Toba is a small pearl-cultivating city located no more than a couple hours from Osaka, Japan. A black Mercedes sits by itself on the street in front of a small Italian restaurant just meters away from the ocean.
From a distance this Brabus badged S63 AMG looks like any other S-Class with a set of deep rims and nice offset. Get closer and you will notice the Brembo big break kit and the full widebody. Just then the sun passes through a gap in the clouds and for a second the metallic purple and green glitter in the clearcoat bursts into a rainbow of colour. It isn’t until you look at the car from a foot away that you really start to notice the immense amount of work that has gone into it. Nothing about this car is ordinary, yet in traffic or from the curb you probably wouldn’t take a second look at it.
The beauty of this S63 AMG is in the details. The discreet pink tint on the headlights, the diamond encrusted Mercedes emblem and the factory-looking Brabus badging are all minute details that start to distinguish this car from the average. Head to the rear of the car and you’ll notice the full custom exhaust making it’s way out from under the rear diffuser via six large exhaust tips. Then there’s the Leon Hardiritt wheels with enough offset to seat a small child. Look past the impeccably clean brushed aluminum spokes and you’ll notice the lips have all been custom airbrushed with detailed designs and elegantly written words.
It’s well passed lunch now so I put away my camera and make my way into the restaurant, past a business man sitting at the bar clearly entertaining his female friend and the bar hostesses. His candy cane red and white dress shirt paired with a multicoloured polka dot black tie tucked neatly beneath a clearly expensive black suit jacket are small indications of creative freedom stemming from financial success. This man has clearly made his way up the economic ladder, confidently but not aggressively he shows his fortune in small splashes of colour and luxury. It’s immediately evident to me; the Mercedes belongs to him.
I barely have enough time to order before his female friend comes to my table and tells me in a soft voice that Yasushi Okuno would like to have a word with me. I had apparently not made myself as discreet as I thought I had when shooting the car outside. I make my way over to him and after talking for a few minutes he takes me outside to hear the sound of the exhaust. I finish taking a few extra photos of the car and of Mr. Okuno himself before he takes a picture of us together for his blog. We head back inside to our respective tables after exchanging business cards. Later on he sends his female friend to my table once again to give me a small gift; a bag with a cartoon drawing of himself on it and the word “KING” written beneath.
Mr. Okuno is much like his car. From a distance you won’t notice anything different about him. Get closer and you might notice the odd flare in his style. However it isn’t until you talk to him that you realize just how different he really is, after all he is KING.
Looking back on this day I can’t find a suitable concept or description for Mr. Okuno or his car in English. However the Japanese have the term “Iki” which has deep roots in Japanese culture. Iki is beauty in simplicity, unpretentiousness and sophistication. There’s nothing blunt or showy in iki, it’s about being restrained and allowing others to discover what makes you different or special on their own. There’s a sense of modesty and subtlety in iki, a cloud of mystery that will attract some while repulsing others.
When I think of Mr. Okuno and his car, I think of how discreet they were and how they both had so much to show yet left you to discover everything on your own if you so desired; all very iki to me.