Delving into the Intangibles

   Magazines in 'danger zone'  

At the beginning of Shakespeare's play “Macbeth”, three witches appear and disappear into a thick mist chanting the enigmatic words 'Fair is foul, and foul is fair', which mean “Don't get deceived by appearances,” perhaps. I am fascinated by a deep insight of this paradox that rings true.

Do we really need to buy so many such beautiful-looking vegetables, fruit and foodstuffs on the market these days? If you look at a label or the backside of the food package, you will see a long list of hazardous additives. Furthermore, it has a picture of the producer visible, but if the mud were on it, consumers feel much safer than that. Not only food products, but most of them are contrived and made-up in this way, and we are deceived. The market is captured by cleverly staging visible 'tangibles.'

Today, I had a chance to drop by a bookshop, so I try to write about magazines.
Weekly, monthly and quarterly magazines - the shelves of bookshops are as crowded as a display of Hina-ningyo dolls, so it takes time to find the magazine you are looking for.

Even when you finally find the right one, no need to buy it. Only a 10-minute stand-up reading is enough to skim through a 2-centimetre-thick magazine for women. But be careful, as the razor-sharp edge of the cover oftentimes cuts in the ladies delicate fingers. The contents are all super-expensive, beyond-our-means jewelry, watches, fashion products and cosmetics. In fact, magazines’ sales rely largely on advertising revenue. Are people lured to buy them by the beautiful photogravure? Even though beautifully presented, the contents of are not up to the task. They do not fulfil their role as information magazines. Is it enough to just enjoy it for the time being? It may be good for readers who are looking for a dream world of high society and richness, but for me, it is not even helpful.

In contrast to this, there is a magazine about Britain I recently found. I was hooked by its interesting contents. It is only five-millimeter thick. It is modest and unassuming in appearance. However, it is covered and edited from all angles, and its simple, down-to-earth, middle-class content reaches us easily and comfortably makes sense. Politics, economy, housing conditions, social background, culture, history, geography, ideology, food, clothing and shelter are explained in an easy-to-understand manner. In other words, it is a 'usable magazine' and an 'educational book that you can learn from'. This is the skill of a professional editor and the vision of the publisher. I am glad to see that there is still a healthy magazine culture left in Japan.

No matter how old the issues, or out of season the articles are, they can always be worth reading again, and it can be said that the contents have an ' intangible value' without exception.

Speaking of which, I have a favorite Japanese music magazine. This one is also interesting to read, no matter how many years old it is. It may look sepia-colored on the outside, but the contents have not faded at all. I cannot throw it away because it is very useful as a reference book. That's why I keep them on my bookshelf. I even pick up missed ones from past back issues and order them.

Perhaps it is our national character to think that the most important thing is to be beautiful and clean. It is not limited to the publishing industry that we are too concerned about the outside appearance and neglect the inside.

Magazines and television should not just be for show. They must be informative to make you look at, read, feel and think about everything in this world wisely. In other words, it should not be all about what is visible and tangible.

The popular catch phrase “Moronization of 100 Million People” was coined by the late social critic Soichi Oya. Who are responsible for it?  Magazines and television are to be blamed. They make fun of the people's intellectual level, and try lowering it. We have had enough of the funny and gaudy slapstick. We, the middle class, are educated and knowledgeable. Stop underestimating the public.

The declining performance of magazines, newspapers and television is self-inflicted. Their days are numbered. We will not stay in the same boat forever. We are aiming at different lands.

Soon it will be the Hina-matsuri Dolls' Festival. It is easy to imagine what the women's magazine will be like. It is almost the same as it was three, five, or even ten years ago
,but the older ones were more rustic, and you could feel the deep traditional culture. However, the recent ones are shiny and flashy because of the improvement in photogravure technology, and I feel sorry for the dolls. They look beautiful, but they don't touch my heart at all.

What is hidden beneath the word ‘beautiful’?  Remember what the witches chant.

  K.Yamakawa -Founder Feiler Japan       
  HOME  Archive