Kyoto Journal, Part of Ongoing Dialogue on Japan


KYOTO — Two years ago when a former magazine editor sought support from a regional business group for a unique Kansai-based publication, few people took him seriously.

Through persistence and foresight, Kyoto resident John Einarsen is now watching his dream become reality four times a year with Kyoto Journal, a quarterly international magazine that covers various aspects of Japanese culture.

“It’s about ideas,” editor Einarsen says. “I hope (Kyoto Journal) becomes part of an ongoing dialogue on Japan, Japan’s role in the world, about how we see our world in relationship to Japan.”

The magazine — with its fourth edition due this fall — aims at offering readers a wide range of the Japanese experience: poetry, photography and articles written about specific topics of Japanese culture.

“You won’t find this kind of thing in other magazines,” said Einarsen, former editor of the now-defunct “Kaleidoscope Kyoto” magazine and eight-year resident of Japan.

Kyoto Journal’s uniqueness, according to Einarsen, is that it relies mostly on contributed material from foreign and native volunteers who relate firsthand knowledge about particular areas of Japanese culture. Kyoto Journal’s office staff numbers only five.

“They’re not professional writers,” he said about contributors, “but they are doing something interesting.”

Kyoto Journal is intended to fill the literary gap between the staid academic press and the triviality of the popular press, Einarsen said.

“There is a lack of serious alternative articles — articles that are well thought out, that touch you intellectually, challenge you or touch your heart,” he said. “There’s no place where I see articles like that,” according to Einarsen.

David Dvash, who founded the Osaka-based International Business Association that Einarsen first approached about his project, said he too saw a need for a different kind of publication about Japan’s culture.

“Of all IBA members, I was probably the only one who saw the uniqueness of his proposal,” he said.

Dvash decided to see the concept through to fruition and is now associate publisher of the magazine.

“There’s no reason for us to make an ‘information’ magazine because Kansai Time Out is already doing that,” said Einarsen.

Articles come from various areas of Japan, another factor that distinguishes it from the regional Kansai Time Out, said Einarsen.

Though distributed to bookstores and universities in Japan, the United States, United Kingdom, France and Hong Kong, advertising spots remain hard to sell to possible Japanese advertisers, Dvash said.

But if Kyoto Journal’s track record after only three published issues is any indication, readers may have good reason to be optimistic about the magazine’s future.

“Considering that the Kyoto Journal is a baby and barely walking, I think the response we’ve had is quite remarkable,” Dvash said.