Fashion, jewelry & watch, lifestyle, beauty, foods…
Unique editors who are familiar with each genre GINZA SIX aimlessly
We spell way of enjoying that we found on foot.

The Nonchalant Urbane Flair of the Ginza Six GINZA SIX Editors Illustration

Yu Nagaba


Launched on the official GINZA SIX website at the end of September, the GINZA SIX Editors project has drawn more viewers and Instagram followers with each passing day. Fashion, watches and jewelry, lifestyle, beauty, food—in an ongoing series, expert editors in each of these areas, all with a distinct personal flair, wander about GINZA SIX discovering new ways to appreciate, enjoy, and then share what they find with readers. The illustrator who created the animated illustration that heads each installment of the series is Yu Nagaba, who’s drawn covers and illustrations for numerous books and magazines and does work for advertising clients in Japan and elsewhere. An exquisitely rendered sympathetic subtlety and mood hover over the minimalist characters and worlds he draws using a single black pen. He’s undoubtedly one of the busiest illustrators anywhere.

“For this project I wasn’t asked to draw a character or someone famous, but a group of editors, people who normally work behind the scenes. So, in that sense, it presented some difficulties. I had this picture of a ninja clan in my mind (laughter). An editor’s like someone who’s out there, stealthily collecting all sorts of information, and is incredibly knowledgeable about various things. So, specifically, to the left, here’s an editor listening to the sounds of the city. The middle editor is clean-cut, but she’s a woman giving a great deal of thought to something. And the person to the right is like an editor who doubles as a cameraman.”

Nagaba’s unadorned way of talking reflects his artistic approach. In his drawings, he says, he dislikes exaggeration. Aside from the drawing itself, he focuses on the nature of the drawing as an act of communicating while also valuing the peculiar specificity of given situations. Consistently light, his touch beguiles and gets you thinking in ways that really let you connect to the essence of an illustration.

“When you hold back a little bit in everything, perhaps you tend to lose out to more exuberant forms of expression, and people, that put themselves front and center. But I think of being laid-back as a more tasteful feel, and it’s the style I like to work in. I like the fact that the GINZA SIX Editors’ nonchalant animation gives it the feel of a flipbook, and I actually used a flipbook technique to make this animation by using several drawings.”

Nagaba has liked to draw since he was young. He spent two years in Turkey from the age of 10, after his father was transferred there for work. That time left a vivid impression. Having lived apart from Japanese culture for this time, his return to Japan left him feeling alienated. Later, he realized the outsider’s perspective he’d developed without knowing during these years led both to his current drawing style and some of the ways in which he approaches his day-to-day life.

“For example, when I’m out walking about and I unexpectedly run into someone I know, it’s fun to stand back a bit and assess that person’s reaction. I think I somehow categorize and keep a stock of all these reactions. They seem to come out in my illustrations—like, oh, I wonder if that person’s reaction will fit in here. When I’m out drinking, I prefer being in a group compared to being with just one other person. It lets you make yourself invisible. No one cares (laughter).”

Curiously, Nagaba tells us he’s been interested lately in the trends of luxury brands.

“The Louis Vuitton and Supreme collaboration was really interesting, I thought. And it feels like brands like Balenciaga and Gucci are boldly taking on a challenge to create a trend that people like me might think isn’t all that cool. It’s interesting things are becoming popular that, maybe, people from my generation can’t quite understand. And, all the same, I’m a little envious.”

Which doesn’t necessarily mean, he says, that he buys major brands all that often; his tastes routinely trace a fairly random pattern from here to there to there. His tastes are broad and eclectic. He looks for fresh modes of expression and interesting approaches. From luxury to street styles, he explores everything without preconceptions. He gets really interested in one thing, then moves on to something else. Your input, he says, has to be greater than your output, or you lose a sense of direction for your own next creative move.

Lastly, some thoughts from Nagaba on where he’s going next.

“I’m interested in doing work from wherever, not just Japan. I’m totally open to accepting projects from overseas clients. The world of modern art seems like fun. It’s something I’m interested in. I’ve had some inquiries from galleries, but I haven’t yet figured out how to compete in that arena. I think it’s a world where you’d have to talk really well, in which you wouldn’t get very far without having an amazingly strong intention to rise. I might need to cultivate a little more ambition (laughter).”

Illustration: Yu Nagaba, Photos: Akemi Kurosaka, Edit & Text: Yuka Okada


Yu Nagaba

Illustrator and artist. Born in Tokyo in 1976. Graduate of Tokyo Zokei University. Engaged in various activities based on illustration, ranging from editorial to client work, and including lettering, logotype, and package design. He’s held solo exhibitions in New York, London, and other cities since 2014. On the Instagram account of the kaerusensei (Prof Frog) character that he created, he posts diverse original works every day of the year and has approximately 100,000 followers. An exhibition commemorating the publication of a collection of his archived work will be held in Shibuya, Tokyo, at GALLERY X BY PARCO in December 2017, including his magnum opus–like illustration (shown above) of 20 of the world’s great artists—da Vinci to Picasso to Basquiat to Takashi Murakami— gathering at Ginza Tsutaya Books. This illustration was drawn for the first issue of “GINZA SIX magazine” (a free magazine published by GINZA SIX). http://www.nagaba .com
Official Instagram account of the Wandering Editors