to the mainstream about gay rights. It was a real scandal!
 
TDR:: And how did you become a DJ.
 
SUMA-Q: The answer to this is very simple. The organizer asked me. I was going to go to ERO KAWAII anyway, and if I DJed, I could get in for free. Since then I’ve DJed at goth/industrial parties like GOTHIC BAR HEAVEN, TOKYO ALICE, and various one-night-only Lolita and Akihabara-style shows.
 
TDR: So, what kind of stuff is in your shop? Would a European Loli enjoy it?
 
SUMA-Q: Well, my stuff is a bit too vulgar to qualify as Lolita, I’m afraid. Lingere and such.  But we have some things that would be nice in a nightclub.
 
TDR: Yeah, what’s up with that? I mean, chocolate chiwawa is half vintage clothes, and half new club- costume- and burlesque wear.
 
SUMA-Q: In the beginning, it was all used clothes. But I gradually became more interested in costumes, so right now we are at the half-way point. In the future it will only become more costumes, and more burlesque! Besides, there are so many used-clothes shops here in Kouenji, it’s a little boring. One needs to stand out somehow. Although, perhaps the people around me think that my shop is strange. I can’t imagine why – I’m very conservative.
 
TDR:: Liar!
 
SUMA-Q: It’s true. I wanted to do a shop for everyone, for average people, and yet it’s turned out like this. Now, how did that happen?
 
TDR:: A lot of Tokyo’s most extreme fashion was in the ‘90s – visual kei, gangyaru, bodicon, the Harajuku explosion of tomoras and decoras. . . . why do you think there’s no real new subcultures in this decade?

 
SUMA-Q: Well, in fact there is a new one – KOAKUMA AGEHA. For some reason, hostesses and prostitutes are now very popular – young women copy them like they were Beyonce or whoever. Koakuma means “little demon”. (小悪魔). And “Ageha” is the Japanese name for the swallow-tail butterfly – it’s also an old slang term for a mizu shobai (hostess) lady!
(sample links here, here, and here!)

 
TDR:Do you have a favorite designer, or favorite fashion?
 
SUMA-Q: Uniforms! I like things which are ‘kigouteki’ (記号的、meaning symbolic).If you see someone in a policeman’s uniform – even if it’s a poor likeness, it’s still obvious who he’s trying to be! The meaning is built-in. In fact, the more conservative the better!
 
TDR: Like. . um. . .Mcdonalds?
 
SUMA-Q: No, no! Things like police or the army. I like the uniforms that none of my friends wear; things I can’t see every day.

 
TDR:Can you talk about this costume?
 
SUMA-Q: I did this for a dancer friend. The costume is “SANGOKUSHI” – it’s some kind of Chinese martial arts thing. I’m very traumatized to report this, but Japanese will like pretty much anything if it has been made into an animation or comic book or game.
 
 
TDR:: What was the hardest part of making the costume?
 
SUMA-Q: The fabric itself – it frayed easily. So doing the details, without ripping the fabric was a lot of work.
 
 
TDR: What is the story with THIS one?
 
SUMA-Q: That’s a costume I made for myself – when I am onstage with my band, ZOMBIE LOLITA.
 
TDR:: Why am I not surprised to hear that you are in a band called that.
 
SUMA-Q: It’s a heavy-metal band but it’s also a erotic/grotesque play- with over 6 girl singers, who have different roles in the story. All the girls are zombie sisters and there’s one song about each girl. My character is working in the circus, and she sings in the song called “The Daughter Who Balances On The Ball” I made the costume to match the character- that’s why the polka dots. Also, her circus is a big naughty, so the costume is a pinafore. Also, her circus is really destitute, so I used cheap fabric, and deliberately left the costume unfinished, as if she couldn’t afford to buy a whole pinafore! And despite all these circumstances, she has to somehow stand out on the stage, so that’s why I chose really loud red for the color.
 
 
TDR:  So what does Ball-Balancing Daughter do – what is her role in the play?
 
SUMA-Q: She hazes the newer girls! Benny Hill-style erotic humor is central to the ZOMBIE LOLITA aesthetic, so my character pulls up the new girls’ skirts and spanks them.
 
TDR: I would expect nothing less. Thank you for your time!
 
SUMA-Q: You’re welcome.
 
TDR:: Do you have a final message to your foreign fans?
 
SUMA-Q: It’s important to stay healthy!
 
 
If you're on MIXI, you can see more of sumaQ’s designs here:
 
Suma-Q’s  blog is here: (Japanese only, sorry!)

 

walking directions to CHOCOLATE CHIWAWA are like this:
Take JR chuo train to Kouenji station. if you take the South Exit, you'll see a little "taxi parking lot" in front of you, and a traffic light maybe 20 feet to your right. 
 
Go to the traffic light. Look to your right and you should see a big sign saying PAL- it’s kind of a shopping street with a roof.. Go Almost all the stores in PAL have little signs in english, hanging from the roof. so if you look up, you can spot the landmarks I will give you.
 
If you go down  PAL for 3 minutes, on your right you'll see, signs for "belle pia" and "world airplane." On the left side, opposite the signs, is a little street. Take it, and then (10 feet later) make the first left after that , and walk 10 feet . On your right is a funky vintage-clothing shop called CHOCOLATE CHIWAWA.Ask the owner to show you the "kago shintaro art".
 
Address: minami-kouenji 4-24-11.
5 comments Tags:

5 Comments so far

  1. Sophisto March 20th, 2010 1:51 am

    Fun interview and interesting view into the necessity of being certified as a craftsperson.to make any real money from handmade items.

  2. meganekun March 20th, 2010 6:06 am

    nice interview!
    i have been to Chocolate Chiwawa a few years ago because it was on your Tokyo Guide (and also because it was near 20.000 Volts – is it true the live-house burned down?-) so it was fun to be able to know more about the shop owner.
    megane-kun, ball-sucker

  3. sephim March 20th, 2010 6:22 pm

    I don't have time to read this now, I'll just wait till it comes to Livejournal.

  4. Steve March 21st, 2010 6:14 am

    Wait, some guy gets on the ballot for Prime Minister in Japan and they HAVE to give him airtime? They wouldn't even let Ralph Nader PAY to get on national TV in the US.

  5. Em March 22nd, 2010 11:00 pm

    meganekun —
    20V didn't burn down.  Due to a fire in the building the building itself was considered unsafe and smoke damage in GEAR and 20V among other issues led to the closing of both.  At least (hopefully only) for now.

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