Finding a faraway home in Japan
@ Robbie Lawrence

Finding a faraway home in Japan

  • TEXT KRYSTIAN BANDZIMIERA
  • PHOTOS GABRIEL FLORES, ROBBIE LAWRENCE

This fall, Lufthansa launched a new series of #inspiredby-videos: using the hashtag #Heimweh, the campaign examines what it means to feel a sense of belonging and where our memories come from

The first episode features Satoru and Kiyoshi Inoue, two Danish designers who have Japanese roots. Born and raised in Copenhagen by Japanese parents, the brothers always felt more connected to Japan and their parents’ background. Their father passed away early in their life. Growing up, they forgot some of their childhood memories of him; until a journey to Japan changed something in the brothers’ lives.

“When we were kids, our father used to tell us stories about two young boys who lost each other in the dark. When my brother and I heard these stories, we were so scared, but we learned something: Always be there for one another!”

Finding a faraway home in Japan

Kiyoshi & Satoru Inoue are fashion designers and own their own brand ’The Inoue Brothers’. Kiyoshi (right) lives in London while Satoru (left) stayed in Copenhagen with his family

@ Gabriel Flores
Finding a faraway home in Japan

Their journey to Japan brought them right into the magical Shiratani Unsuikyo forest on Yakushima island. Some of its Yakusugi trees are thousands of years old

@ Gabriel Flores
Finding a faraway home in Japan

The brothers are launching a ceramics line, completing their late father’s vision

@ Gabriel Flores
Finding a faraway home in Japan

For their ceramics line The Inoue Brothers are cooperating with artist Julien Colombia and One Kiln Ceramics from Kagoshima

@ Gabriel Flores
Finding a faraway home in Japan

The ceramics from Kagoshima contain the volcanic ashes of the volcano from the stories their father had told them as kids

@ Gabriel Flores
Finding a faraway home in Japan

In our film, we portray the brothers’ journey to some of Japan’s most impressive sights, which help unlock the brothers' childhood memory

@ Gabriel Flores

 In the current film, we portray the brothers traveling to the place their father came from, where he developed his art and craft. Revisiting these places together, Kiyoshi and Satoru had to cast their minds back to moments in their past. These places were key to unlocking those moments of reunion and personal identification.

What does ‘Heimweh’ mean to you?

To us, it means more than longing. Heimweh is not a longing but more a belonging. We want to belong.

What was it that kept you from feeling at home in Copenhagen?

As a child you want to be part of the majority, not the minority. Because we didn’t have blond hair, back then, we looked different. Looking different was the biggest fact; we felt different, we felt alienated. As a kid, the only thing you want is to be accepted for who you are. We felt the difference when we went to Japan as kids.

Describe your relation as brothers.

Honestly, we did fight a lot when we were kids. Sometimes we even argued in Danish… Kiyoshi: … whispering to each other… Satoru: … so they wouldn’t know we were fighting (both laughing).

What is your relationship like today? Did it change?

No, we still fight a lot. But we have each other’s back. I can count on my brother, and he can count on me. There’s a strength that grows out of that. We both know that.

One brother always represents both.

It sounds weird but it’s true.

Where does the connection to nature come from? And how important is it?

Our dad used to take us to the botanical garden in Copenhagen, which is part of the university. He told us we had to respect nature and needed to understand that nature is not just a part of us and our lives, but that we are a part of nature. It’s easy to forget that. In our work we work closely with nature, with the people in our environment. We want to give back to those who make possible what we do.

The video is out. Did anything change for you?

It was surprising how many people had seen it. So many people we had no idea would see it. And now everyone we meet talks about it. We love this endorsement. We’re overwhelmed.

Finding a faraway home in Japan

We visited the brothers at the house in Copenhagen, they grew up in. Mama Inoue sitting in front of her husband’s glass and pottery collection

@ Robbie Lawrence
Finding a faraway home in Japan

Mama Inoue still keeps all of their father’s ceramics

@ Robbie Lawrence
Finding a faraway home in Japan

Honoring his art and craft is what the two brothers aspire to in their new ceramics line

@ Robbie Lawrence
Finding a faraway home in Japan

”Due to language barriers and cultural differences, Copenhagen never was home to our family. Our visits to Japan showed us that our parents were at ease. And we, my brother and I, suddenly met a other kids who were interested in the same things, had the same toys.“

@ Robbie Lawrence
Finding a faraway home in Japan

Due to their father’s teachings, working and living closely together with nature has become central to their lives

@ Robbie Lawrence
Finding a faraway home in Japan

At Satoru’s home, selecting accessories for their upcoming fashion show

@ Robbie Lawrence
Finding a faraway home in Japan

They seek the best material for their products, dealing directly and personally with producers around the globe

@ Robbie Lawrence

Your favorite reaction to the video?

It was funny, but we received an email from someone asking how to get to Kagoshima. We thought they should have asked you. You’re the airline (both smiling).

What did your mother say when she saw the film for the first time?

She was proud. And she was happy to see that our dad was in it, was part of it. This made us all proud to be able to remember him that way.

You were still young when he taught you all these things. But it wasn’t until now that you understood what he had told you. How? 

He talked to us like we were grown-ups. There is a saying in Japan that people should talk to their kids like the adults they will be in the future. And he was right. All along.

What brought the memories of your father back to your mind? 

It was the film, actually. Going to Kagoshima, we had to dig deep into our memories. We remembered things we had blocked out about him.

And now you’re releasing a ceramics line in December 2016 that contains the ashes of the Sakurajima volcano from your childhood.

Yes, through that we can feel the joy he had working with natural materials. It’s like we had helped complete and realize the vision our father had. When you lose a parent early in your life, living up to that parent means a lot.

What do you think or hope your kids will keep alive as your heritage?

We hope they continue the business, The Inoue Brothers, or the Inoue Sisters, who knows? (smiles)

What is the thing you enjoy most when you return home?

Satoru: For me, it’s my children. When I come home after a long trip, they come running to greet me. I hope that never changes. Kiyoshi: I live in London, and the best moment for me is when I see all these different people from all over the world living together. This makes me feel good about myself. About the place and the people that surround me every day.

Last question. What is home today?

Home is not a place. It is the people you are surrounded by. It is the people who make you feel that you can just be yourself. They make you feel you belong.


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