Naoki Kitajima of Punch Cycle
You like the big poster on my building? Well that’s nice. I don’t know who it is, a friend made it. It was shot in Tokyo. What’s special about Punch Cycle? Hahaha. Well, I like the idea of never saying no to a job. Because you’ll never learn about your ability if you say no. I fix anyone’s bicycle, though I know my store looks a bit unapproachable. My hours are 5pm to 11pm because that’s what suits me. Mondays and Thursdays closed. I started here after my license expired as a motorcycle courier, about seven or eight years ago. Now I’m 48. I opened in this location [in Kaminarimon] because it was the cheapest place I found on Yahoo real estate. It could just as well have been Shinjuku. People gather on this corner. [He breaks off the conversation to greet a customer who has brought a vintage aluminium bicycle frame to have Kitajima remove the parts. The frame is bent. The customer tells you he belongs to a weekly cycling group that meets occasionally at Punch and rides a long way up the Arakawa River bike path to a park called Omiya Akina Seikouen. Kitajima takes the frame inside to the back of the store where he works on it.]
Hey guess what, peanut butter! [Kitajima’s voice rings out from the back of the store. The customer tells you that’s what the old-style grease in these bicycles was called because of its texture and colour.]
Yes I like cars too, “working cars”, cars that do a job. Ever since I was a kid. Now I have a yellow highway patrol wagon, as well as this red fire chief’s wagon. I also have a hearse and a mini-truck. I would like to have a taxi. Yes, exactly, just your standard, mustard-coloured Nihon Kotsu taxi would be nice.
[Long conversation follows with the customer who has brought the frame. Kitajima describes the 1970s import setup for Peugeot bicycles by Yamaha and Honda and the store in Harajuku, and the lack of parts, and you get the idea they could talk on bicycle trivia like this forever.]
No I don’t have a website but I have a blog. It’s called Idobata Punch. Idobata is an old expression that describes people gathering around the village well to chat.
[Another customer comes on a bicycle by the classic Osaka keirin frame-maker Zunow, which he has bought from Kitajima after seeing it on the street outside the store. He has added funny handlebars and Kitajima rides it in a circle and shrugs a sort of approval.
Other people stop by late into the night. A friend of Kitajima turns up in a yellow highway patrol car similar to Kitajima’s. You feel as if it’s an early scene from a 70s movie and any moment they might get in their patrol cars and go on an important mission or something, not quite Phantom Ninjas because more laid back, but maybe close.]