About the author Naoto Matsumoto

 
 

Naoto Matsumoto, the decoder of this site. Please read his blog.


    In 1960s, he was born in Japan, in a town called Chiba.


    The town has nothing special except its red light district, which once was known for Turkish baths. After an unofficial protestation from the Turkish embassy, Japanese owners of those libidinous establishments all over Japan voluntarily changed the name of the industry to "soap land".


    It is a satellite city of Tokyo, 40 km for its south-east. He likes to qualify it as a Croydon or a Jersey City of Japan. When someone asks him where he comes from, he cannot really pronounce the name of his birth place with pure pride.


    It was the time Japan was still a third-world-ish country, way before the invention of a Nintendo and a Play Station.


    He studied at everyone's elementary school, everyone's junior high school, and everyone's high school. No wonder he wanted to be someone special.


    In 70s, he made his first film "The rock in another dimension", which was about a boy stuck in a movie.

    Naoto was lucky enough to taste the last bits and pieces of Japanese experimental theatres and artistic films.

    Naturally, his film was experimentally artistic à la 70s and none of his friends understood what it was about. He should have stuck to his own visual roots of "Speed Racer" and "Be Witched".


    For him, Ikkyu was a famous cartoon character like Astro Boy or Heidi. Most Japanese kids think so, too.

    He had no idea that the naughty but smart priestling had turned out to be a great Zen master and fallen in love with a beautiful blind singer in her thirties when he was more than seventy years old.

    He composed a poem when he saw Buddha in her hidden valley.


    In the class of Japanese classical literature, a professor from a university taught him that Basho the Haiku master had started at nothing and experienced something and, eventually, gone (back) to nothing, which is everything.

    No high school students understood it including Naoto.



    In 80s, Tokyo became part of his life. For a kid growing up in Chiba, the Japanese capital is another world.

    He still feels sort of convulsions at the deepest bottom of his body when the train crosses the Edo river which divides Tokyo and Chiba.


    The university he attended was not exactly everyone's school. He learned snobbism and how to deal with snobs. He also made his second film, which is naturally about snobbism. No wonder he wrote a thesis on F. Scott. Fitzgerald.


    He spent two and a half hours to get to school and another two and a half hours to come home.

    He decided to do either of them a day, and made friends with kind people who let him stay with them.

    He did not belong either Tokyo nor non-Tokyo. He was a snobbish homeless.


    While he was a university student, he was trained to be a screenplay writer at Shochiku film corporation, where Yasujiro Ozu shot one of his masterpieces, "Tokyo Monogatari".


    What he learned there was the hopelessness of the Japanese film industry.

    It was the time of a Star Wars and a The Close Encounter of the Third Kind.

    He soon realised that, if he wanted to make a film like them, he has to go to the other side of the Pacific.


    His first trip outside Japan was, of course, to the United States. It was still early 80s. America was "America" no matter how many Japanese cars were running in California.


    He visited Universal Studio, and, pretending to be a Japanese producer, managed to sneak into the residential section of Steven Spielberg.

    It was difficult for a Caucasian to identify the age of an Asian. It is still, seemingly.




    At the moment of his graduation, he borrowed the maximum of money from a bank to travel Europe. All the students did it. It was a time of real estate boom in Japan. The word "worry" didn't exist.


    He visited Spain. It was just a few years after the collapse of Franco's régime. Spain didn't have a McDonald's restaurant yet, not to mention, a Benidorm.

    There he experienced his money being multiplied simply because he had crossed a border.


    He worked for Arthur Andersen at its Tokyo office. No Japanese knew the name, not to mention Enron Corporation. He quit it after eight months of fun and beer. He left Japan.


    Some says the origin of the word "hobo" is Japanese. Japanese immigrants in the States used to use it. Possibly. The word means "here and there". His hobo-ing started since then.


    He learned his English in South Africa, his Cockney at West Ham, his Spanish in Mexico, his Chilango at D.F. of Mexico, and his French in Senegal and New Caledonia.


    He doesn't want to speak like someone else but himself. He is a guy from Chiba. His English should be like the one spoken by a chap from a Croydon. (or a Chilango in case of Spanish).


    While he was living in Mexico, he professionally acted on the stage, along with Laura Almera, in David Olguin's play.

    In Erwin Neumaier's film he worked with a fat Mexican kid of 14 years old. The kid lost his weight and gained his fame. The boy's name is Diego Luna, a Latino heartthrob.


    At the age of thirty, he started surfing. Normally, it is the age when a surfer stops surfing. He had long been the worst surfer on the beach, often the most aged one. The break he first surfed was Taito point in Chiba, Japan.


    Chiba is Japan's surfing Mecca, like Hossegor in Europe, sort of the source of the regional pride.

    Thanks to surfing, he learned many things about life, nature, and being.


    He feels not a half joy when he addresses he is not from Tokyo, he is from Chiba. Well, you can't surf in Tokyo Bay, can you?


    In him, Endless Summer met Waiting for Godot.

    If you like experimental theatre and surfing,  you have to travel a lot to see a good production and to ride a good wave. He liked it.




    In 90s, he worked three months a year in Japan, saving up as much as possible, and spent the rest of the year travelling.

    Using the difference of value between Japanese yen and another currency, he wondered why Marx didn't integrate the exchange rate mechanism in his Capitalism. Naoto became a hobo with a credit card.


    It was at the Gili islands off Lombok, Indonesia.

    He stayed at a cheap guest house, where a traveller can get a second-hand book by leaving one of his own.

    Accidentally, though there is no coincidence in life, he exchanged his copy of Yukio Mishima's "Golden Pavilion" with a book on "Shobogenzo Zuimonki".

 (which is not Dogen's Shobogenzo, but the record of his teachings in much easier writing)


    He didn't understand it at all, but he finished reading it because there was nothing else to read in Japanese there.


    He spent a couple of years in Oaxaca, Mexico. He surfed with local boys and wrote about them.

    The short story won him Nippon Kaiyo Bungaku Taisho (Japan Oceanic Literature Award).

    He surfed extensively, even went to Cracow for Tadeusz Kantor's Cricot (2) with his surf board on the way to Newquay, Cornwall.

    People in Poland didn't laugh at him except one hippie-ish Polish man. There wasn't a McDonald's restaurant there then. Only Burger King.


    He saw the collapse of World Trade Center in the south of France.

    There was no surf there although local surfers believed there was.

    He had plenty of time to read and think about Zen and his surf board maintenance.


    Lao Tzu, Chuan Tzu, Daisetz Suzuki and Rene Egli. Chang Chung-yuan's "Tao : A New Way of Thinking" (Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1977) helped him a lot.


    He camped in the area of Sendai Shin Ko industrial port in Japan. He spent a month in a tent, eating six McDonald's hamburgers a day. For it is cheaper than cooking foods on the beach in the nature reserve next to the international port.


    To find out the roots of Japanese theatre, he traveled in the southern Pacific, and lived in a traditional hut with Kanaks at Lifou Island in New Caledonia for eight months.

    He read Chang Chung-yuan's book repeatedly and tried to explain the concept of Tao to his Kanak friends.

    In exchange, they told him of their ancestors. They were born from a rock.




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My favorite books

  1. 1.Shobogenzo

  2. 2.Tao Te King

  3. 3.Shiddhartha



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Naoto Matsumoto