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Hirock’s Minimalist Guide to Gadget Buying

In the realm of gadget shopping, media master Hirock is in a league of his own. A former graphic designer at A BATHING APE, he now runs HIVISION, his own website where he selects the best in electronics buys, attracting a million page views every month. He also periodically appears as a guest on radio shows and writes the occasional column discussing his theory of how to enjoy the process of buying things.

Despite his shopping obsession, Hirock is a minimalist at heart and strongly believes that the key to happiness is owning as few items as possible. For him, it’s not an issue of ownership, but rather questioning how the item is used, placed, or worn.

Recently, O.N.S got the opportunity to talk to Hirock about some of his favorite items. During our conversation, he showed us some of the things he carries with him, further illuminating his philosophies on purchasing and ownership. He also added his list of top gadget picks for 2018, which you can check out after the interview.

I once read an article where you said,“I tell myself it’s cool not to have many things and yet here I am buying something everyday.” I was like, “Yes, I completely get it!”

I make a living buying things and then introducing those purchased items via various media outlets. However truth be told, deep down I feel a certain amount of admiration and respect towards monks who only own a few necessary personal things. Having said that, from a very young age, I was surrounded by objects, so letting go of personal possessions is difficult for me and I presume that is true for many other people. I remind myself on a daily basis that it’s important not to let “things” control you, but to limit your possessions by only selecting and purchasing the things that you truly appreciate. Really, it all began with little toys attached to stationary goods, my mother’s coffee shop, and American items selected by Mr. Tokoro.

Why did you start collecting gadgets and other tools?

When we were kids, stationary products came with little toys. If you had a rare item, your classmates would envy you. I collected as much as I could with my limited allowance. Back then my mother used to own a coffee shop, there were cups and tools everywhere in our house. I remember loving the image of cups lined up neatly. I still like to buy multiple items, so that I can line them up.

When I was in my teens, I read a lot about Mr. Tokoro and I became interested with things from America. After joining A BATHING APE, Nigo’s methods of selecting items heavily influenced how I chose things.

We live in a world where we have the joy of being able to choose between the most technologically advanced gadgets and a 100-year-old vintage record player. Is there anything that has changed recently in your way of thinking towards the value of objects? 

About seven or eight years ago, as SNS and online media was getting popular I always had an eye on the latest services available. I was keen on the latest Apple products and was constantly searching for something new. Looking back though, that was just a phase. We tend to think that whatever is new must be the best, but the greatest ability in life is to be able find the right product to fit your needs at any specific moment. When speaking of the tools we use to listen to music, like Spotify, Apple Music, or AI speakers, these are things that can enrich our lives. However, if you enjoy listening to vinyl records, you may find the joy of searching for a new record player even more exciting. What is important is not whether it’s old or new technology, but finding the pros and cons of these products and discovering what fits you best. That’s been my view on life over the past few years.

Having more choices seems like it would make discovering things more difficult. How do you find the things you want? 

I don’t really search for things. First I get the image of what I want in my mind then wait until it comes to me. It’s like putting post-its inside my head marking the things I want. One time, I was at a thrift store and I found a radio cassette player that I’d been wanting for a while. These are the type of experiences that I’ve been encountering recently. Another way to discover good stuff, is to be outspoken. To tell people what you like. Since 2005, I’ve used the Fresh News Delivery website to do that, but have recently turned to HIVISION as a place to communicate my desires. That let’s people know what I like, and then they’re able to share information with me. It might be a good start to talk about the things you like on SNS to start some kind of interaction.

What are you most interested in now?

I’m obsessed with my ability to memorize. For example, I try to memorize a 50 digit number within a minute. Or even being able to memorize the order of all 52 playing cards within ten minutes. That’s been my hobby recently.

Can you elaborate more on your memorization hobby?

There is an ancient mnemonic system that was formed during the Roman period. With no access to PCs or even notepads, everything had to be memorized. Scripture and music were all passed on to the next generation verbally. Kings and people in the higher position are said to have had great memory skills.

When I hear about memorization, it brings back the time when I struggled throughout my school years. 

The trick to the memorization is to have a great imagination. If you want to memorize the number two, you imagine the shape of a duck, which actually looks like the number 2. If you think of a duck, it’s easier to memorize the number two. Memorizing is a creative activity done by our brain. It softens our brains, and once you are on a roll, you get into it, and becomes really fun. If I had known this earlier it may have helped me get through my high school education a lot easier. Maybe I could have gone to Tokyo University. These days I don’t need to jot down my shopping list, I can memorize up to 20 items and go shopping at Tokyu Hands without making any mistakes.

Are you learning mnemonics so you can ultimately have fewer things?

No, it’s not to get rid of things. It’s all for quick thinking. It’s entertaining, but it also improves my vision and creativity.

I see many health-related goods in the things you’ve selected recently.

Yes, they all come from the same reasoning. In order to improve the speed of your intellectual thinking, you must have a good blood circulation. For that, the best thing is to exercise. When your blood is circulating well, the oxygen is able to circulate throughout your mind and body. Therefore, your hormones are well balanced and the concentration rate increases. It’s best if you can exercise daily, but when you don’t have the time, it’s good to use some of these items that I brought today.

So I have the impression that when you choose an item, you tend to select things that help people function to the best of their abilities.

When you are surrounded with technology and things, people tend to find happiness by using their extra time for more human activities. Hand dripping your coffee rather than using a coffee machine, listening to music using a record player, or even going hiking. For me, theses activities enable me to focus my blood circulation. I think it’s items like these that will be most in demand in the future.

Do you use a similar method of logic when choosing you clothes? 

Actually, for me, selecting fashion items and other things is completely different. With things, I can introduce and recommend them to people, but with fashion there are no right answers. There have been many times when I feel that the products someone makes are so cool, but their fashion style would’t be a good fit for me.

The O.N.S brand started with the goal of creating “One Nice Shirt,” the idea being that if a person has just one perfect shirt, their days will be full.  Does that fit with your philosophy?

I’ve liked nice shirts since I was younger, so I tend to wear them whether its for parties, work, or just casually. Steve Jobs always wore a black turtleneck. That was the thing for him. A white button-down shirt is what represents me. You can’t go wrong. You can wear one anywhere. I like simple designs, but I don’t like sloppy collars, so I wear button-downs only. The objective for choosing my shirts may differ from the reasons I choose other things, however. It’s just one of many things that I like.

Hirock’s Picks

Rhodia No.11 Memo Pads

I’ve been using Rhodia No.11 memo pads for a while now. I bought the one with the white cover because I wanted something different from everyone else. It was actually really difficult to get a white Pentel marker to match the pad. It took me about a year or two to find this one. It’s actually a special pen made for Japan Post to encourage people to send post-cards. It’s called  a“Hagki-Pen,” which means “postcard pen” in Japanese. It’s such a difficult item to find, that you can’t even search for it online. I was so excited when I found it. You can’t imagine how happy I was.

Wireless Bluetooth Earphones

These are wireless Bluetooth earphones that I started using recently. I love the smiley face on them. I wasn’t quite sure if it was placed there intentionally, so I called up the manufacturer, who confirmed that it was. This is the kind of playfulness that I love.

Mango Electric Hand Warmer

This is a mango-shaped electric hand warmer. When you turn it on, it heats up to 40 degrees Celsius [104 degrees Fahrenheit]. It’s great for work when my hands get cold. It can also be used as an iPhone charger, so I carry it with me everywhere.

Low Frequency Therapeutic Muscle Warmer

This is a portable, low frequency heat therapy device usually used at osteopathic clinics. When your shoulders gets tense, you can use this to loosen up the muscles. This is the only device I know of that does both low frequency therapy and heat treatment.

Apple Watch Mount

This is an Apple watch mount. It attaches your Apple watch to the steering wheel of a car. If you attach it to a different place, it completely changes the object. On a steering wheel it can help you turn on the music or navigation system. You could also put it on a stroller or a desk lamp. It changes your perspective of the Apple Watch and how it can be used.

Selected Keychains

I love key chains and I have a few hundred. These are a few selected key chains that I brought today. My favorite is the lightsaber in the middle. Actually, I don’t think you can’t call it a lightsaber unless it lights up. It’s not only a keychain designed like a lightsaber, but also a tool for removing static electricity. I’ve tried it many times but it only lights up a little, so I probably need to work on using the Force.

Selected Short Pens

I like short pens, so if I find one I always tend to buy it. The two on the left are my favorite. The middle pen is a Pico from LAMY. It’s 92mm, but when you extend the ball point it expands up to 123mm. The logo protrudes from the surface of the pen. At first I thought it would look better without it, but this logo actually works as a pen roll resistance mechanism. The logo has a function, and I think that’s quite neat.

Beams x Kyowa O’band “All in Pack”

Kyowa was the first company to make rubber bands in Japan. Beams recently asked it to produce this variety pack. Various colors and sizes that were left at the factory are put together in a box. They are so colorful and fun, I call it the “All in Pack” from Kyowa O’band’.

Photography by: Sodai Yokoyama

Text by: Kenta Baba

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