Casio Rocks On

A new collaboration with Japan’s leading guitarist puts Casio in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

You have seen his electrifying performance at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympics last year. Hotei Tomayasu (布袋 寅泰 or Tomayasu Hotei in the West) is a rock guitarist, known not only for his rousing stage presence, but also his distinctive guitar—with the hand-drawn, grid-like white pattern on an ebony fretboard—which debuted in 1985. In his native country, a close-up of the guitar is enough for any Japanese to know who is playing it and what performance would follow. And now, that unmistakable irregular grid appears on the Casio GA-2100 watch, popularly known (and hashtagged) as “Casioak”.

Mr Hotei rose to fame in the ’80s as the lead guitarist of the rock band Boøwy (pronounced boh-ee). He went solo in 1988 after the break-up of the band he co-founded. That year, the group became the first male artists to score three number-one albums in a single year on Japan’s Oricon charts. As the story goes, Mr Hotei was expelled from school in his home city of Takasaki for retorting, when his teacher disapproved of his long hair, with “Jesus had long hair”! He went to Tokyo where he formed Boøwy with vocalist Kyosuke Himuro. Although they lasted only seven years, the band’s influence in Japan is considerable: in 2003 HMV Japan placed Boøwy on 22nd of “100 Most Important Japanese Pop Acts”.

Audiences outside Japan may recognise Mr Tohei’s instrumental track Battle without Honour or Humanity ((バトル・ウィズアウト・オナー・オア・ヒューマニティー) in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1, which soundtracked the scene when O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liew) and The Bride (Uma Thurman) were in the Tokyo live-music club The House of Blue Leaves (where the girl band’s played, shoe-less!), before their violent showdown outside. In fact, that song, with its recognisable riffs, first appeared in Sakamoto Junji’s 2000 film New Battle without Honour or Humanity, in which Mr Tohei wrote the soundtrack and played the role of Masatatsu Tochino, a nightclub owner who dislikes crime gangs, but is brought into direct battle with the yakuza.

The new Casio GA-2100HT-1A has less of a bad-ass attitude or the original guitar’s avant-garde leaning at the time it appeared. It is all in the surface treatment of the bezel and the strap, for the watch is really based on the popular GA-2100, launched in 2019, so there is no tech tweak or update. Casio describes the watch as “slim”, as compared to, say, a typical G-Shock timepiece. The pattern does distract from the watch’s characteristic octagonal face, but some may find it rather evocative of something Swatch would do.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Casio GA-2100HT-1A, SGD269, is available at Casio stores. Photos: (top left) Casio and (top right) Toshiba-EMI

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