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ザ誌 is Japan!

I came across a folder with copies of the special introduction issue of Zasshi, a magazine that never got off the ground. Around 1984, I was in charge of Creative Typographics, a European-language photo-typesetting company. Our office was a small apartment in Shibuya, right next to Aoyama University. At that time, Ryuko Tsushin, publishing arm of Hanae Mori International wanted to create an “international magazine from Japan.” It was, after all, the 80s, and there seemed to be no end to the bubble in Japan. Money was not even a point of discussion.

I remember that Mary Lord (now U.S. News and World) was running the editorial side of things. Mona Meyer, an acclaimed graphic designer who had put her stamp on the Japan Air Lines in-flight magazine Wings, was art director. And Johan Vis, a Dutch-born printing expert, headed the production team. I had met Johan several times before through mutual friends, and on the strength of this connection we were asked to do the typesetting and art work for the dummy version of the magazine.

The name for the magazine was to be “Zasshi” (雑誌 meaning “magazine”), but in Japanese it was to be written ザ誌 as if the “Za” were the English article “the.” The team worked out of an annex to the Hanae Mori Building on Omote-sando, within easy walking distance from our office. Halfway between the two, in a basement just next to the Kinokuniya supermarket on Aoyama-dori, was a French restaurant, Chez Pierre, and Johan and I started to go there for lunch on an almost regular basis.

During the next few months I learned a lot about print production and type – and also about Johan’s amazing life story. We became good friends with Pierre and his wife, whom Johan insisted on calling Pierette. Sadly she suddenly died not too long afterwards.

Pierre moved his restaurant to larger premises right next to the west exit of Nogizaka subway station, and he is still going strong and doing well by all accounts. The magazine, unfortunately, did not do so well. Whether for reasons of money or politics, Ken Mori, the chairman of Hanae Mori International lost interest. The project was passed on to another publisher in Gotanda, and for a few months the crew lingered there … and that was the end. Mary is back in Washington, DC, and I see her byline now and then. Mona seems to have disappeared completely. And Johan just sent me his last book, self-published. He is now 87 and writing down what he can still remember.


One Response to “ザ誌 is Japan!”

  1. Mona K. Meyer Ohya says:

    Hello Michael,
    what a surprise. I must say, your tenacity to find us is quite admirable. I know Mary has been in DC for quite some time now. Johann I have heard from several times, since my move back to Tokyo, I have not had a chance to hear from him. What a surprise to see my design pasted on your page. It’s been so long. I haven’t been doing any design work in quite awhile. Due to my husband’s father’s illness (rip) we moved to the suburbs, I became involved in other activities. Presently, I am a researcher @ the Institute of Social Sciences and also working on my doctorates @the Faculty of Law, Chuo University. Remember when I bought your car? It was one of the best deals I’ve had, the car lasted well worth its fee, and I thank you for giving me such a great deal. I am now driving another car (Swedish), it is okay, especially during the cold seasons in Japan. I often return to my home in Hawai’i. It won’t be long before my hubby and I return for good. I hope all is well with your family and friends. Take care, Michael. Drop me a line when your’ve the time.

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