Japanese Notebooks released earlier this month, and the author and popular Italian artist Igort shares what Japan means to him.
From Japanese Notebooks: A Journey to the Empire of the Signs by Igort, published by Chronicle Books

A couple of weeks ago, Chronicle Books released Japanese Notebooks by one of the most well known Italian artists, Igort. From his personal experiences in Japan to the many memories and art he has seen, he’s distilled it into an 184 page hardcover work. Now it’s available in English. Thanks to Chronicle Books I was able to ask a few questions to him, and he took time out of his busy schedule to answer them:

TheOASG: What do you think has been the biggest reason Japan has remained a place of special fascination for you?

Igort: I guess the reason why is that, after all these years, the Mystery remains the same of the very first days.

To me Japan is a place in which rituality, beauty, sacrifice, and spirituality are one. Japan is a country devoted to the cult of beauty and this for a visual author is something very important.

After each trip I feel satisfied, and then, slowly, I feel sneaking within me, a sense of nostalgia that leads me to want to come back, again and again.

What’s been the biggest change you’ve noticed in Japan, and specifically regarding manga, since you visited in 1991 to today?

During the 90s everybody was reading manga in the trains of Metro, and the magazines were selling literally millions of copies. To be a foreign cartoonist working for the manga field, it was something pioneering.

There were no foreign comics, except for something of Moebius and little else. Today, Japanese publishers seem a bit more curious. On the bookshelves of some bookstores you can find volumes of European masters.

Today, passengers are concentrated on playing or chatting. The era of electronics has supplanted the era of paper, and manga magazines sell much less than once. But the editors reassured me, they say books always sell a lot. Millions of copies. Japan is still one of the greatest storytelling devouring countries.

From Japanese Notebooks: A Journey to the Empire of the Signs by Igort, published by Chronicle Books
How long did it take to work on Japanese Notebooks?

In Japan I started keeping written and drawn diaries. I analyzed my life, trying to understand what was happening in those days, probably. After so many years, I started reading them again. And I started to publish some pages on Facebook. Then I realized that they lacked the essential things, the reasons why I was in Japan, my working life in the country that produced millions of stories, millions of books. So I began to write and draw those situations that made my stay special. I had been the first westerner to work for the manga industry. I did not draw in their way, I did not write according to their narrative rhythms, so my experience has been the beginning of a new season. Many other authors would soon arrive in Japan in the years to come.

What turned out to be the biggest challenge in working on Japanese Notebooks?

I think the biggest difficulty has been to maintain a fluid and, possibly, pleasant structure while keeping the open form of a book that is a drawn reportage, an essay on artistic tradition, a travel book, and an intimate diary.

From Japanese Notebooks: A Journey to the Empire of the Signs by Igort, published by Chronicle Books
You share your personal experiences in this book, but is there one moment that took place in the times you’ve been to Japan that you think about a lot over the course of your life?

Japan for me has always been the land of surprises and wonder. I have met immense talents in that place, and I will continue to meet many, I believe.

What should people look forward to when reading Japanese Notebooks?

I hope the reader can get lost, abandoning pleasantly to this whirl of sensations. I hope a bit of beauty passes. The beauty that nourished all my travels and that continues to give me the urge to return.