It’s common knowledge that Granta produce beautiful books, so it’s hardly surprising that their latest selection of new writing, themed around the idea of Japan, comes so prettily packaged. With exquisite illustration peppered throughout, this book is a wonderful exploration of the idea of Japan, a country so recognisable to us, and yet which can seem so mysterious and distant.
For the cover, a scrap of aluminium foil has been carefully bent and manipulated into the shape of a mountain, part of a photo series which can be found at the book’s centre. Photographer Yuji Hamada’s shiny ranges are shot against the clear Tokyo sky, blending the natural with the artificial in a project that explores the clash between what we see and what the media says.
Personified tentacles, fungi and segments of squid meet ordinary domestic backgrounds in Yumiko Utso’s Out of Ark series, which is delightfully surreal and just a little kawaii. What is perhaps most wonderful about the publication, though, is to see great writing set alongside great images, one example being the uncannily cyber-looking photograph of Tokyo in twilight by Shintaro Sato, which accompanies Tao Lin’s magnificently meta Final Fantasy III. A stunning book that continually shifts and realigns your notion of Japan, and which explores the illusory, ambiguous and contradictory nature of the enigmatic country through stunning words and images.