An interview with STORIED editor, Rachel E T Davies
There’s a lot of reasons not to launch an independent print magazine.
Like starting any other business, it’s a pretty scary endeavour, but when coupled shouts of “PRINT IS DEAD!” and “BEWARE, THE END IS NEAR!” it seems downright terrifying. So when a new magazine launches, it should launch to the sound of many celebratory bells and smashed champagne bottles.
One that definitely deserves such a fanfare is Storied, a new journal about Japan, its tradition, its crafts and its lesser-known stories. An incredibly elegant magazine, with a delicate typeface and stunning photography, Volume 1 is The Kyoto issue. It forsakes touristy destinations for everyday streets, stories of modern priests, of old traditions that have fallen out of favour, and of the architecture, textiles and rituals that run through the city. Oh, and it’s beautifully written as well.
To welcome Storied to the shelves, we sat down with editor, Rachel E T Davies to find out the story behind the mag.
Thank you for doing this Rachel! First up, can you tell us how Storied came into being?
I moved to Kyoto almost 6 years ago and during the first 3-4 years was working as a freelance journalist and photographer. 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, Nikko… I would also get really annoyed when I read so called ‘Insider Guides’ from people who had maybe spent two weeks in Kyoto - I’ve spent 5 and half 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.
I love the range of stories in the first issue, from tattooing traditions, to the 'beauty in the mundane' photos. What kind of stories does the magazine aim to tell?
I think Japan is a place that is still quite mystifying to a lot of people. On one hand it’s thought of as a super modern place with huge metropolises filled with robots, and the other it’s a place of ancient culture and deep-rooted spirituality. Both are true. But there’s also very much just an everyday side of Japan that isn’t as romanticised, but is still as equally enthralling.
Our aim with STORIED was to show all of these facets of Japan across a range of topics - food and drink, travel, design, craftsmanship. We also wanted to tell stories that showed a truer side of the country. There are certain things about Japan that are not perfect and we didn’t want to shy away from that. We tell stories of the decline in traditional crafts, or the mismanagement of natural disasters, or gender inequality - that’s why we decided to include an ‘Inspirational Women’ feature every issue to try and do our bit to bring awareness to these things too. Overall though, Japan is an incredibly captivating place and we wanted to share a deeper side to life here.
The cover for the Kyoto issue is stunning. What’s the story behind this picture?
Thank you so much! This was one of those serendipitous moments when I was out walking one morning I had free. I took my camera and just decided to wander around Higashiyama. There’s a hike that I enjoy starting at Chion-in temple. It ascends the eastern hills to Shogunzuka and has a lovely viewpoint over the whole city. I arrived to Chion-in and it was a hive of activity, I believe they were preparing for a festival, and so I just stood and snapped away for half and hour and when I came home I had some really beautiful images.
How does Storied get made? Can you tell us a bit about how and where you put it all together?
Myself and my Co-Founder are both based in Kyoto. I’m British and moved here almost 6 years ago, she’s Japanese and after a number of years in the US (California and New York) she moved back to Japan and to Kyoto in 2018. We met and became good friends. She has a background in editorial design and myself in editorial content and so it was the perfect fit.
I run the content and admin side of things - working with contributors, setting our editorial calendar, themes, everyday running of the business. Hana runs the design side of things - graphics, layouts, working with printers. Though we’re both very much involved in everything! We do everything here in Kyoto, I have a stunning co-working space in a renovated machiya (Garden Lab) and so we often meet there to discuss themes, pitch story ideas, search for contributors, go over layouts. We even do our printing here in the city. It's done by a wonderful company called SUNM COLOR CO., LTD. who are very particular. They just love print, and paper, and they’re so wonderful to work with.
What other indie mags are you reading at the moment?
Thank you so much for giving us an insight into Storied! Just one more question - in a world where everything’s online, why make print magazines?
I am such a technophobe! I hate computers - give me a notepad and pen any day, and a real book, a diary, a journal. I hate screens - they’re awful for our eyes, our backs, our necks, keyboards are terrible for our wrists. Not to mention everything just seems to go wrong when I’m anywhere near one. I love the smell of ink and the feel of a beautiful, thick, matte paper. Online is so impermanent, print is just so comforting. My dad loved books, he used to read the dictionary for fun. I definitely got my love for print from him.
“Print is dead?” Psht. As if! We wish Storied every success for the future and look forward to Volume 2. You can find issue 1 here.