Matt Irwin has visited Japan several times and is now a connoisseur of Japanese culture: food, nature, manga, cat cafés, robot restaurants, and many more things. He even brings back loads of matcha (green tea) flavored snacks to London. I’m quite sure this British photographer was Japanese in his previous life.
Sumimasen! When we met for the first time at your home for a Dazed & Confused Japan shoot, I remember that you told me about Super Lovers!
Super Lovers had a store here in London that opened maybe fifteen years ago. I used to wear Super Lovers all the time, so when I was in the store I asked for a job and got one! We were managed directly from Tokyo, so it was my first experience with Japanese business culture—good training! I still have a lot of their clothes and toys from the store at home. I miss it!
Why do you like manga?
I think watching anime films like Akira and Fist of the North Star when I was younger really shaped my taste. I still watch SpongeBob now. Manga always seemed so exotic to me as a kid. Like it was from another world—the huge eyes, the expression, the fear…I loved it.
How did you discover Takashi Murakami’s works for the first time? How do you like them?
I think I first saw his work in the early 2000s. I loved the idea of manga as high art. It’s devious.
You told me that they are not that crazily expensive, but why did you start buying his works?
Most of his works are millions of dollars, but he does screen-print editions sometimes and they are affordable. Kind of, ha! I really love them, so I collect them.
When was your first trip to Japan, and what was it for?
It was for Japanese Vogue, I think maybe four years ago. I’ve been back many times since; it’s my favorite country to visit.
I recall that most of your shoots in Japan are held inside. If you are outside, where would you want to shoot, and what kind of story would it be?
Yes, most of my Japan shoots have been in the studio. I’d love to shoot at some hot springs, then I could relax and work at the same time!
Where is your favorite place/spot in Japan? A cat café?
Ha-ha, I love cat cafés! I love Okinawa, it’s so tropical and beautiful there. My favorite is Iriomote Island—the rarest cat in the world lives there!
Do you prefer Tokyo or the countryside?
I really love the countryside of Japan; it’s always interesting to see what a place would look like without any city, to see the land in its natural state.
What kind of Japanese food do you like?
Goya and tofu! It’s a unique flavor to Japan; we don’t have anything similar in England.
How long will it take to finish those matcha or koicha teas that you bought last time?
A couple of weeks. I drink so much of it, I think I will turn green eventually!
What do you want to do when you visit Tokyo next time?
There’s so much to do and see in Tokyo, I think you could be there for a year and do something different every day. I want to go to the countryside next time, maybe Mount Fuji, and the hot springs and Tokyo DisneySea.
Last question: Please tell me when you will open a cat café in London and how it’ll be different from the original ones in Tokyo.
I wouldn’t want it to be different! The Tokyo ones are so nice, I think maybe the only difference would be the tea—black not green. But I would try and make everyone drink green tea, including the cats.
For more information, visit http://www.clmus.com/photography/matt-irwin.
Photo: Courtesy of Junsuke Yamasaki