‘KAY FROM THE DOOR’ – JUMPMAN
"If I never encountered lowriding culture, I would not be here." IMAGES: ESTEVAN ORIOL
The moment Kaoru Hattori laid eyes on a vintage Chevy Impala in the pages of a magazine, she knew she had to have one. Saving for years to purchase her first car – a 1959 hard-top Impala – Kaoru’s passion transformed to a lifestyle as she learned to ride and ‘hop’ in Nagoya City, Japan.
Eventually making the pilgrimage to the home of lowriding in Los Angeles, California, Kaoru ended up literally setting up shop in Gardena to start a life as a car builder and co-owner of the Hop Shop.
Known as ‘Kay from the door,’ Kaoru developed a reputation for her original, and dangerous, style of hopping the car without a switch cord. For Kaoru, riding in her J’s is part of her ritual of preparing for contests.
Below, Kaoru explains how she developed a love for the candy and chrome, and how this obsession has translated to her feet.
Tell us how you became ‘Kay from the Door.’
“I got that name out here in LA from a guy who has been making DVDS for lowriding culture a long time. His name is Young Hogg. He is always announcing the hopping at the car show. There are a lot of different kinds of styles for bouncing the car.
Some people hop inside the car, some people hop from outside, and some people open the door to hop the car, like I do. So, he nicknamed me ‘Kay from the Door.’ In Japan, everyone operates from the door, it’s almost a rule. For everybody else it’s rare to see a woman doing that”.
How did you first learn about lowriding in Japan?
“The first time I saw someone lowriding in the street, my first thought was I’m not gonna go riding like that. It looks crazy. For a car to be hopping and moving like that – it looks like a toy.
I wasn’t building in Japan, just doing maintenance. I was always watching what everyone was doing. Honestly, building the car or operating it is very hard to do for women. But once I moved out here [to Los Angeles] I started building and I opened the shop [Hop Shop Hydraulics]”.
Did you ship your Impala from Japan?
“I wanted to ship the car from Japan to LA. I couldn’t leave her over there, it’s my baby. I always want to be with her. When I picked up the car at the boat, the car looked horrible. It was dirty and I was sad – but at the same time so happy to get her back.”
Did you move to Los Angeles specifically to low ride?
“Yes. It sounds crazy. Nobody believes me. The first time I came to LA, I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t speak English. I got homesick.
But this is my life. If I never encountered low riding culture, I would not be here. I sacrificed a lot of things. But at the same time, I got a lot of things.”
Are there many women low riding? You can probably count them on one hand.
“Yeah. I wish many more women were lowriding.”
You’ve been collecting J’s for as long as you’ve been riding.
“Yeah. For over 10 years. Often I’m looking for the men’s designs, not women’s. The design is so tight. They feel amazing.”
How did you discover Jordan in Japan?
“They have a lot of collectors over there. They’re actually rare. I wear them when I go out cruising and hop the car. I have to wear Jordans when I hop the car.”
Putting J’s on before you hop the car has become a ritual for you.
“Jordans help me feel confidence in what I do. I choose Air Jordans depending on what I’m wearing. The Air Jordan 11s are some of my favorites. Some Jordans are better with leggings or some with jeans. I wear an AJ 4 or 6 with jeans, and the 11, 12 or 13 with leggings.
I don’t like Jordans. I love Jordan. The crazy thing is I can’t hop the car without wearing Jordan. I try to, sometimes but… it doesn’t feel right.”