Lighting director Takenori Higashimoto (a.k.a. HIGASIX) is known for his lighting design work on projects such Pocarisweat’s “ION WATER” campaign, TV commercials for JR East Japan’s “Let’s go, Tohoku” and KOSE’s “Sekkisui” as well as the music video for Yuzu’s song titled “LAND”. He lives with a fourteen year-old tomcat named Robin. Having raised Robin up from a kitten, Higashimoto says he cannot imagine life without a cat. We visited him and his beloved feline at their residence – the famous “House to Not to Die” by architect Shusaku Arakawa.
Together from birth
– How did you first encounter Robin?
“When I was in high school, my best friend gave me a cat named Momo. Since I was living with my family, I had to secretly keep the cat inside my closet. Of course, I was quickly caught by my parents. Fortunately, they were not against the idea of keeping the cat. So we all began living happily together. In fact, my parents also became entranced by the charm of cats. After some time had passed, my father brought his friend’s Persian cat over for mating. The result was three kittens. Robin was one of them. We have now been together for fourteen years. Because I move around a lot, I have taken her form one place to another ever since we moved out of my family home. We came to this place (Reversible Destiny Lofts MITAKA) about a month ago. Even though we don’t own any home furnishings, it is very comfortable.”
– ‘Reversible Destiny Lofts MITAKA’, by architects Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins, are quite unlike a typical residence. They have experimental room plans and structures. For both you and Robin, it must be a fun place to live.
“Indeed it is. However, because Robin is such an old cat, he isn’t able to run and jump around anymore. So I honestly don’t know if it’s comfortable for him or not.” (laughs)
– Can you tell me about Robin’s character?
“Perhaps due to his Persian bloodline, Robin is very gentle. Because he is large and long-haired, he gets a lot of hair balls. Therefore, I have to crop his hair once a year. He may not like it, but he does look really cute afterwards (laughs). I take him into the office every now and then. He always manages to stay calm. I feed him dry food and use a ‘Nyantomo Seiketsu Toilet’ for his litter box.”
A lighting director who turns darkness into light
-Because you live in such a unique piece of architecture, it probably doesn’t matter what kind of cat-related goods you get. They won’t seem out of place. However, are there any cat-related books or movies that you particularly like?
“Being very fond of Nobuyoshi Araki, I’ve looked through ‘Chiro, My Love’ many times. However, I just can’t force myself to look directly at the photo of Chiro’s corpse. I’ve also admired the work of Naoto Takenaka. In fact, after graduating from high school I visited him with hopes of becoming his apprentice. Ultimately, I was rejected. Around that time, Takenaka played the role of Araki in the movie ‘Tokyo Biyori’. That’s actually how I came to learn about Nobuyoshi Araki’s work.”
– Your unique style of dressing shows the influence of Naoto Takenaka.
“I admit that he influenced me quite a lot. Even though he didn’t let me become his apprentice, he did connect me with a position within the lighting department on his next movie – ‘Rendan – Quartet for Two’. At that point, it was the best month I’d ever had. I was happy just to be near my idol. In fact, I don’t even really remember much about the lighting work I did on that set (laughs). Following that experience, I worked on five or six other movie projects while going to university. Then I became a freelance lighting assistant.”
– You certainly found your calling as a lighting director.
“No, this work is too hard (laughs). Now that I can mange to feed myself through it, I guess I should call it a good job. It’s not my ideal profession. I actually only began to consider it a real job after I started working as an assistant for the lighting staff on TV commercials. It is quite fascinating to create light out of darkness. However, because all of this work is done for clients, I am in a way just a clown. My spirit for hospitality is being tested as I try to provide entertainment for them.”
– When it comes to entertaining others, cat owners seem to be better at this than dog owners.
“Perhaps. As for Lighting, orders are often given in very abstract terms. How well you understand their intentions is very important. Come to think of it, maybe this is similar to cats – considering that they don’t understand words.”
– Do you come in contact with cats or other animals while on set?
“If I see a cat while working, I tend to get nervous. Once, we shot a promotion video at a ranch for a children’s program titled ‘the Milk Rapper’. Inside the cow shed, I noticed that some kittens had just been born. During the three days we were shooting there, I searched in vain for a foster family to take them in. By the end of the shoot, I was really attached to them. I even decided to take one home. However, my schedule got pretty busy after that, so I ended up asking one of our staff members to take it in for a week. His wife grew so attached to the kitten that she refused to give it back to me. I remember saying, ‘Give me back my Milk-chan!’ (laughs). There was nothing I could do about the turn of events. But it sure made me feel lonely.”
What is a “cat not to die”?
– What is the biggest attraction of living with a cat?
“When I decided to do this interview, I tried to think about the meaning of living with a cat. However, I just can’t seem to find the right answer. Though he is always there when I get home, I don’t know what he is feeling. We are together only through my unilateral human feelings. Moreover, I am not really dealing with ‘cats’ in general – but an individual living creature named Robin. Last year, Momo and the last of Robin’s siblings passed away. I’m worried that Robin’s turn is next. Shusaku Arakawa called this building ‘the House to Not to Die’. We shall see about this. There is no such thing as a ‘cat not to die.'”
– Does this relate to your interest in protecting cats through the Miharu Shelter in Fukushima? (http://ilove.cat/ja/7596)
“I cannot even imagine life without a cat. So, when I began thinking about life after Robin, I realized that maybe I should get another cat. Then I heard about how the shelter was trying to save cats. I became very interested in its activities. Because Robin has only lived with his own family, I feel living with a new cat might totally stress him out. However, things like this happen for a reason. I would like to take him up there with me for a visit.”