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Rachel Davies, Storied
At work with

Rachel Davies, Storied

We start the week in Kyoto with Rachel Davies, who launched Storied magazine in the middle of the Covid lockdown.

Rachel moved from the UK to Japan in 2016, and responded to her immediate love for the country by building a writing career based on her new hands-on knowledge of her new home. It took the pandemic to give her the time to launch Storied; she shares the inspirations and origins of the magazine.


What are you up to this Monday morning?
This Monday, similarly to how I start most mornings, I go to the gym to give me an energy boost and some mental clarity for the day. I spend around two hours walking from my apartment in the Higashiyama area of Kyoto to the gym, workout and then walk home again.


After this I get my laptop out and check our direct sales from the day before and pack and prep any orders that came in so they’re ready for delivery. I always finish each day with a to do list for the next day so once fulfilment is done I’ll get my list out and start to work on that (I usually try and do two of the easiest tasks first so that I start on a positive!).

This could be anything from replying to emails to organising the logistics for a shoot, editing images, or writing. I split my working time between home and a cowering office (Garden Lab Kyoto), which is based in a beautifully renovated machiya around five minutes walk from my flat.


Describe your desk and your work space.
If I’m working from home, usually I’ll just set myself up at my dining table. Our flat has a lot of windows so there’s loads of natural light and we’re on the 7th floor looking out on the eastern Higashiyama mountains of Kyoto so the view is very inspiring when I need motivation - it’s lovely to be able to look out and really see so many examples of traditional Japanese architecture and feel the closeness of nature - it’s a nice reminder of why we set up Storied, to share this side of Japan to an English-reading audience.


If I’m at the office (above), I try to take the second floor window seat which looks out onto a traditional Japanese courtyard. There’s a beautiful maple tree in the middle and leaves are continually changing throughout the year so it’s a very soothing spot and another great reminder of what makes Japanese culture so spectacular—the connection to the natural world and appreciation of the transience of the seasons. I feel very lucky to be able to have such wonderful places to work from.


Which magazine do you first remember?
When I was younger I was more of a book reader. Though I think I picked up a copy of Vogue España when I was on school exchange around 13 years of age. I was mesmerised by some of the shoots—the richness of colours (there were a lot of reds) and how everything seemed to fit just so.

I was studying Spanish at the time and I took it home and kept it for years and would always go back to it to read the articles and see how my language skills had improved. I think I had it for 12 years before I eventually had to throw it away—the pages were dog-eared and faded—but I was so reluctant to let it go.


Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
Lodestars Anthology. I’ve said this before but it was a huge inspiration to me in starting Storied. It is so beautifully put together and the copy is captivating, the images are always stunning and the design is just mind blowing. It was the first indie mag that I really discovered that I thought was made just for me. I loved it and still love it to this day.


Describe Storied in three words.
Telling stories untold


Did you move to Kyoto with the magazine in mind, or did arriving in Kyoto inspire the magazine?
I actually moved to Kyoto (in January 2016) as a result of my husband’s job. I was working in PR, events, and marketing for distilleries in the UK before and when we moved I knew that I couldn’t pursue that here as I didn’t speak the language or have any contacts. So I taught myself photography—initially just because we were in Japan and there are so many things to photograph—but then I started writing articles for media back in the UK and so it became a way to also supplement those pieces.

I started collaborating with brands and businesses on words and images too. As I started to do more brand work, I began working with tourism boards, UNESCO World Heritage etc. and I was becoming increasingly more aware of lesser-known places in Japan. I totally fell in love with them. I also became much more interested in Japanese craftsmanship (I have a bit of a ceramics obsession, and woodturning too) and I just realised that there are so many incredible producers doing things here that, quite often, even people in-country don’t know about.

I started pitching them in to the magazines that I was working for and 90%+ would be rejected as they weren’t ‘mainstream’ enough. It was so saddening to me to see quite a lot of similar content (in English) coming out on Kyoto, Tokyo, Nara, etc… I would also get annoyed when I read so called ‘Insider Guides’ from people who had maybe spent two weeks in Kyoto.

I’ve spent six years here and I’d say I was just about qualified to write one, but I still have a lot to learn about the city! It’s the same all over the country. So I really wanted to work with people that know Japan, on places and topics that perhaps are new to people, so that we can offer our readers some valuable and beautifully told stories.



How is Storied regarded locally?
We always get really great feedback and we have some brilliant retailers we work with in-country. Our domestic direct sales also account for around 22% of our total online sales so we do have a market here, though without any tourism and being in English (Japan doesn’t really have a lot of English speakers/readers), it is quite difficult to push in high volume nationwide.


What’s the print scene like in Kyoto?
Kyoto is the cultural and craftsmanship capital of Japan. It was the birthplace of ukiyo-e (a type of woodblock printing) and still to this day, many traditional crafts take place here. There’s a really deep connection to making things in the city and I think that will never go away—it’s also why there’s a great scene for print/antiques/ceramics etc. You can find all of that good stuff here!

Hohohoza is a great indie bookstore and Magasinn is a great design store with a unique accommodation option. 


How do you split your time between paid work and Storied?
Currently I don’t! My whole time is spent on the magazine at the minute (there’s only myself and my co-founder, Hana Tsukamoto, that work on Storied—myself the content and sales, Hana the design. It’s manic and still being in our first year, I’m spending a lot of time on it to get it to a point where I can take a break or branch out in a different direction (we’d love to start doing events etc.)


Behind the scenes: a photo shoot for the magazine.

What has producing the three issues of Storied taught you about publishing?
That it is hard work! I came into his knowing nothing… I had written and shot for magazines and I was used to the deadlines and somewhat used to the editing process etc. but this was just a whole different thing.

Luckily Hana had studied and worked in editorial design previously in New York so she had knowledge of the printing process and we just pooled what we knew and went from there.

I found an excellent copy editor who works freelance for us on each issue and she also helped me enormously on that side of things and everything else has been tweaked from when we started in March last year. It has been a huge learning curve, particularly the issue we are working on now (The Water Issue) as we’ve had many delays from ongoing COVID related restrictions in travel and also unusually heavy snowfall in Japan. I’ve definitely learned to just take things as they come and try not to stress (much easier said than done though).


Please share one piece of advice for somebody wanting to launch their own publication
Don’t be afraid. I had the idea to start Storied four years ago but I was too scared and I kept telling myself I didn’t have the time because I was working on other things. But just go for it!

And don’t be afraid to ask for help - surround yourself with people who are supportive and will be there for you (the amount of magazines my husband ended up carrying to storage or packing into envelopes is too many to remember).

Oh and be prepared for everything to take far longer than you estimate and cost a lot more!


What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
I’m actually currently producing a pop-up shopping event with some friends that will be happening in the Kyoto during the first weekend of March (completely unrelated to Storied, it’s a personal project). I’ll be visiting the gallery space at the weekend to shoot and stage which should be fun. It’s nice to be able to work on things outside of Storied for a change as it takes up so much of time usually.


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