For Takako Masuki, her zine-making moniker ASIAN_FOOD_DESIGN is nothing more than a combination of the things she loves.
Restaurants and shops usually specialize in one country or one area but it was difficult for her to pick only one country in Asia. She explains, “Japanese cultural anthropologist Tadao Umesawa once said that mutual understanding between countries is a step for peace. I love this phrase. In my mind, different countries are like prefectures within one country – the world. I always wish peace for Asia and the world.”
Masuki is a graphic designer who lives in Osaka, Japan with her two children and her husband, who is from Hong Kong. Most days, she makes zines concurrently as she works – spending half the day working and the other half of the day making zines.
“I love design that is colorful and cute. I draw my inspiration from illustrator Hiller Goodspeed and designers like Pop & Zebra, Martí Guixé and Idea Oshima.” She adds that being in a multi-cultural family has helped shape her craft as she feels free and unconstrained by Japanese customs.
If there is one thing you do not know about her, it is that her family name, a rare one in Japan, translates to “increasing happiness”.
So it follows that her journey to make zines is a somewhat deliberate attempt to increase her happiness even if making zines might seem like a natural progression for someone who designs books for a living. “I love Asian food very much but I don’t have a talent for cooking. I’ve always enjoyed drawing and I realized it makes me happy to draw Asian food.”
The graphic designer with a gamine haircut cheekily discloses she was also drawn to making zines because it would give her an excuse to travel to Asia to sell her zines at various book fairs.
In 2017, Masuki went to Singapore with her daughter to participate in the Singapore Art Book Fair, her first book fair. Her Risograph poster featuring Asian food was a bestseller so she started posting drawings of Asian food on Instagram.
Having lived in Bangalore, India for two years and in Shanghai, China for five years, Masuki has had many opportunities to discover and try many types of Asian food. After returning to Japan, Masuki often visits Singapore to meet her friends and savor local food. At home, her husband cooks Hong Kong dishes sometimes.
“It is difficult to find dishes from other countries in Japan so that has become my motivation for drawing Asian food.”
For Masuki, the fun part of making a zine is to think of the concept and design. Preparing the text, photos and illustrations feels more like being at her day job – and can be even harder in comparison.
Usually she looks for photos of Asian food she wants to eat on Instagram. Then she draws and gets permission from the photo owner. “As I draw, I am already drooling in my mind. Even if I don’t get to eat the food, I feel satisfied after drawing. It is like a make-believe meal!”
When it comes to actual meals, Masuki’s regenerative ritual at the end of a long day is to talk and drink with her family at dinner. “I love discussing things with my husband. Recently we were talking about weeds and survival of the fittest. It was very interesting!”
In 2019, Masuki and her family traveled for one month in Asia, visiting Vietnam and meeting up with friends in India, Thailand and Hong Kong. After the trip, she put together Asian Food Travel, a zine which documents the food they had eaten in the different countries.
Today, Asian Food Travel is a finalist in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2021. Rankings will be announced this June.
“That trip was memorable because it felt like I was returning home. I wasn’t sightseeing, instead I was there to remember and experience the places I had lived in before,” she reminisces.
When asked to describe her dream, Masuki is unsurprisingly candid in her response. “Someday, I would like to live in other countries in Asia again and I hope to have a Risograph printing studio too. My dream project would be to make books or magazines with other like-minded creatives from Asia to promote an understanding of each Asian country and its food.”