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Interview about Books & Travel
Shingo Wakagi

Interview about Books & Travel
Shingo Wakagi

Traveling with a book
We’ve been thinking about how to escape the curated digital world.

Shingo Wakagi is a photographer who has a wide breadth of experience living abroad. In the past, he has studied abroad at a university in New York, has worked across the United States after graduating, and has lived in San Francisco. He runs his own book store called “BOOKS & PRINTS” in his hometown of Hamamatsu, and is a man who travels with books. We started our interview by discussing what kinds of places he’s traveled to in the past.

“Surprisingly, I haven’t traveled much on my own and only do so once every 2 to 3 years. I’ve of course lived in the US, but have also visited Indonesia, Ireland, and 10 other countries. If I include places I’ve visited for work, it comes out to be a pretty good number.” As an avid reader who reads 4 to 5 books at a time, at a pace of 30 minutes to an hour everyday, he takes at least 3 books when traveling. “Because I travel often for work, I read books in between destinations, but ideally, I’d enjoy reading in my room or on a pool side. My work often requires me to go out a lot, so I enjoy slowly reading a book. Calling for room service and squatting in my hotel room for days while reading books sounds like the ultimate luxury to me.” As a person who reads many reviews, we asked Wakagi what his choice would be for a single book to travel with, and to our surprise he answered Denis Johnson’s short story collection, “Jesus’ Son”. He explained, “This collection of short stories depicts lives that went wrong. With an understanding that such people exist, it makes me want to casually wander into alleyways when wandering a city. It’s a book that gives me the courage to wander aimlessly without relying on a guide book. If you consider reading a novel to be a journey itself, reading a novel while traveling gives me the surreal sense that I am on a double layered journey.” Upon continuing on the theme of travel and books, Wakagi introduced books about China’s displaced ethnic minorities named “Hakka”, the Swiss City Ascona where cultural figures such as Kafka gathered, and the origin of contemporary art in “Black Mountain College”. “Because of the widespread use of the internet and the ability to travel using mobile tour guides, there is little to be found that is considered new. I feel like everyone is thinking about how they can escape this curated digital world. In thinking about what would be a fresh perspective, books play a vital role in introducing cult-like places that cannot be reached through information found on the internet. I want to see it with my own eyes because I won’t know if I don’t go. I’m currently fascinated by those types of places and am reading books about them, especially because I think going on a journey is about going to places that are mysterious or attention-grabbing. Ascona seems like a captivating place, so I would love to go soon.” Because we are living in a digital age, we desire analog things when we travel. Books allow you to research your destination and allow you to sort and deepen your thoughts about the place. “Trips” and “books” were carefully thought through and articulated within Wakagi.

 

To round up our interview, we asked him why read a book while traveling. He answered, “I think that a book is the glue that connects the extraordinary outside world of travel to the inner self. The book is the same no matter where in the world you read it. Of course there are times when books that I expected to enjoy fell short of my expectations, but that too is a necessary part of the relationship between travel and books, and what makes it interesting. Because the internet is a sea of information, it is easy to get distracted by a random article and suddenly find yourself lost in the unknown depths of the internet.” There is no doubt that books will enrich your experience before and during your trip. Wakagi provided me with an answer to allow me to enjoy the digitally curated age of now through books and travel.

 

Books that connect extraordinary journeys with the everyday self
7 BOOKS for TRAVEL
Selected by Shingo Wakagi

「Jesus’ Son」A book that gives you the courage to wander around on your journey“A collection of short stories with a strong sense of grunge about people that have ruined their lives through drugs and alcohol. When I think about how every country has people like those described in this collection, it gives me the desire to dig deeper into my travels and gives me the courage to wander as I desire while traveling. I think Mr. Shibata’s translation is fitting. If I were to take one book, it would be this one. I’m not one to reread books, but I find myself constantly coming back to this one.”Written by Denis Johnson, Translated by Motoyuki Shibata 「The Emperor’s New Clothes Kiyoshi Yamashita’s paintings and diaries」The royal road of Japanese travel literature“It’s the the royal road of travel literature in Japan. I used to act in TV dramas as a kid, so I have a strong image of an old man, who was good at Kirie, (Japanese paper cutting) traveling naked and holding just an umbrella. Those producing the show understood what kind of a person Kiyoshi Yamashita was and directed it as so, but as a child, he was nothing but a silly old man doing silly things. It was only after becoming an adult that I realized how spectacular of a person Mr. Yamashita was. It is a short essay collection, but nonetheless, it is artistic and interesting.”
Written by Kiyoshi Yamashita, Edited by Ryuzaburo Shikiba
「Hakka」Travel that connects to immigration「Hakka」is a book about the descendants of ethnic minority groups who have been ousted and scattered from China a long time ago. Based on looks alone, they seem to be ordinary Chinese people, so it is difficult to grasp the reality of their being. I have a simple fascination about the Hakka people and if you think about immigration as a journey taken over a long period of time, there must be something within the experience of the Hakka that connects to travel. Recently many Hakka people have had success on the public level and reading about their roots interests me.”
Written by Noriko Iijima, Hironao Kawai, Hiroshi Kobayashi
「The Ascoba Civilizaition The Ray of Light of European」The Holy Land of cults I want to visit“There is a place in Switzerland called Ascona, that is considered to be the holy land of cults where people like Hesse, Kafka, and E.H. Lawrence gathered during the 1920s and 1930s. I am currently reading this book and would love to go because it was a place that people gathered with the hopes of living in a utopia. Because you can find anything online now, I am interested in this cult-like place that cannot be fully understood unless I take myself there and breath the air.”Written by Shinichiro Sekine 「THE PENGUIN BOOK OF JAPANESESHORT STORIES」Understanding the outsider’s perspective of Japan“This book is a collection of Japanese stories by the famous publisher Penguin Books. I find this book fascinating because in a time when research on Japan has increased, I get to read about what foreigners find interesting about Japan. Haruki Murakami, who wrote the preface to this book, typically hates Japanese stories and had never read any before, but used this as an opportunity to read them for the first time. Rather than reading what researchers wrote, it is much easier to understand what those who are trying to understand Japan write.”
Written by Jay Rubin, Preface by Haruki Murakami
「LEAP BEFORE YOU LOOK : BLACK MOUTAIN COLLEGE 1933-1957」(上)
「Black Mountain College EXPERIMENTIN ART」(下)I want to travel to the genesis of contemporary art“I’m also interested in a school in America called Black Mountain College. People such as Josef Albers, and other Bauhaus masters, were all invited to teach there. It was a school that only existed between the 1930s and 1950s, but it gave birth to people like John Cage and what came to be called contemporary art during the 1980s. Because the school no longer exists, it makes me want to travel there and trace the remnants of the school and its legacy.”
Written by Helen Molesworth(TOP RIGHT)
Written by Vincent Katz(BOTTOM RIGHT)

Shingo Wakagi
After graduating from a university in New York, he began his career as a photographer. He has been active in a variety of fields, starting within magazine and ad work, and has published more than 20 photo/work books. Known as a book lover, he also runs a bookstore in Hamamatsu called “BOOKS AND PRINTS”.

 

Photo Riki Yamada Interview & Text Satoru Komura

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