NY: NBM Publishing, 2008.
In 2006, the author, a German translator and artist working in English, was living in Tokyo. As a sort of social experiment, he put out a call for readers of his online comics to suggest places he ought to go in the city and people he ought to see and activities he ought to experience. He undertook to faithfully execute these commissions regardless of his own preferences and to report the results graphically. A very interesting idea –
but, unfortunately, a very mediocre execution. Some of the projects were obvious choices by third parties, like eating fugu, the potentially lethal fish which causes several dozen deaths in Japan every year. Some destinations are less known but very worthwhile, like a visit to Mount Takao, the unbelievably gorgeous wilderness area on the western outskirts of Tokyo which seems like a visit to another world. Some are kind of interesting, like spending the night in a pod hotel. Others, though, are puzzling and insufficiently explained: What is the purpose and method of operation of a “telephone club”? (Is this like phone sex, or what?) What, exactly, is the history and mission of the Studio Ghibli Museum, or the Hara Museum? (The author seems to know more than he tells, perhaps assuming his readers will know as much about certain comparatively obscure artists as he does.) Perhaps part of the problem is the brevity of the report on each assignment, which required the omission of what would have been useful context. At the end of the book are similar exercises by ten of Schwieger’s peers who were asked to interact with a Japanese person. Most of these are not very good, with the exception of the anonymous Parisian creator of “Monsieur de Chien,” which is also the longest contribution by far. This could have been a much, much more interesting work. The title, incidentally, is the Japanese approximation of the pronunciation of “Moleskin,” the beautifully made (and not inexpensive) bound notebooks which are a guilty pleasure of writers, journalists, and artists everywhere.