September 24th, 2005

operesque

Basking shark

Yesterday I compared the "sharky" iconography of UK style magazine Dazed and Confused with some very different imagery in Japanese fashion magazine Fudge. Cultural comparison can never be an exact science, but Hisae and I discussed whether I could have picked a more appropriate Japanese magazine, and decided that Relax might be the closest parallel, in terms of topics covered and the type of person buying it. So today I thought I'd do a survey of what's been happening in Relax in 2005. I'm using summaries and scans from the website of The Glade, from whom you can order Relax and other Japanese magazines worldwide (at €17, though, copies of Relax aren't cheap).

March 2005

Glade blurb: "Slow Games & Smart Toys" is the subtitle of this current issue of Relax. What to expect: a truly massive feature on all sorts of toys - board games, as well as computer games. You'll get to see early sketches of the Mario Bros., there are robots, and all other sorts of playful things.

Features
- News Building: Ewok 5MH in Tokyo, Message vs. Lodown, Number (N)ine, Head Porter Plus
- Puma: Mongolian Shoe BBQ
- Art + Design: Vision Quest



May 2005

Glade blurb: Relax 99 is the thickest issue to date. With over 220 pages you will not get a magazine but a small book... about dancing. Don't think 'boring old people dancing' now. It's Relax - keep that in mind!

Shall We Dance takes us around the globe showing us all different facets of dancing. There is a huge feature on Buenos Aires, Tokyo and New York City.

Features
- Front Yard #3 with illustrations by A. Miwako
- Paris à la Mode fashion report
- fashion shoots include pieces by: Lee, Nike, Visvim
- extra: Relax Dance Journal (Tokyo & Overseas)



June 2005

Glade blurb: Yes, Relax is back and they surprise us with better feature stories in every new issue. Issue #100 is a Tokyo special - "> visit Tokyo > accept Tokyo" is the subtitle. Accept Tokyo? Why wouldn't one accept this city...

#100 comes with a complete catalogue of Nike's Brasil '05 collection, with sticker sheet.

Features
- illustratins by Kan Hiroshi
- Tokyo: Raf Simons, J.T. LeRoy, Simon Taylor, Kim Jones, Clements Ribeiro, Zingaro
- New Tokyo Souvenir
- Tokyo - "Convenient Guesthouse" report
- Tokyo Night Journal (meeting with night butterflies)

Hisae actually bought the Relax Tokyo special the other day at ProQM, our local Relax stockist here in Berlin, and I'd just comment that the issue is interesting because it's really about Tokyo as seen through the eyes of foreigners. Many of the articles feature gaijin Tokyoites, usually foreign males (Brazilian, American, British) photographed lying on narrow futons in cramped Tokyo apartments with their Japanese girlfriends.

Conclusion: if this really is the closest Japan has to a Dazed and Confused, I have to say that personally I find the topics and imagery in Relax (which recently changed editors, but hasn't significantly changed its topics, themes, tone or concerns) even less "sharky" than the examples I chose yesterday from Fudge.

Of course, the closest Japanese magazine to Dazed and Confused is... Dazed and Confused Japan. I can't say much about that because I've never bought it. It does seem to be one of the more successful "localisations" of a Western magazine to Japan—i-D, for instance, closed its Japanese edition after a mere five issues—and differs quite significantly from the London edition. Those differences would be very interesting to look at in more depth. Oddly enough, Dazed and Confused Japan looks to me a lot closer in imagery to a Japanese fashion magazine like Composite than its English sister. Its big theme seems to be "creator's style" and groups rather than "self-assertion" and individuals. Notice the very harmonious-looking collective portrait on the cover of the current edition!