Kansai, Asics, geishas and love hotel. This is not the content of a Japanese travel guide, but the topics that define the work of Dominik Čech, who creates and performs under the nickname Domo as part of the rap crew Die Mannschaft. It is Domo, who is the protagonist of our editorial for the newly released Asics EX89. He also takes the lead role in this article, where you can read an intriguing insight into his year spent studying in the land of the rising sun.

Japanese sneaker culture is not just about running. The Asics EX89 sneakers are a retro basketball silhouette based on the original Asics GEL-EXTREME, which the Kobe-based brand introduced in the late 1980s. The new shoe comes in three colourways reflecting the colour identity of the Lakers, Celtics and Knicks in a vintage aesthetic that Ronnie Fieg himself helped to make. Although the sneakers are originally designed for the basketball court, no one will be mad at you if they become a staple of your daily outfit. After all, they’re predisposed to do that, perhaps in the form of the FF BLAST cushioning technology. So feel free to sport, but also to go to a coffee shop or even a Japanese Zen garden. But I’ll leave that to Dom, who spent a year in the land of the rising sun and who knows best what it means to wear Asics on the streets where the brand was born.

Until I had holes in my shoes

I have told this story so many times and yet I never know where to begin or where to go with it. How to convey this year I have walked through in my white ASICS on the shiny beaches of Kobe, on the tropical islands of the Inland Sea, in the mountains around the Takeda castle or the streets of Osaka. How to convey the experience to someone who has never seen the beauty of sunset at lake Biwa? I am no expert, but I feel like a big part of Japanese art is about this impossibility. The impossibility of conveying one’s true feelings he or she is experiencing when you casually go to the market, buy a bento, five beers and a pack of cigarettes and sit by the river watching old Japanese grilling fish. Every moment in Japan is the main character moment.

Now try to imagine that all of this is happening in some form all day, every day. A little kid from a Czech village, who dreamed about it this every time he walked to school with his friends, is living this and the reality is so much better than those dreams. In the second half of my stay, when Japan was hit by COVID and you could not travel, I spent my days just walking. Walking so hard through the streets of Kobe and Osaka that I had holes in my shoes. Somewhere you stop, look around, enter an izakaya (Japanese pub) have tea or beer, get drunk with the owner or customers and then “entertain” them by singing 70’s city pop. You just hang out, sometimes play ball with some kids and you love every goddamn second of it.

Japan can be a very sad place. It is a country that welcomes you and treats you nicely, but never accepts you

And then, there is the other feeling, which emanates from Yasunura Kawabata’s novels or the paintings of “Japan’s Van Gogh” Yumeji Takehisy – mono no aware. The realization that all is doomed to pass and the sadness emerging from it. Japan can be a place of great sadness. It is a country, which is inviting and treats you well, but it will never accept you. You will never get below the surface. You are sentenced to experience the most profound experiences very superficially, because, as the people around like to remind you, you can’t understand them fully. It took me an eternity to realize that this incapability to be truly a part of Japan gives you unique possibilities. You as a foreigner can do anything, you can do things, which would be otherwise unacceptable because the expectations of you as a foreigner are so low. Nobody is that naive to expect that you would be able to behave yourself. So in a way, just do not.

If I am completely honest, I was never really interested in fashion. I am into fashion, but I was never an expert in the history of brands or following collections. It was something entirely different with ASICS. I bought my first ones shortly before my departure to Japan and they became my partner I could always rely on. On top of it,Kobe is a born place of ASICS and these shoes are part of this town. On your morning walk of shame from a karaoke bar, you meet an 80-year-old Japanese man on his morning walk of fame in his white ASICS. You attend rap shows in Osaka and you look around and you see all of these crazy models of these shoes. You play football on the same island as the official headquarters of the corporation.

It feels weird to me to have any sort of emotional attachment to clothes, let alone “love” them. However, those ragged ASICS I still have in my wardrobe, I do love them. Despite all the crazy things I did in them, they never let me down and, on my trips, they always got me to the pub or public baths. I climbed mountains in them, rode a bike in nature, raved and walked through museums. Those shoes better captured the essence of Japan than I ever could in words.

You can walk, run and return to the same places with an ever-present sense of comfort in the new Asics EX89, which are online now at Footshop in three new colourways.

Keep reading on the article about shoes for all conditions, the new Nike ACG Zoom Gaiadome.