Wheelchair user Mr Yoichiro Nishizawa travels the world with his trusty service dog and his collection of Globe-Trotter suitcases — to the surprise and delight of passers-by.
We caught up with the Tokyo-based customer to talk about his faithful travel companions and how his unique cases are a way of communicating with the world.
How were you first introduced to Globe-Trotter?
I clearly remember the first time I saw a Globe-Trotter. I always loved polishing and maintaining leather shoes, and in 2010 I came across an article which featured Mr Matsumuro, a shoe polishing craftsman, who used a 33-inch Globe-Trotter to store his brushes, polishes and tools. I later had the honour of meeting him personally and he kindly gave me his case, which I have kept ever since.
What do you like about the Globe-Trotter brand?
When I buy things, my most important consideration is whether I can use the item for a long time. Globe-Trotter suitcases fit this brief perfectly – the longer you use them the more it feels a part of you. When I use my case, I feel I am setting off on a journey, rather than simply going on holiday.
How did you go about modifying the case? What changes did you make to it?
I have two 13-inch Mini Utility cases, one of which I used to store the things I needed for my service dog, Lucky. I visited a wheelchair manufacturer and asked for mine to be customised to hold my 13-inch case. To begin with, the manufacturer was puzzled (it was a first for any such enquiry!) but he was kind enough to carry out the work. To use the wheelchair you obviously need two hands, so I attached a belt to my 21-inch Trolley Case to pull along behind me.
Can you tell us a little about the stickers you have covering your case?
For me, Globe-Trotter cases aren’t complete without stickers. Searching for stickers is very time consuming! When I fly, I always ask the airlines whether they have any stickers, or at the stores I shop in. I must have about 200 stickers in my collection so far. Vintage stores are another place I keep my eyes peeled for any attractive stickers. I keep them all in my second 13-inch Mini Utility case at home. When I use my stickers, I start with a theme or a colour in mind. For instance, to decorate my Centenary 30-inch suitcase I used a Hawaiian theme. I particularly like the sticker I have on my service dog’s 13-inch Mini Utility, which says “Middle”. It was the name of my service dog before Lucky.
Do you find that your suitcase gets a lot of attention from passers-by?
hen I’m on the move with my wheelchair, I often get attention from people who are curious how I’ve attached the cases. I am always asked questions at airports by curious travellers. I always take the 13-inch Mini Utility I use for my service dog as carry-on. Once a cabin crew member complimented what a lovely case it was, and was very surprised when I told her it was for my dog! When I’m asked if I want to wrap my 21-inch or 30-inch cases for protection at airports, I always say no because I’m happy to have stickers and scratches from travelling on my case. I can’t help but grin when people compliment me on my suitcases.
The suitcases become an opportunity to communicate with people you would never normally have the chance to talk to. I also use a Globe-Trotter as a business briefcase. I attach the handle to my belt so it doesn’t slip off my knees while commuting. My colleagues are surprised by how it never falls off. I use it five days a week and it has warped to the shape of my knees!
Can you tell us what kind of travels you have taken with Lucky and Globe-Trotter as companions?
I have been on many domestic holidays, from Hokkaido to Ishigaki, Okinawa. Overseas, I was asked to be part of a group to travel to Shanghai Expo with Middle to introduce Japanese service dogs who help the disabled. I've also been to Hawaii three times. Twice with Middle and once with Lucky.
What trip has been the most memorable and why?
Hawaii. There are two reasons why. In June 2013, I took my then-girlfriend and Middle there. It was in January 2013 that we began to talk about going to Hawaii and started to plan the holiday shortly after. For the Shanghai Expo everything was looked after by the event organisers, so that was the first time we had to arrange everything for ourselves. There was limited information available, and we considered going through an agent who would sort the admin out for us but their costs were too high.
I eventually found a blog written by a man who had travelled to Hawaii with a service dog, so I immediately contacted him for more information and advice and with his help we managed to travel there safely. On our third day, I proposed to my girlfriend at noon when we were having a picnic at Ala Moana Park, of course with my trusty companion Middle by my side. I gave her a necklace with a pendant of a heart, not the customary ring, so she could wear it close to her heart. I will always remember the sight of her crying with happiness. I took my 30-inch Globe-Trotter, and she a 21-inch case.
I fondly remember buying so much wine and clothes that we had to split everything between our cases. Overall, planning the trip took half a year but once we finally got there the experience was worth it. It has also given me a lot of confidence to travel with Lucky.