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Y ohji YAMAMoTo & A MiTSUDAdu japonais par

T raduiT


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TabLe of conTenTsinTroducTion chapTer one: a man A W oMAn , 3 A . M . i. PArenTS D AY AT C AMP ii. T he FACe oF A G obY iii. T he n AkeD h erMiT C rAb iV. D eATh AnD A zAleAS V. n exT To MY h eArT, C loSe To Vi. T he C AF in The M orninG Vii. 79 11481518 1921 2332 3338 3941MY


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chapTer Two: an arTisT T he P erSiMMon S F rUiT i. T he T heATer oF l iFe ii. A r AnDoM S TrinG oF b eADS iii. PAriS iV. T he b lACk S TAr V. G olDFiSh S CooPinG AnD Vi. The j oUrneY o ver S AnD D UneS A D iTTY, D eDiCATeD To A ll M en , Vii. A ll W oMen Viii. ix. x. xi. U rbAn n oMAD S eTTlinG The S Core T he C oDe S TAllionS AnD C reATiviTY

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biography essay by seigow matsuoka, The Legend of TracescrediTs & coLophon

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Berlin, 24 May 2010 Dear Yohji. I write you today after having read in the press about the financial troubles your companies have encountered in the global economic crisis. I was very troubled to hear that you lost ownership of your firm, and that you have had to close some of the stores. I sincerely hope that you can overcome these difficulties, that you are in good health, and that you are with your family. I hope, too, that you can continue doing your amazing work! I went through the same thing a while ago myself, losing the rights to all the films I have produced to date, including Notebook on Cities and Clothes, that adventure we shared. Anyway, thats life, I guess. Please let Donata and me know that you are well! We really love you very much and you are always close to our hearts. With all my best! Your friend,

Ton ami, Wim Wenders


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Tokyo, 28 May 2010 Dear Wim and Donata, Thank you for your wonderful, heart-felt letter! As you mentioned, we hit financial problems last year, and in October 2009 our company filed in court under the Civil Rehabilitation Law.1 Those are the facts. At the same time, though, a very high level investor appeared to fully back me and by December we had already created the New Yohji Yamamoto Company. Around May to June of last year I was considering retirement. But, as my new partner was not thinking in terms of mergers and acquisitions, we ended up producing a twenty-year business plan and I signed the contract. I did lose ownership, but on the other hand, I feel like Ive been relieved of a heavy burden. There wont be any family battles over money issues involving the inheritance or the stock. Physically, too, I feel ten times better than I did last year. I consider this turning point the beginning of my final chapter. My one regret is that Ill not be able to realize the joint venture with Road Movies, which has long been my dream. Im O.K. Wim ! Lets make a film together in the near future. With all my best, your elder brother, Yohjinote 1 : Loi sur les entreprises en difficult.


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chapTer one




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essentially, what a man seeks in the opposite sex is a warm receptacle that will bring forth those things that most make him a man. with an intelligent woman, he may occasionally find some faint indication that they are kindred spirits, but should he catch even a single glimpse of an inflated ego within her, he will begin to despise her as much as the woman in whom he detects the kind of excessive femininity that bores him. a desire to erase the traces of all such women prompts him to turn to women he can manipulate and toy with more easily. in short, a man cannot accept anything that surpasses him. he loves only himself, though he might experience the joy of living by exaggerating the instant in which he exchanges a simple greeting with a complete and utter stranger passing by. such encounters, however, are based on but the barest of social conventions, things designed to appease in some small way the alienation one feels in the crush of the crowd. That being said, it might also be the case that such conventions are the most beautiful manifestations of the conditioning that exists in this human world. women will fall head over heels in love with this pitiable vulnerability pulsing through the creature known as man. where she is taken off-guard by a particularly wounded soul, she may lose herself in her desire to nurture and care for him, and therefore spend her life in tears. or, alternatively, she may place him in the palm of her hand and, with my dog is working like a dog as her highest words of praise for him, she may live out her life in his company. what follows is the story of a man that i have loved. ***



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i. a w oman , 3 a . m .

The call was from her. according to the clock it was after 3 a.m., the dead of night. my body, lying in bed, was sluggish from the sleeping pills. from deep within it, like some unfortunate fish snagged suddenly by a hook, my consciousness was dragged to the surface, where it wandered in the artificial darkness of the hotel room. i first hung up the phone but then thought better of it and looked for her number. where are you? i asked. how can you ask me that? you just sent me away a little while ago. never mind that. get over here. The doorbell rang. i dragged my heavy body out of bed and opened the door. hi, she said, and slipped past me into the room. youre sweet, she said. i just thought you might be lonely, i countered. not lonely, just bored. bored, eh? i know how you feel. she took some tomato juice out of the refrigerator, dumped it into a champagne glass, and drained it in one delicious gulp. without a seconds pause she began frantically pa-


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cing the room. its pretty hot in here. The windows wont open, will they? im so thirsty. Let me have a glass of water. Then, before i knew it, shed settled down in the bathtub, where she hummed to herself. you sounded angry on the phone a little while ago. its because you think of me as a human being. consider me a woman and youll have no reason to get angry. The womans voice rang out from the bathroom. get over here, and not a word of complaint from you, i said. fine. with that, she snuggled meekly into my arms at least on that day. youre tense, wound up tighter than a spring. you must be exhausted, she said. well, theres just been a lot going on, and i just cant seem to unwind. There doesnt seem to be any possibility of really relaxing. real relaxation? Thats just not possible while were alive, you know. but at least you should try easing the tension here in your belly. she rolled the knuckles of her left hand over my stomach and pressed her ear to it as if she were listening to a seashell. so, will you keep at your creative work? i grabbed my cigarettes from next to the bed and lit one. im not sure. and now its raining.

outside the window the cherry blossoms, soaked, were holding up well in the rain, sturdier than one would have thought. on the branch all five petals of the blossoms reached up to the skies, forming a bowl. have you ever loved someone? she asked. ive loved many. hmm. i guess in my case theres only been one. Theres only one man ive ever loved. i took a puff of my cigarette. Love, eh? well, ive never fallen so madly in love with a woman that i would have sacrificed it all for her sake. That kind of passion never lasts long anyway. and you did say youve given up on your dream of running off with a woman. nope, havent given up on that yet. The kind of thing i do for a living is different from that of painters and novelists. in the animal kingdom its kind of like being the alpha male that leads the herd. The males that lead, shedding their horns time after time. i sometimes think that when somebody like that is utterly exhausted and says so, what they want is a person who will say, oh, yohji, youre so tired. They want somebody soothing like a gentle pool of water. you can imagine, though, what happens when you think youve found somebody like that. surely theyll say something like im not your mother, you know, or ive got my hands full just living my own life.



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The woman suddenly burst out laughing as she lay across my chest. youve never been involved with a good woman, have you? you dont know what youre talking about. i do. no worthy woman would say anything like that. somewhere along the line youve lost your faith in women. There must have been a woman that drew you in, a woman you loved and who loved you, but in the end would not embrace you. yes, i hate women. but that sort of feeling is mutual, im sure. The woman softly slid her left hand down past his navel, pulled back his pajamas in one deft move, and then plunged into the delicate white sea. by the way, she did call you an insufferable egotist, you know. The woman looked toward me. she is the last person who should be making that kind of accusation. but ive never thought of you as egotistical. not even once. youre just faithfully pursuing what youre meant to. Thats another way of saying that im greedy.

ii. parenTs d ay aT c amp

all men, essentially, feel the same way. without exception they want to break free from the life they are living at the moment, somewhere find the right woman, and disappear with her. The simple fact of the matter is, however, that most men do not act on that desire. a man born into this world will agonize over things for a time, he will ponder things for a while. next his thoughts will turn to the violent murder of his parents. Though he may have a woman he loves, he will reject as absolutely absurd the idea of officially registering a marriage at city hall. The question, then, is why do men do precisely these things? it is simply because they have made the simple choice to refrain from disappointing their families, even if it means they must repress their egos and powerful desires. They dedicate themselves to continual restraint, and for that reason their simple choice might also be called a foolish one. as life goes on and one grows older, repeatedly there arise situations that one cannot handle according to the principles of life that one decided on in ones youth. in my case, those principles included the decision to leave the main thoroughfare and tread instead the side roads of life as well as to accept the unspoken agreement to leave others alone in exchange for being granted my own independence. i decided to live my life according to those principles, and i have always thought that i would do in life what needed to be done, and that would be it. i continue to believe those things today. Life, however, confronts us with circumstances that we would never have expected.



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when i had passed the age of fifty the woman who had dedicated long years of her life to me suddenly called me to her and told me she was determined to have a child. i see, i said. she went on. i am determined to have your child. im sure youll be indecisive all your life, and thats just fine with me. but, i want to have your child, so go to the hospital, first of all, and have yourself checked. with this course of action, i assume, she meant to put the final touches on her life as a woman. i had no grounds for objection, so i met individually with each and every other woman i had been seeing and carefully explained the situation. The circumstances being what they were, i said, it would be best if we no longer saw each other. They all readily agreed, and our relationships were ended. i next went to the hospital she had designated, underwent the appropriate tests, and received official clearance. a few months later she conceived a child. once, in the dead of summer, i was invited to an event as the parent of that child. it was held deep in the mountains of nagano prefecture at a weathered old hotel that had been rented as a base for a summer camp. having finished the mornings classes, the raucous children came pouring out over the schoolyard lawn. about the seventh one out the door was my very own child. i felt my face brighten for i was seeing him for the first time in a while. he seemed to notice me. i thought he glanced at me out of the corner of his eye, but he then ran off with the other children, never to look back toward me again.

i dont know whether he ignored me out of embarrassment or anger. he was about four years old, and i watched from a distance of seventy or eighty meters as he struggled not to reveal his emotions in his face. i wondered if he realized that i was his father. if he did, and still feigned ignorance, it must mean that i had somehow made him very sad. at that instant i felt paralyzed, as if some mysterious, powerful drug had been injected into my system. There is a time when a child is so adorable that they compensate entirely for the worries and troubles that they will cause their parents throughout their lives. i was determined to make my child happy; i wanted nothing more than to be sure my child never had to say where has daddy gone? i was overwhelmed by the power of this type of affection, uncontrollable and rooted in the most primal depths of the human condition. Though the child had been conceived under duress, there was something of me within him. There inside him was me as i had been in my childhood.



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iii. T he face

of a

g oby

Theyve issued me a summer uniform so i imagine ill be going to the south, said the man himself. it was late on a cold november night that we saw him off at mizonokuchi station. we never saw him again. i shook his hand when he went into the station. such is the scene as my mother has described it to me. There are three other moments that stand out in my memory. The first took place at my mothers home in oarai, ibaraki prefecture, where id been sent to live. i was about three or four years old. my grandmother and great-grandmother treated me with moxa, burning curative herbs on my skin; the scars it left around my navel are still clearly visible today. Though this is a period when children need no one more than their mothers and are apt to cry from loneliness when denied their company, with the doting affections of my grandmother and great-grandmother, i was a happy, mischievous child. There were still wide-open beaches in oarai at that time, and i would often go to play by the sea. big granny would be sitting on one of the small stools we used in the bath, watching me play on the shores. Little grannys voice would ring out. dont go so close, its dangerous. surprisingly i did not particularly miss my mother or feel sad, but when she returned from Tokyo to see how i was getting along, she was almost too radiant to look at. There is a second moment i recall. we had a photograph of my father, his head shaved clean and clad in the same military uniform he wore the day he left for the front. he


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is holding a child who, having been born on october 3, 1943, was just one month past his first birthday. what year would my father have been drafted? counting the years and months, it seems it would have been but shortly before the war came to an end. he was thirty-six years old at the time, and he had married late in life. i remember that at some point after i entered elementary school, i think, my mother held a funeral for my father in spite of the fact that none of his remains had been returned to us. mother had always held out hope that he would someday come home, but she decided on the funeral as a means of consoling the relatives and neighbors. died in the line of duty during fierce fighting in the mountainous region east of baguio, philippines said the notification of death. his remains have yet to come home. after the funeral, child that i was, i took my tricycle out on the pathways between the rice paddies and rode and rode and rode until the sun went down. my third memory dates to my days in junior high school. my mother worked hard as a dressmaker, and one day out of the blue i asked her. why dont i have a father? his absence was not something that particularly saddened me, and i believe i asked the question essentially to irritate my mother. i was surely also motivated by the inconsolable anxieties that arise in puberty. i made her miserable, asking again and again why i had no father. i reached adulthood, in time, and took to guzzling whiskey, though i was not particularly fond of it. i deceitfully manipulated woman, and night after night wandered the streets of Tokyo before swallowing the pills that allowed me to sleep.

born in the heart of shinjuku, in the burnt-out plain that was Tokyo, my world did not include things like carrying the floats from the shrines during festivals or even the shinto religion itself. once, as a child, i was outside playing catch with a soft white ball. a stray ball hit a car, leaving a slight mark on its polished black exterior. a second later somebody punched me powerfully in the head. on another day i was out swinging a wooden sword. i raised high it up over my head and heard a dull thump. i turned around to find a red-faced gi holding his head in his hands. i cowered to think of the trouble i was in, but without uttering a word he walked on by. i remember thinking that the american soldiers were the kinder sort. To eke out a living as a war widow my mother worked from morning until night running a dressmaking shop in the seedy Kabukicho area of shinjuku. her younger sister, my aunt, doted on me as if i were her own child. she hired a tutor for me and sent me for supplementary lessons at a cram school. in the fifth grade i transferred from the public elementary school i had been attending to a private school called the gysei gakuen, or the school of the mornings stars. The school stood very close to the yasukuni shrine. Throughout junior and senior high school my commute would take me on the number twelve line from shinjuku to the top of Kudan hill, where i got off and cut diagonally across the shrine precincts to enter the school grounds through the back gate. i never imagining that my very own father was enshrined at yasukuni along with the souls of all other japanese military who had died in service to their



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country. my attention instead was on the crunching noise that my feet made as i tread the gravel pathways of yasukuni. The sound of my footsteps on the gravel, the feeling that passed into my feet as i walked these things, curiously, are what i remember fondly, even lovingly, about that commute. it was, after all, the route i took to school at a time i was still pure. i remember it with affection. i walked it daily, and with never an inkling that my father was enshrined there. reviewing the historical record i find that in those final days of the war there were no longer any transport ships to move the troops to points in the south. They used instead modified fishing boats, which they equipped with round wooden pillars painted green and carved to look like artillery. The troops would be squeezed below deck in rows of hammocks set up like the mulberry beds used in the raising of silkworms. when u.s. submarines or bombers found these fishing boats, they sank them, one right after the other and with the greatest of ease. undoubtedly one of the men stuffed into those rows of mulberry beds was my father, my one and only father. his remains have not been repatriated. died in the line of duty during fierce fighting in the mountainous region east of baguio, philippines said the notification of death. in moments of weakness i allow myself to think, how can i accept the absurdities that led to his death? how can i possibly resign myself to it? i once commented to my mother on it. whatever else you may do, you are not to join The association of survivors of the war dead. she gave me a puzzled look and said, why in the world would you say something like that?

The best time catch them is after the autumn equinox So it is a little too early, but I was invited to fish for goby. Tokyo Bay was perfectly calm and the weather clear The glare was intense, and the heat unbearable. Cook this guy up as tempura and youll find him rather tasty. But take a good, long look. The gobys face Looks a bit like a humans, doesnt it? The lively laughter of my buddy Namekata! Its the same with the face of any fish. They are, after all, the distant ancestors of man Even I thought my response was rather trite, so I started it, Only to wrap the second half of it in spit and swallow it down. It was high noon on the day Japan lost the war, And his mother had been listening to the emperors radio broadcast. She went into labor in the middle of it, And he came into the world. For some reason The story was one he told often, and was proud of. Namekatas grandmother, her roots in the old downtown district Of Kakigarach in Tokyo, was a spirited soul. Goby caught after the equinox work best for palsy. This old saying was one familiar to me.



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The very year I married, you know, we had the Great Kanto Earthquake, and I remember it well. And the extended air raids on the Anniversary of Victory in the Russo-Japanese War? We scrambled and somehow managed to come out alive. Both disasters left tens of thousands in the Sumida River, Dying of burns or drowning in its waters. Those goby in the Tokyo bay? What is it, do you think, theyve been eating to make them so big? There are people who refused to eat goby their whole lives. 2

in my youth i wanted to become a painter. Thinking about how furiously my mother worked to support me, though, prevented me from choosing that path to certain destitution. eventually, to please my mother, i studied to enter one of the prestigious universities that the rich boys attended. not surprisingly, about my third year there, it lost all meaning for me and i found myself despondent. i set off on a journey to europe, traveling via the siberian railroad. The journey took me, eventually, to the city of rome. what i remember most vividly is the fact that the city made me furious. any building found on any alley leading off any major avenue had a story behind it, an anecdote connected to it, or some sort of meaning associated with it. it made it impossible to relax and simply take in the sights. The entire city was itself a sort of museum, and it made me sick to my stomach. human beings, whether young or old, have an innate desire to be understood; they build things and they speak in order to make their presence known. in this sense my work might be considered the epitome of some gaudy attempt to attract attention. my thoughts that day as i explored the streets of rome, however, were of a different sort. phrased in terms of a reaction to the growing environmental crisis, i felt that screaming out for ecological solutions and volunteer work would not be nearly as effective as the complete disposal of all man-made edifices, all cobbledtogether explanations, and all the mountains of garbage. or, to take it one step further, it seemed the best thing one could do for the sake of the earth would be to die on the spot. Though they pour toxic waste into the rivers, humans will only pay attention to it on the day the dead fish rise to the

note 2 : A Short Tale of Tokyo Bay, lyrics by hitoshi anzai, music by chei yoshikawa. included on yohji yamamotos album Well, I Gotta Go [Saa, ikanakya], emi music japan, 1991. 28 29

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surface. i felt something akin to the desperation of that moment, and it prompted me to place myself in a Vanity Fair world where i made things that were anything but necessary. when i began to make clothing my single thought was to have women wear what was thought of as mens clothing. in those days japanese women wore, as a matter of course, imported, feminine clothing, and i simply hate that fact. after graduating university and finding myself without direction i casually suggested to my mother that i help her at the shop. she was furious. This reaction was only natural as she had expected me to leave the university and transition smoothly into a job at a fine company. she lectured me, insisting that if i was serious about the work i should at least learn how to cut cloth. i enrolled in a vocational school for dressmaking and, jostled on all sides by women acquiring the skill in order to improve their marriage prospects, i spent my days tediously pinning fabric while pondering the question of what constitutes a proper profession for a man. i completed the course and began working at my mothers dressmaking shop. elegant madams would come into the shop with magazine clippings, asking us to make them the outfits they saw there. hourglass figures they had not, but i diligently took their measurements as i grumbled silently to myself about the impossibility of reproducing the magazine look. i hated it. intensifying my annoyance was the fact that the shop was in the Kabukicho area of shinjuku, a place overflowing with women whose job was to titillate male customers. They had shaped my image of womanhood since childhood, and i was therefore determined to at all costs avoid creating the cute, doll-like women that some men so adore.

suddenly the phone rang. hello. said the voice on the line. yes? you didnt come into work yesterday. There wasnt anything in particular that had to be done, so i decided to rest. was that it? anyway, ive been thinking about you living in that hotel. are you eating properly? i am. well, thats good to hear. and and what about your hair? isnt it getting a little long? maybe you should get it cut, get cleaned up. who in the world would be calling me this early in the morning? of course, it was my mother. Leave me alone, mom, would you? and just let me say one thing, okay? mom, do me a favor, leave me alone. ive already survived twice as long as your husband did. but, mom, There is one thing i want to say, okay? please, whatever you do, just dont leave me behind. dont leave me all alone. i was just dead tired. well, then, i guess ill be going, she said as she rolled up her flesh-colored stockings. hey, just a minute! you mean youre going to just leave me here like this?



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what else can i do? ive got to get to work. i know, i know, i know. ah, in those days the seats on the aeroflot flights made my ass hurt. and these days the ashtrays have disappeared from the seats in first class.

iV. T he n aKed h ermiT c rab

hey, mom, is there such a thing as a naked hermit crab? a naked hermit crab? hmm. well, ive never seen one. hermit crabs have a soft belly so they would die if they werent living in the borrowed shell of a snail. but what if their shell cracks open? what happens then? in that case they just move into another snails shell. The rain fell in big drops that day. on the way home from school you turned your face to the sky, shouted out, and spun around in circles. you were ten years old. Thats the way to be. The only difference is that now youre six times older. you know, ive forgotten what you look like these days. and now that i think about it, there was no moon on that day. when the desire to escape suddenly comes over you, be sure to get in touch with me. when that happens, no matter what sort of life weve been living, well make plans to meet at gate 38, for sure. That was what we said. Then there was the day that we actually did fly off to the other side of the world. remember? when we arrive, the first thing that well do is find a sunny apartment. next well look for a cozy bar. if there is a woman there that strikes your fancy, ill speak to her in fluent spanish and bring her over for you. That means we should have a big sofa in our living room.



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ah, yes. and a bed, and about a hundred books. we could have a television. or not. either would be fine. we wont need a bath. we can get by with just a shower. Three days worth of clothing and a single piece of luggage in the apartment. That would make it perfect. Thats the way we talked about it, and we did find a little apartment with a shared kitchen, didnt we? The phone in the hallway on the ground floor would ring in the middle of the night, and id always be called to come and get you at the corner bar. i wanted to be with you, even as the years passed and you were reduced to skin and bones, but before this could come to pass, you took your own life. and so, as you had always wanted, i spread your ashes in the sea. The sea was emerald green and its perfect blue stretched on forever. The cluster of gray particles from the urn was stolen by the roaring surf, and in the wink of an eye it drifted away. This sea was not one with any particular significance for either of us. still, it is linked to the sea where you once played so innocently. it is linked, too, to the sea that robbed you of the man so dear to you. i wanted the chance to one day speak to a perfect stranger who just happened to sit nearby as i drank in a bar. yet i know perfectly well that as long as i might wait, your call will never come.

Ill set off on a journey, Ive got the money Ill buy what I dream of, Ive got the money I can buy a life for her, too. But why, why, do I feel a chill? Ive run and run, forever. Ive run to the finish, always. There has been nothing to make me sad. I do, though, feel the cold. I was too serious a sort to live for the day I was unable to live for the day Well, I gotta go, its time. The scenery outside the window is familiar But it has been a long time since Ive seen it like this Beyond the glass, stained and dusty like me The greenery that I love looks nothing but black It sends forth new buds, bright with yellow and green It seems Ive been perhaps too lazy It seems Ive worried perhaps too much Do not complain, youll be laughed at Stand firm To live for the day means One cant live for the day Well, I gotta go, its time.



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Ive run and run, forever. Ive run to the finish, always. There has been nothing to make me sad. I do, though, feel the cold. I was too serious a sort to live for the day I was unable to life for the day Well, I gotta go, its time. 3

To you the taste of a beer bought with your last few coins when you are down and out, and the chilled champagne you drink wrapped in your fluffy robe in a suite at the peninsula taste essentially the same. and today, again, the sun rises. and so i dont have the slightest intention of exposing that side of your nature that drives you to transgress convention based on your personal principles. youre just you. and i love you. its as simple as that. i dragged my sluggish body out of bed and tried smiling into the mirror. it reflected a mere shell of a man. The womans words echoed brightly in the recesses of my hung over brain. she talks too much. how could she possibly think she understands me? in the beginning women are always as calm and still as an unknown lake in the forest. Then, bit by bit, yellow birds begin to reproduce and soon the surface of the lake is covered by them. Living with a young woman is probably more than i can manage anymore. The dissonance increases with age. we begin to hear quite clearly the sounds of our cells as, one by one, they die. when this happens that creature known as man begins to seek the final stage of that growing dissonance. The process is all the more troubling for one who has lived his life in the key of a minor for he will begin to search for a solution. what solution? The woman questions me again. a way to die. your way to die.

note 3 : Well, I Gotta Go, lyrics by shion, music by shion. included on yohji yamamotos album Well, I Gotta Go [Saa, ikanakya], emi music japan, 1991. 36

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To collapse right in the middle of work, be carried to the hospital, to be diagnosed with some grave illness, and pass into the beyond a few days later. That would be the ideal. really? That would be like sacrificing yourself for some feudal lord. again, the woman questions me. sacrificing myself? it would be nothing as dashing as that. it would be more like dying on the run. ive always escaped into my work, so id like to meet my end while im fleeing the world and burying myself in my work. well, ive got to be going. ive got work to do. im going to work, but well get together again soon. i got a sudden work order so ive just got to go. sorry, honey. The moment the heavy iron door to the crematorys furnace slammed shut i thought, next one in will be me.

V. d eaTh


a zaLeas

The azaleas, which i hate, bloomed, and it was may. she told me that she was going to her hometown to visit her father, whose condition had taken a turn for the worse. i decided to go with her, and we took our son. The three of us boarded the bullet train and headed west. The trip happened to coincide with a string of national holidays and the world was overflowing with people on the move. at this time of year, around the guardrails built beside the roadways that criss-cross the japanese archipelago (who in the world built them?), grow massive beds of azaleas, and they bloom in wild profusion. just thinking about them turned my mood sour, for no particular reason. we arrived at the hospital to find that the relatives had gotten there before us. my wifes father was already connected to three tubes and every time the nurses sat him up in the bed we could see countless bruises left by internal hemorrhaging. he had been a strong, dependable fellow, but now he could do nothing but accept the situation in which he had been placed. i was overcome with a sudden exhaustion and left the hospital alone. out on the street the azaleas remained the same, blooming verdantly, the flowers opened wide like some woman spreading her legs. There were thousands of them, the blossoms colored somewhere between a light purple and pink. illuminated by the white light of the streetlamps, their colors seemed even more artificial. The fresh greenery of the new buds pushed forth the petals in a daring competition to see which would blossom first.



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Yellow sweatshirt sleeping on the bench Khaki trousers folded back On a young forehead deep wrinkles sleep The morning is cold in a park left behind Between the buildings, a timid striped sky Nestled deeply in his arms The thin bridge of a nose and a gaping mouth, Both child-like Soon the detested azaleas will bloom Does someone as young as you think this means the end? With a heart full of ambition, and indifference, and with tattered shoes Clearing his throat self-consciously An old man and dog slowly pass by A disgruntled taxi slams on its brakes Spring, come too late and too slowly Spring comes again, will you survive? Soon the azaleas I detest will bloom Soon the spring I detest will arrive Soon the azaleas I detest will bloom 4

The family conference began sometime past midnight. Those present included one who was about to complete his lifes mission in the hospital bed; the generation of his children, who had recently fulfilled their duties as parents; a newly-wed grandchild who was about to set out to build a life for the future. my son, who had been born after i had reached fifty, belonged to none of these generations. his position, however, was that of grandchild. This eccentric configuration of a familys various generations continued the conference for one hour, then two. before one issue was concluded a second would be raised, and even at its end there was no sign that any conclusions would be reached. a week later my father-in-law left this world, never to return. it may have been his final remonstration. i never knew my own father. while i was still an infant he was conscripted and served, and his remains were never returned to us. buried in his grave is the Leica camera that he so adored. will there someday come a time when my anger dissipates as well? will there come a day when my mouth drops open, i forget my resistance to all things and accept them instead, when i no longer distinguish between men and women, when i transcend all of the artifice that i spread? will there come a day when, on that distant horizon, i merge with the surface of that pulsating space? will there come a day when i begin to draw my breath in such a world, so faint and indistinct?

note 4 : Azaleas, a Dog, and a Yellow Sweatshirt, lyrics by yohji yamamoto, music by yohji yamamoto. included on yohji yamamotos album Hem: Handful, Empty Mood, agent consipio, 1997. 40 41

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Vi. n exT

To my

h earT, c Lose

To my

s Tomach

in the depths of my soul, since childhood, a persistent sense that something is missing. more than anything it is this feeling of an absence that has been my most intimate friend. it is the root of my clownish, buffoonish desire to be close to people, to be liked by them, to be of some service to them. it would be no exaggeration to say that this sense of something missing has been what has driven me to where i am today. i chase the woman from behind. it would all end if she turned around. if it ends, it ends. and for that very reason, i pursue her. i chase the woman from behind.

Missing somebody

i cherish the emotions that arise in each and every situation, even if they last but an instant. i respond wholeheartedly, holding nothing back, regardless of whether i am engaged with someone important, a complete stranger, a woman i love, or anybody else. women describe this aspect of my personality as sweet. i dont deserve such praise. it is simply that i cannot do otherwise, plagued as i am by anxiety. i am, in fact, a man who may turn heartless in an instant; i desire only to settle each and every score immediately. anyone born into this world must at some point consider the nature of things. They begin to feel an intense irritation toward commonplace questions such as the reasons for their presence in the world. The irritation cannot be eased. appearing first in ones early teens, in time this irritation leads one to think, i know its not right, mom, but i wish you were dead! why did things have to turn out this way? it is the punk mentality. These are the angry youth, the



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nasty, aggressive kids of punk. and these punks will forever be just that nasty, angry kids. next, as more years pass, they reach the point where living itself is a bother and they begin to think of how they will die. from some corner they hear the folktale obasuteyama, the story of how the inhabitants of a rural village would leave their elderly on deserted mountaintops to starve to death once they were no longer able to contribute to the wellbeing of the community. what could be wrong with discarding an old woman once she is no longer of use, they say, it is all perfectly logical, isnt it? at this point, however, there emerges another self in the soul, a new character that clings there tenaciously. This alternative self, one day, jots down some song lyrics and, with a guitar in hand, begins to sing. The people around him, being who they are, to a man are held prisoner by their misunderstandings, and they begin to refer to him as a beat poet. it is quite a predicament. Life, though, in the end, is so comical that it makes one want to cry. how many literary classics can we get through life without reading? will i die before i have had an affair with anothers wife? wherever i look i find nothing of which i can be proud, so i will take what is there for the taking, and gratefully accept the gifts granted by the heavens. Then, calmly acknowledging that at some point my time will come, i will simply live. now, right before my eyes, you drift by on a raft. a raft without oars. a man floats by, alone, bobbing and swaying, bobbing and swaying.

Time has passed. Yes, time has passed. For now, thats it. I can find no other way to say it. In a corner of my heart, close to my chest The reason for that sadness remains. Back then, when they called us young, I liked myself a little better, Perhaps because I was searching madly for something When I looked in the mirror and tried to smile I saw the reflection of a shell of a man If the body alone was always healthy, It would be, I imagine, unbearable If my hair was always soft and flowing I dont think I could stand it. Powerless, like a boy Somehow lonely, somehow funny Grown old, like a boy, Somehow sad, somehow appealing Next to my heart, close to my stomach There is still a reason to weep.



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Perhaps it is because I feel some remorse towards Thing around me which Ive sullied in life And those whom Ive hurt. Will having lived doing my best Somehow make it all alright? Or will having exhausted myself in selfish pursuits Leave me the laughing stock of all? I realize these things only just now, Having travelled all these miles. Powerless, like a boy Somehow lonely, somehow funny Grown old, like a boy, Somehow sad, somehow appealing 5

Vii. T he c af

in The

m orning

i often wake up early these days. when the weather is nice i take my breakfast at the same caf, just a short walk away. The morning sun feels good when the sycamores grow fragrant. my table on the terrace, the garcon, his greeting, our clipped conversation these things are always the same. everyday i order a caf au lait and an omelet. across the terrace sits the same gentleman reading the same newspaper. The morning sunlight shines, each day its angle changing subtly. always the same couple passes as they walk their dog. an elderly gentleman, a tilted beret on his head and a cane in one hand strolls by. sightseeing? asks the elderly gentleman over his shoulder. i smile. ah, nothing better than the first smoke in the morning!


note 5 : Next to my Heart, Close to my Stomach, lyrics by yohji yamamoto, music by yohji yamamoto. included on yohji yamamotos album Well, I Gotta Go [Saa, ikanakya], emi music japan, 1991. 46 47

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i guess i love this man even now. There were five us once at a dinner party, my husband, two women who had come from overseas on business, this man and me. i seem to remember it being chinese food. it was a rather muggy day. The members of the dinner party arrived separately, each a little late, and by the time all were gathered it was already after ten. The dishes were placed on the rotating surface in the center of the table. we spun it round and round; we drank round after round. suddenly the man spoke. hey, do you remember the song that bob dylan wrote for us, that famous song for the two of us? There had never been any such a song. but in a gesture unusual for me, i giggled and we exchanged glances. Then, with my chopsticks, i reached for my favorite, the prawns in chili sauce.



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i was born, a breech birth, in the 1940s, in the shinjuku district of Tokyo. and then there i was watching the people lined up to pay their respects at a funeral id come across while pedaling along on my tricycle. The funeral seemed to be one held by a war widow, a woman whod given up hope that her husband might yet return from the war. as he watched the adults conduct their sad ceremony, the boy experienced anger and emptiness for the first time. im a rebellious sort, and thats how my life began. 1966 graduated from Kei university, Tokyo 1969 graduated from the bunka fashion college, Tokyo The lost decade, a decade in which i worked harder than i ever have before or since a decade in which i suffered more than i ever have before or since absorbed in my work, and with no recollection of the time. 1981 The first yohji yamamoto collection in paris.


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1989 The release of Notebook on Cities and Clothes, a film directed by Wim Wenders i was born in the ruins of postwar Tokyo and met wim wenders in paris some decades later. by some bizarre twist of fate we both spoke of the same memories, and from that instant on we were bound by the deepest of friendships.


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1993 Costume design for the Wagner opera Tristan and Isolde in the bayreuth Festival The person i respected most in the entire world is heiner mller. one day my extension rang, and i was informed that a visitor had arrived. i went to the press room to find a man sitting quietly its large table. mumbling in english, he began to speak. my name is heiner mller and im a playwright. ive recently been commissioned to do a wagnerian opera. im in trouble and i need your help. well i want to smash the wagnerian tradition. smash it? in that case, you can count on me. That evening we found ourselves in 1999, a members only club in aoyama that i frequented in those days. we got thoroughly drunk and i remember thinking that this guy was ten times nastier than me. i knew i couldnt compete with him. on the very first day we met we shared raunchy stories deep into the night. some months later the wagners expressed an interest in paying me a formal visit. They arrived together, husband and wife. we appreciate your official agreement to do the costuming for the upcoming wagner opera. what? had i agreed to that?


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mller had really gotten the better of me. my theory is that wim wenders was involved from the very beginning, telling mller to come to me. heiner mller. born in east germany, he first made a name for himself with the radical play titled The Hamlet Machine. he was praised as a genius on a par with brecht. he was also constantly monitored as a dangerous, subversive thinker. since the wagners had come themselves on a formal visit i didnt see any way i could wiggle out of the project. id been duped, and so for three years, as soon as id finished my paris collection, id be off to bayreuth. Though he would refer to them as consultations, that man named heiner mller never once spoke to me about opera. over vodka and cigars he would instead spin tales about the various misdeeds of his checkered past while insisting that the human body needed meat. id just finished the paris collection and, entirely drained, had boarded a airplane bound for bayreuth when it struck me. why in the world am i doing this? Truth be told, my mother was for some unknown reason a big fan of the bolshoi ballet and crazy about all the traditional arts of europe. so that must have been it i did the costuming work as a way of showing my respect for her. Thats what i told myself as i bounced back and forth between paris and bayreuth, enduring the three years of


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ups and downs until i finally arrived at the evening of the premier. both mikail and raisa gorbachev were in attendance, as were a long list of other dazzling dignitaries. The overture began. The curtain remained lowered while this splendid piece of music rang out, and before it was over my mother had fallen fast asleep. i cant really say whether my mother saw this opera or not, but i do remember what she said when it was over. wasnt that lovely! hmm from the costumes and the make-up to the shoes and the wigs, every last thing had been left to me. i worked on it for three years, my compensation was just 3 million yen. so this is what culture is all about, i thought. has it ever been done with an all nude cast? id asked, hopefully. The answer was in the affirmative, so i knew i was going to have to do the costuming. it was a terrible disappointment. in spite of the tradition behind it, the monumental work of wagner from the classical canon has invited a wide variety of interpretations, including one in which the costuming had presented an all nude cast for the performance. i had to admit that was impressive. my mother got invited to the wagner estate, where she was treated so majestically that in her elated state she donated 5 million yen to the wagner society! i guess this is just the perfect example of the designers sad fate. heiner mller. whatever bad luck i may have had, getting to know this man has been a great blessing. meeting him infused me with a poison more powerful than any id ever had before.



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1998 Collaboration in the celebrations for the 25th Anniversary of the Pina bausch Company, Tanztheater Wupperthal one day a fax arrived. come to wupperthal and do something for our 25th anniversary. it was from pina bausch. id been deeply impressed by pina and so replied that id contribute, though i had no idea what i should do. Then, before i knew it, the pamphlet for the occasion announced my participation. The theater was at full capacity for the evening. first, i had four or five dancers in a circle at the entrance to the opera house. They were all frozen in their poses, welcoming the audience. once a spectator entered the theater itself, they were met with another sight. in the first row in front of the large, curved stage id lined up dancers, tall and short, men and women, all in a random arrangement that left an uneven impression. id dressed them in costumes that didnt fit them, and the zippers had been left unzipped. These dancers, too, remained frozen in their poses. That was the fashion show that i offered that evening. on the stage itself dancers who knew nothing of karate were attempting to learn the series of karate moves known as Heian Nidan. They were learning it on the spot, as a performance in its own right.


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and id made a request of pina. ill design a garment for you, pina, i said, and id like you to dance in it, even if you do it simply as a favor to me. pina would dance, her ribs moving elegantly, and the powerful men would confront her as she danced. The supple movements of pinas body would easily absorb even the kicks and punches of the men who had been trained to kill their opponents with a single strike. pina had only to dance, alone and in the dark, with a disinterested look on her face, absorbed in her own movements. as things evolved the dancers on the stage began to master the karate movements, and the audience burst into applause. at one corner of the stage a large, comical man spoke into a microphone, providing the dancers with an overblown explanation of the breathing techniques involved. okay. now take a deep breathe and attack!


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The performance offered none of the conventional cues on when to applaud, and at first the audience was confused about how they should react. in time, though, they began to enjoy themselves. for the finale i took the stage myself, performed the karate pattern Heian Nidan, and in the process toppled four of the powerful men. i then exited the stage. it had all been improvised. pina, i thoroughly enjoyed it.


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1999 Costume design for the film Brother, by director Takeshi kitano 2002 Costume design for the film Dolls, by the director Takeshi kitano after wim enjoyed such great success with Wings of Desire, he attracted various sponsors and decided to make the film Until the End of the World. The project started to get more and more ambitious, expanding like a bubble. when it reached the point where it seemed they were going to have wim film in hi-vision, i took him for advice from nhK, japans national broadcasting station. we arrived, the two of us, but couldnt sit still. wim ended up grabbing a box of tissues that was in the room and began arranging it to look like a certain female body part. no, no, thats not how its shaped! i said. for what seem like an eternity in that office at the national broadcasting station we played around with that box of tissues at least thats how i remember it. on the way home, just as we drove onto the ramp leading off the elevated highway, wim blurted out,hey, yohji, do you have something like this some work you know wont be a success but that you just have to see through to the end? i was speechless for a second. Then, with my eyes still trained straight ahead, i answered, i do have something like that. sometimes a project starts to inflate, like a bubble, and take on a life of its own.


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once Takeshi Kitano said, in hollywood movies they even spend a fortune on the costumes for the minor characters. he was probably jealous and wanted to use me to see what he might be able to do. i think Brother turned out better than Dolls in terms of the relationship between the costumes and the film. even though ive done it, i have some rather serious doubts about fashion designers doing the costumes for films. it is really very difficult to decide the limits on how far one should go with it. Thats what makes costume design for films such challenging work. The costumes for a film have to be subordinate to the vision as it appears in the script. They must never look to outshine the script. ive kept those ideas in mind with my costumes, and in the work ive done with Takeshi, Zatoichi (The blind swordsman) has actually been the most successful. for that project we had a specialist in film costumes join us, and after i came up with the concept i left the rest to her. if they arent handled carefully, the costumes for a film can overshadow the hero. so, in my case, it would probably be better to have me doing the film score instead. The japanese film director yasujir ozu treats everyday sorts of topics from a disinterested perspective. using his distinctive camera angles he doggedly pursues his subject, leaving the viewers heartbroken. hes not stuck in that claustrophobic worldview that comes from japans island mentality, treating always the clash between human emotions and the sense of duty. ozus themes have a universality that speaks to the whole world.


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Takeshi Kitano, though, i think is closer to akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa did grand epics, and he had some failures, too. he would just forge ahead, making the movies he had to before he could proceed to the next level. The Takeshi films i like best are ones for which i didnt do the costuming, like Sonatine and Hana-Bi (fireworks). in these especially he shows a unique sense of ma, the empty gaps in time and space. in the places where he wants a message to get across, he intentionally does not insert that message. i also like those points where his dignity of violence emerges. not so much as a creator of films, but as a friend, i worry a little about him these days.


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surprise prizes?

1994 awarded french chevalier de Lordre des arts et des Lettres

2004 awarded japanese governments medal with purple ribbon (spring)

2005 awarded french national order of merit, officer

2006 awarded british royal society of arts honorary royal designer of industry

2008 awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the university of the arts, London


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c rediTsp1 p73 p74 p82 p93 p106 p113 p124 p128 p133 p142 p144 p147 p148 p151 p153 p155 p156 p160 p163 p165 p166 yohji yamamoto nick Knight nick Knight donata wenders yohji yamamoto yohji yamamoto yohji yamamoto nick Knight yohji yamamoto yohji yamamoto yutaka yamamoto donata wenders alice springs yutaka yamamoto yutaka yamamoto yutaka yamamoto bernd hartung bernd hartung courtesy office Kitano inc. yohji yamamoto inc. yohji yamamoto donata wenders

c oLophona uThors Y ohji YAMAMoTo & A MiTSUDA c onTribuTors S eiGoW MATSUokA & i rne SilvAGni T ransLaTion j AMeS DorSeY g raphic d esign PAUl boUDenS p hoTograVure STeUrS, a nTwerp p rinTing ProoST, T urnhouT

copyright 2010 The authors and the contributors copyright 2010 Ludion and yohji yamamoto inc. copyright 2010 yohji yamamoto drawings copyright 2010 nick Knight photography copyright 2010 bernd hartung photography copyright 2010 donata wenders photography copyright 2010 yutaka yamamoto photography

www.ludion.be issues of technique and craftsmanship as addressed in this chapter are also expounded in yohji yamamotos Theory of Fashion Evolution [Yohji Yamamoto no fashion shinkaron], a series of articles published in the magazine High Fashion in 1986 and 1987.All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders. If, however, you feel that you have inadvertently been overlooked, please contact the publisher.

isbn 978-90-5544-983-5 | d/2010/6328/77 190 191

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