Twenty years ago I was working in Tokyo starting up the Japanese subsidiary of Fossil watches. My office was in a decidedly seedy love hotel area of Shibuya called Dogenzaka, which I had picked because the rent was really cheap and the station was a convenient hub for my co-workers. The best part about the neighborhood was the countless dive bars and restaurants with delicious, reasonably priced food. Most of my conference calls with the US headquarters would be after 10pm Tokyo time, and I would invariably step out for dinner before heading back to the office. And pretty soon I was eating exclusively at one place, Kaikaya by the Sea.
Kaikaya was tiny fish restaurant owned by Tange-san, a self-proclaimed “mysterious Japanese man who cooks marvelous seafood dishes”. From the sticker-covered wooden front door you could tell that Tange was a lifelong surfer. The cramped interior was filled with pictures of surfing and a dusty longboard hung on the wall. I wasn’t a surfer then, but Tange and I became fast friends. I would sit at the counter talking with him while he prepared the best fish he found at the market that morning. No menu was ever needed.
Listening to Tange talk about waves and his love for the ocean sparked something inside me that, in retrospect, can only be described as “surf stoke”. My strongest visual memory of the place was a faded picture of Tange and his friend in Honolulu that hung at eye level in the closet sized bathroom. They were both young and beaming, holding their longboards in the white Waikiki sand with Diamond Head jutting out majestically behind them. The picture felt like the definition of joy to me and I thought, countless times, someday I want to do that.
Fast-forward to last month and I’m on the North Shore of Oahu with Pancho, Abe, and Chris Papaleo for a late season swell. We had just finished a great day of surfing and were drinking beers at Pancho’s house when I remember the picture and tell the story. And almost immediately it was decided, we had to go to Town. The very next day we are longboarding the crystal blue Waikiki waves together in what ends up being the most fun day of the entire trip. And now I have my own pictures to remember. Life is a wonderful journey.