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#13 In Memory of Genpei Akasegawa. My Life Pre and Post Genpei Akasegawa(1/3)

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The other day, Genpei Akasegawa passed away.
Akasegawa impacted my life in a big way. So I’m not exaggerating when I talk about my life “pre and post” Genpei Akasegawa. Akasegawa was an artist, an author and an essayist who imparted a great many works on the world, but for me it was the “Rojo Kansatsu” (roadside observations) from his book, “Chōgeijutsu Tomason” (Hyperart: Thomasson) that had the greatest impact. Art that goes beyond art can be found everywhere in our daily lives, even on the side of the road. Akasegawa and his view of the world has since seeped deep into my core and influenced the way I think and view all matter of things.

In my twenties, when I was working as a non-fiction editor, the first title I worked on with Akasegawa was “Akasegawa Genpei no Meiga Dokuhon” (Akasegawa Genpei's Famous Artwork Reader) (Kobunsha). The first edition was released in November 1992, so the first time I spoke with Akasegawa on the phone would have been about one year before that. Back then there were so many difficult to read technical books going around, so at the time I was really passionate about making beginner-guide type books that would be easy for readers to understand. And it was during this period that I discovered Akasegawa’s “Luvre Bijutsukan no Tanoshimikata” (How to Enjoy the Louvre Museum) (Shinchosha) that had just been published. The book proposed a “roadside observational” way of viewing the Louvre – as only a true artist could. The explanations of the paintings were also very straightforward and it was exactly the kind of commentary I wanted to read. I didn’t know painting appreciation could be this fun! This was how I wanted to make people feel and it was this desire that I shared with Akasegawa that lead to “Meiga Dokuhon.” I wanted Akasegawa to write about the paintings that he thought were masterpieces in a straightforward way. That was my only request of him. Akasegawa willingly agreed and together we went around to many art galleries and exhibitions and conversed a great deal. In the prologue to “Akasegawa Genpei no Meiga Dokuhon,” he writes, “Look at the paintings as though you’re intending to buy one,” and at the time that’s exactly what we did. The paintings that we looked at together started to become less like the famous paintings that you only ever see in art books and more like paintings that we might hang up in our own homes.

The manuscript began with Monet’s “Woman with a Parasol.” The day before he began writing, Akasegawa and I discussed the outline of the manuscript over a liver and leek stir-fry at this tiny Chinese restaurant. Monet will be haiku. That’s what he decided, and after that Akasegawa went back to his room at the Hilltop Hotel in Ochanomizu to write and I went back to my office. The following morning, I picked up the manuscript from the hotel and as I was reading it on the Sobu Line on my way back to work I found myself overwhelmed with tears. I had expected that Akasegawa might summarize Monet in such a way, but never had I expected that he would do it so superbly in a single night. I started to regain myself by the time I had to get off and change over to the Tokyo Metro Yūrakuchō Line, but it occurred to me that I could spend my entire life writing and never come close to a manuscript as good as this. I felt like it was some kind of miracle that brought me to ask for Akasegawa’s help with this project, and that he accepted.
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