Get a Look at Tokyo Culture, Condensed, in Julie Watai’s Selfie Photo Book, “Tokyo Future Classic”

Julie Watai セルフィー写真集、『トーキョー・フューチャー・クラシック』にみる凝縮された東京カルチャー
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Get a Look at Tokyo Culture, Condensed, in Julie Watai’s Selfie Photo Book, “Tokyo Future Classic”

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After working at an idol in Japan, Julie Watai moved by herself to Italy, publishing SAMURAI GIRL in 2006 while working as a photographer for Italian publishing company DRAGO&ARTS. She quickly became an international Japanese pop culture figure, gaining a large following. After returning to Japan, she continued her work as a photographer, along with developing electronics as a hobby and iPhone apps, and has been remarkably successful as part of the Akiba-style geek culture, too.

Not long ago we sat down with Julie Watai about the development of her mobile ring light, Sel*Kira.


Sel*Kira / セル*キラ

Interview page :

Then on February 5, 2016, Julie Watai released a photo collection completely shot, styled, and directed herself, with her as the sole subject, called “Tokyo Future Classic” (DU BOOKS). The book includes re-makes of her past work, as well as other works previously unreleased. Additionally a short sci-fi story related to physics and space science by the renowned researcher Marco Casolino was published with her Android ASUNA and yuri (girls love)-themed work, LOVE VALLEY.


“Tokyo Future Classic” (DU BOOKS) ¥2,160 (tax included)

And now, Tokyo Girls’ Update will start publishing a Julie Watai’s column, TOKYO CUTTING-EDGE CREATORS by Julie Watai (working title), which covers Tokyo’s latest cutting-edge culture, once a month on our site! (We plan to publish the first installment mid-March.) To kick off the start of the series, we took the opportunity to interview her about how she captures Tokyo culture, as described by the title of her new book, “Tokyo Future Classic”.


– You began the prologue to Tokyo Future Classic in the style of a letter, but could you tell us about the message behind it?

I worded the prologue the way I did with the intention of it being a message from my future self, kind of like a letter. As if were a message sent from the person I’ll become in the future. Though the title of my work is Tokyo Future Classic, it also includes a sci-fi short story about Android ASUNA inside. It’s written in English, but there’s a Japanese translation on the last index page.

– What kind of people do you want to read your photo book?

This book is completely made up of selfies, which is what makes it decisively different from my previous works. Right now selfies are completely normal, right? But they’re usually taken on with a phone. However, in Tokyo Future Classic, all of them have actually been taken with a single lens reflex camera. First you have to set-up the camera on a tripod. I use an infrared remote control to trigger the shutter. So if you look really closely at each picture, you can find a remote control somewhere. (laugh) It really is the ultimate selfie photo book, and people would say things like, “You really took things that far?!” (laugh) With selfies taken on your phone, you can easily edit them with apps, right? But in this book all the single-lens photos were edited in Photoshop… Considering just how much technology it takes to do it like that, in that way I consider it the ultimate selfie. I hope people who like taking selfies with their phone read this book and amuse themselves by thinking, “Oh, so you can also do it this way, too.”

– So rather than just people into mechamania and geek culture, you’d like a broader audience to see your work.

That’s right, I’d like more women to take a look at it. HARDWARE GIRLS (Konohana Books), which I released in 2010, had gadget and geeky elements, as well as gravure shots, and was aimed at a male audience. It was around the time Chinkame* and smart girls* were popular. I put out a new version of that. (*Well-known, stylish nude photo books released around 2010)

But this work is really all selfies. There’s a variety of themes like robots and androids, completely counter to Harajuku street-style ones, and I think you can really get a feel for Japan by putting them all together. There’s tons of different this-and-that styles going on lately, you know? (laugh) And I think all of that Tokyo culture has been condensed down into this one book.



– On the index page it lists each photo’s theme and what creators were involved, and I found this page to be really interesting as well.

I appreciate the compliment. There’s two parts to enjoy with it by looking at the photograph, and then flipping over to the index page and finding out how it was made.

And there’s a short sci-fi story included, too. LOVE VALLEY is a work I shot based on android and yuri (love between two girls) themes. It’s also up on my website, but since it made a considerable impact, we put it in with the short story released in this book as a special edition.



There’s a professor named Casolino, who studies space development and physics, and he’s also a sci-fi writer. So I asked Casolino to write a short story for me. He let me translate it into Japanese.

– Since it’s written in English, even people abroad can enjoy it, too!

They can, and even the prologue has an English translation. The book is mostly photographs, so I wanted foreigners to check it out as well.

Being so exaggerated, I think it’s easy to get a strong sense of its Japanese-ness. Unlike in the past, like with people who really like anime for example, they’re able to see it with almost the same timing as it being broadcast in Japan. So people who have a strong interest in Japan are already getting Japanese information in real time. In fact there are many people who have been to Japan multiple times. That’s why I was surprised I hadn’t seen very many condensed versions for “getting a feel of Japan”. There’s no doubt that people like anime, samurai, geisha, cup noodles (instant ramen), and Harajuku, too. Japanese culture is very subdivided. There’s a ton of it, all separated. But when you put it all together, I think you get how people see Japan from overseas. So there are elements of different genres in this book, but I think all of these genres are part of current Tokyo culture, so tried to realize that idea by putting them all together into one book.



Cool Japan, kawaii, geek, moe… Like Julie Watai said, Japanese culture is subdivided. For example, when you go to Akihabara where all these different cultures are mixed together, I think it it’s impossible for anyone to show all of the culture there, or explain them well. But that’s okay. Because this mix of culture is exactly what Japanese culture is. And keeping that in mind, we hope you all take the time to check out Tokyo Future Classic.


Next time, with the beginning of Julie Watai’s series, where she’ll be interviewing creators that have caught her interest, we want to discover the latest cutting-edge culture in Tokyo. Please look forward to it!

Related links
Julie Watai official site :
Julie Watai Twitter :
Julie Watai Facebook :

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Tokyo Future Classic

Translated by Jamie Koide

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Been working in girls’ fashion magazines for a long time and am now the chief editor of Tokyo Girls’ Update. I have more expertise in Japanese teen fashion than anyone else (probably)! I’m a huge fan of the Revolutionary Girl Utena and Bakemonogatari animes.

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