On my shelf there are quite a few books written by Yataro Matsuura, for example Yataro Matsuura’s Principle of Working, Reading Good Books, The Worst and the Best Bookstore, Disqualified from the Career, 100 Basics, 100 Basics Continued, Where You Travel, A Brand New Usualness, Thank You, etc. After reading so many of his works, what constantly comes to my mind is the episode on his breakfast: one piece of toast, one cup of coffee; Matsuura never buys bread from famous bakery but sticks with the most usual kind that is sold in any supermarkets. The bread is not at all special, that is why he never gets bored of eating the same kind of bread everyday. That was written in a book that was published a few years ago, his breakfast habit might have as well changed. One thing we can be sure that remains unchanged is his affection towards basic things, an attitude that can be easily seen in his website “Kurashi no Kihon” (the basics of life).
Interviewing an author I admire made me inexpressibly unsettled. I was worried about my clumsiness, I was also anxious about meeting him in real life would turn out to be disappointing. I was very relieved to find out that Matsuura is a person who greatly resembles his writings; he is absolutely candid and genuine. Once he accepts a task, he does it with sincerity and devotion; for tasks that he is not confident or comfortable with, he simply rejects them directly.
We met during late October. It was also the time when I was very frustrated with my career. I quit my job as a magazine editor and became a freelancer in 2010; everything suddenly started to fall on my shoulders. There is no one but me working on the initial planning, interviewing, writing, photography and retouching. I was enveloped in a choked desolation; this mode of working had become increasingly burdensome. Reading “Kurashi no Kihon” in details before meeting Matsuura, I realized he also takes up every aspect of his projects, even short film productions. I was so impressed by his capacity. In the interview we talked about how he handled his depression, and how he treats loneliness and work.
R: To work alone, apart from practical skills, I think being mentally strong is another vital quality. Do you sometimes hope to have a working partner?
M: I do feel bored from time to time; this feeling sometimes annoys me.
R: What do you do when you feel bored?
M: Hmm… What do I do? Continue working unremittingly is the only choice, because persistence is very important.
His words linger in my mind. I was surprised to realize I was so lost that I even forgot this essential principle.
Talking to Matsuura is like reading his books. Astonishing philosophy is not the thing to expect, Matsuura simply expresses tiny observations he gains from personal experience. These thoughts are usually so subtle that can be easily overlooked. Although you are sometimes tempted to think deeper, most people lack the strength to magnify fragments of ideas into more concrete notions. Seeing Matsuura emphasizes his humbly glittering thoughts, I gained the courage to let my own humble glitters of thinking glow. From Matsuura I learnt to actively examine and treasure my tiniest bit of thinking. Essence of books is perhaps the same; through books you understand that somewhere in the world someone shares with you similar believes and attitudes. Individuals are never isolated as long as there are books.
Thank you Matsuura again for accepting to be interviewed. Matsuura, who is not used to allow strangers into his private space, accommodated our curiosity and allowed us into his private study. He even suggested taking a picture for us like a guest photographer. Like Matsuura often remarks in his interviews: books are friends. In OBSCURA’s 2016 Autumn & Winter edition, I wish you can get to know more about the true face of Yataro Matsuura, the man who brought me countless friends.