Creating new values
Even if no one has noticed
―why did you go to the United States in the first place?
I had just quit high school at the time, and I was depressed about a lot of things, and I really wanted to get away. America was featured in various magazines in regards to skateboarding, and the culture seemed fun. I had been wanting to go there to begin with and saw a flyer from a travel agency and decided to go to San Francisco. I didn't speak English and I didn't know anyone, but I thought I could get by. I didn't even know how to say hello, the city was dirty, and there were no pretty blondes haha. At first I was tired of meeting people so I stayed home. But I had to make a living, so I went to the grocery store in my neighborhood every day and learned local greetings. I started by saying hello and communicated with people because I felt my presence was acknowledged. It was a continuous process of trial and error.
―What did you do in the United States?
There were a lot of bookstores in San Francisco, so I used to go there every day, and I realized that "A book store is not just a place to sell books, but also a place to spread information. In the meantime, I learned about buying and selling used books in my own way. If you find new value in something, it can become your activity, your business, and your vision. Once I realized that, I was trying to find value in things that no one else was aware of. For example, an American phone book that was stocked at a store under my apartment. On trash days, the rules of the area, the advertisements for various shops, and everything else about the area was found in the phone book. The binding and sense of anonymous design looked cool. Even the failed proof photos and shopping notes thrown away at the supermarket and felt cool. I thought "Why don't you frame them and display them as art?". I thought it was a great idea. In fact, when I showed that kind of thing to people who were interested in Japanese culture, they too were interested in it. Even if there was no value to other people, if you communicate what you think is good in your own way, you can create value. That's what I was always looking for every day.
―I feel a pioneering sense of freedom from your approach of "creating new value out of things that seem to have no value". Did that experience lead you to COW BOOKS and your job as an editor?
Without fitting myself into a mold, I've always been looking for things that felt like "I bet I could do that better.". I thought that what I needed to do was simply believe that there was no one else who knew more about it than me. That's why I studied extremely hard and through gaining experience and confidence in myself I found a new sense of freedom. I've never thought of myself as a pioneer. Even with COW BOOKS, I did it simply because I thought I could do it better. I wouldn't do it now though, because there are plenty of good bookstores with good taste. It doesn't matter what the job is. For example, if I were to think, "I could do it better" with a bakery, I may do it. Writing is one form of my output, and for me it's about putting a feeling that is hard to describe into words. This process is also a form of creating new value, or to put it bluntly, an invention.
―What do you try to keep in mind when you work?
I'd be happy if the things I output seamlessly fit into people's lives. For example, when the WOOLRICH buffalo check was first created, the big checkered pattern may have been a novel invention, but now this checkered pattern has become a standard for us. It's not new, but it also won't get old. That's what I would like my output to be like.
- Read Vol. 01
Yataro Matsuura Former editor-in-chief of "Kurashinotecho" and the current editor-in-chief of the web media "Kurashinokihon". He is also active as a representative of a select bookstore located in Nakameguro called "COW BOOKS”. He has written many books, been serialized in magazines, made appearances on the radio, and given lectures. Inspired by the America, he went to the US by himself when he was a teenager.