There’s something to the design of Japanese magazines that is so refreshingly different that almost any subject becomes interesting to the western eye. The aesethetic is so removed from the text-column approach common in our magazines that they appear almost catalogue-ish in their free-form boxiness. It’s an approach that has been adopted by a good few indie mags recently, as magazine-makers look around for global influences.
Shukyu is a new title from Japan that mixes a little east and west. Written almost entirely in Japanese, it’s fundamentally an oriental publication, but being about global football it has plenty of western imagery and text in the names and imagery. Visually it occupies a curious space where the influence of the east on western magazines is refracted back to the east as editor Takashi Ogami and creative director Kohei Ito add indie mag vernacular – centred stacks of headlines, monochrome type, mixed papers – to the unfussily unstructured pages.
The name Shukyu, or 蹴球, means football; or as Kohei explained to me recently, しゅう (蹴 shu) = kick and きゅう (球 kyu) = ball. It’s also rooted in the Japanese sport けまり(蹴鞠 kemari) or しゅうきく (shuukiku), itself derived from the Chinese sport Cuju, spelled with the same characters.
There’s also another, older, magazine with the same name (above), which served as inspiration for the new title. It too appears Japanese but in this example features a very European image.
Shukyu attracts me on two levels, then; first there’s the slight mystique of an unreadable written language within an enticing visual style, and second its about football. What’s not to like?
Heres a quick look inside the issue.
Inside the issue there’s a pictorial tribute to the National Stadium, a sixties building recently demolished. But before you reach that story, the first spread of the magazine shows the demolition in progress (above).
A photo essay records the annual Shrovetide Football event (above), one of those strange English traditions the origins of which have been long lost.
A history of Japanese football magazines is followed by the in-depth story of German team Borussia Dortmund (below).
We also learn how to make a football using pentagons of leather (above) and after a brief diversion via Juergen Teller’s images of German national fans (below) the issue ends with a wonderfully impressionistic set of illustrations by The Simple Society (also below).
The magazine seems to be a perfect amalgamation of the many sides of football; some factual obsession, some cultural reflection, and a good dose of visual fun. As Kohei told me, ‘Every weekend Opta stats give us a detailed numbers description of every football game but they miss the football. We have an interest in documenting and discussing football culture with a more unique approach.’ Amen to that; can someone produce an English-language mag in the same vein please?