Charles Ayres, licensing VP
What brings you to Yotsuya station?
CA: I’m on the way back from filing my tax return. The queues were insane; I had to wait five hours! Yotsuya is the closest station to our office.
Have you lived in Tokyo for long?
CA: Going on 10 years already.
When did you first come to Japan?
CA: In 1993. I came to study in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, the sister city to my hometown, Kansas City. I did a month-long homestay there. We checked out the preservation district and ate the Momotaro rice cakes (kibidango). I thought it was all pretty awesome so I went back to America thinking that Japan was cool and that I wanted to come back to Japan again as soon as possible.
When did you come to Tokyo?
CA: The first time I came to study and only stayed for a month. However, I visited Japan numerous times after that until, in 2000, I came to Tokyo to study as a postgraduate student. I graduated from Columbia University and was awarded a scholarship to do my postgrad at Sophia University. I’ve been in Tokyo ever since. I’ve taught English and even appear on radio and television. Now, I’m Charles the senior manager. [Laughs] I work at a company that manages the copyrights of Hollywood movies – my role is to sell Japanese content abroad.
How is Japanese content received abroad?
CA: One type of content that’s well received abroad is Japanese characters. The characters that reflect inimitable Japanese aesthetic sense and peculiar cuteness do well overseas. The target audience for these characters abroad is generally younger than in Japan, up to about age 14. Adults outside Japan tend to appreciate characters that have been around for a while, like Hello Kitty, as they can be marketed as kitsch or fashion items.
What kind of content do you manage?
CA: My job is to manage and expand the overseas market for illustrative work like ‘Line Drawing CHICHI’. His [CHICHI’s] depictions of the female form skirt the line of being just sexy enough – they are sensual yet tasteful, erotic without being vulgar. This kind of Japanese art is garnering attention overseas.
Do you think you’ll continue to live in Tokyo?
CA: I think the lifestyle here really suits me. I love the food culture and above all, Tokyo is at the cutting edge of art and culture, even more so than places like New York. I think Tokyo’s new culture is really leading the way now.
That’s good to hear. By the way, where did you get your glasses?
CA: I picked them up at Zoff in Harajuku for just ¥6,000. Usually I wear contact lenses but the cedar pollen is sending me into an allergy ‘Fantasia’.
Do people also suffer from hay fever outside of Japan?
CA: Yes. [Laughs] In America people suffer from pollen produced by plants like butakusa. I remember when I was a kid, the doctors used to shoot me up with a vaccination once a week to prevent my hay fever. Obviously those shots did me no good.
How do you say butakusa in English?
CA: [Laughs] It translates word-for-word – ‘pigweed’. [It’s also called ragweed.]
Is there anywhere in particular that you often go in the evenings?
CA: I often go to Le Baron de Paris. Last year, the day after Summer Sonic, I met Beyoncé there. A little bird told me she might hang out there so I did the same; and there she was! In person she looked absolutely stunning – like an Egyptian goddess.
More from Charles:
‘It’s been one year since I started this job, and it just keeps getting better.’
‘I enjoy the lifestyle here in Tokyo. It’s such a safe city.’
‘My favourite Japanese food is soba. I often make it myself. Whenever I’m feeling down, I go to eat kaitenzushi. I find looking at the sushi revolving around on the conveyor belt mesmerizing and relaxing.’
Translated by Brin Wilson