Wednesday August 1, 2012
Mini Japan in mall
By TAN KARR WEI
Photos by ART CHEN and FAIHAN GHANI
AS A Malaysian boy growing up in England, Danny Choo — now 40 years old — did not do well in school because he was subject to constant bullying.
“I was dragged through gravel, beaten up by gangs and had my belongings set on fire. I didn’t have a good time in school so I had lousy grades,” recalled Choo, who is the son of shoe designer Datuk Jimmy Choo.
“I discovered Japanese culture many moons ago back in the UK, from gaming consoles and Japanese animation.
“I then wanted to learn Japanese,” said Choo, who was back Kuala Lumpur recently for an anime conference and the Culture Japan Night at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur’s Tokyo Street where he had a meet-and-greet with fans.
He was so passionate about wanting to learn the language that he started working in Japanese companies so that he could practise the language.
“I find Japanese content to be very rich not only in anime but also in its culture. Back then, my only gateway to Japan was a bookshop in London where I buy my Japanese magazines.
“Coming back to Kuala Lumpur and seeing something like Tokyo Street is great, because people can find bits and pieces of Japan and enjoy the food,” he said.
London-born Choo now runs Mirai Inc media production company in Japan, and is the director and host for the Culture Japan show where he promotes Japanese pop culture.
“Throughout my career, I worked mainly in the IT field. Working for others is great but being my own boss enables me to do a lot of what I enjoy, which is Japanese pop culture,” he said.
Choo created a set of Moekana cards with Japanese alphabets on each card and cute characters to help people learn the language in a fun way.
The characters on the cards are none other than Mirai Suenaga, Haruka Suenaga and Kanata Hoshi-kawa, all of which started out as mascot characters for his website.
“The cards sold very well worldwide and we released an extension pack to these cards, and those sold out as well. I will be working next on a set of Moekanji cards where people can learn the Chinese characters used in the Japanese language,” said Choo.
His blog (www.dannychoo.com) has also garnered a lot of interest and his work in promoting the Japanese culture has even been recognised by the Japanese government.
Looking forward, Choo wants to continue sharing the Japanese culture with people from around the world on a larger scale.
“I am actually working on a new TV show called Japan Mode, which will focus more on lifestyle and I will be introducing fashion, music and travel,” he said.
Being the son of Jimmy Choo, it was somewhat expected of people to wonder if Choo had his father’s shoe-making skills.
“I used to work with him for awhile but I left his studio to learn about the Japanese culture. Yes, I still have some of the skills I picked up from him,” he said.
Combining those skills with his passion for all things Japanese, Choo said it was “very likely” for him to have his own shoe line before the yearend.
“Even though my dressing is very trampy, I’m actually very interested in fashion,” he said with a laugh.
“I want to combine Japanese culture, fashion and music together to form a new genre for the public. I don’t think it is going to be something mainstream though. It will be something for people who appreciate fashion, or a particular anime title or Japanese culture.
“I have been consulting with the former chief editor of Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire in Japan and she advised me to do two lines.
“One will be high end. It will be a ‘just-by-reaching-a-bit-further-and-you-can-get-a-hold-of-it’ type of end,” he said with one arm stretched out as if reaching for something as he gave a cheeky smile.
He said typically, most people would go into a shop where there were only perhaps one or two items that they want to buy.
“I want to have a shop where you want everything. That is the sort of shop I would like to have, he said.