Kissa by Kissa (3rd ed.)

A 1,000 km walk along the Nakasendō

Craig Mod

Kissa by Kissa the book

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Kissa by Kissa is a book about walking 1,000+km of the countryside of Japan along the ancient Nakasendō highway, the culture of toast (toast!), and mid-twentieth century Japanese cafés called kissaten

Reader Testimonials

Hi — author Craig Mod here. I asked buyers of Kissa by Kissa to send in testimonials / thoughts about the book. Here are some of the (extremely!) kind things they wrote in with:

One of the most beautiful books I've seen and read in a long time. The physical nature of the book—and the text and photographs within—represent a thoughtful labor of love that one rarely sees in print these days.

This book made me want to make books.

More than just a book, it's an object, an artifact - and it is timeless. The thought that went into crafting this must be immerse. Thank you for putting so much into documenting a critical piece of fading culture.

I am so very glad I decided to buy Kissa by Kissa. I know I will return to this book again and again: to relish the beauty of the images; to be delighted and moved by the writing; to enjoy the craft of the object itself in my hands. Worth every penny.

Kissa by Kissa is one of the most beautiful books I've ever purchased. Craig takes us along his walk both visually through his writing and tangibly through the way he produced the book. I admire the thought that went into every aspect of experiencing this work.

This book is the most beautiful object I own, it might be too perfect. Books should be shared and Kissa by Kissa is compelling to share. All of my friends should get to wander Japan on a quest for pizza toast, but they don't get to. I don't trust them with book, the binding is perfect. You wouldn't lend out a Turner would you?

This is a gorgeous book! The subject matter is fascinating, and the book itself is a work of art.

Making of Documentary 

Editions

Kissa by Kissa: How to Walk Japan (Book One)'s first edition (2020) of 1,000 copies sold out in two days (!) in August, 2020. The second edition (2020) sold out in about six months. This third edition (2021) is being upgraded in a number of ways: from printing resolution (higher, stochastic halftone) to binding ("swiss"-style; layflat opening). 

Note: Although this is a limited run, the third edition is not signed or explicitly editioned (with a numbered stamp). 

Third Edition Notes

This third edition is (as you'd hope!) the most refined edition yet. Still limited to 1,000 copies, we have moved to top-tier Heidelberg presses, printing with the famed Matsumoto-based Fujiwara Printing. The detail and "quality of light" in the photos feels roughly double that of previous editions. 

This edition is also hand bound, book by book, by the incredible Mochizuki Bindery in Kagurazaka, Tokyo. Because of our (annoyingly; sorry binder folks) precise specifications, the only way to reliably bind our book with a 1mm edge was by hand. The folks at Mochizuki produced two jigs specifically for this edition. The result is a flexi+Swiss bound book, wrapped in cloth with a silk-screened cover, and debossed back. 

Here is the "Swiss"-style binding, where only the back half of the body block is glued to the boards; this allows for significantly better lay-flat opening:

Durability is not effected by Swiss binding; we upgraded our endpapers to a higher weight to compensate for the (slight) additional load. This new edition looks and feels fantastic. Thanks to the work of Fujiwara Printing and Mochizuki binding, it's a true collectable.


About the Book

Kissa by Kissa is a book about walking 1,000+km of the countryside of Japan along the ancient Nakasendō highway, the culture of toast (toast!), and mid-twentieth century Japanese cafés called kissaten

Details about the 3rd edition (2021) physical object: 

  • limited to 1,000 copies
  • swiss-style cloth-bound, flexible hardcover (0.7mm boards)
  • grey-brown ink silk screened cover & spine
  • blind deboss on back
  • fine-art archival matte Japanese body papers (Araveal White, 110kg)
  • 170mm x 240mm (~B5 size)
  • 128 pages
  • 19 essays / short stories 
  • 40 photographs
  • printed and bound in Japan

The walk of this book begins in the city of Kamakura, just south of Tokyo. From there we head to Tokyo, and then from Tokyo all the way to Kyoto via the old Nakasendō highway, snaking through Saitama, over to Nagano, down through the bucolic Kiso Valley along the Kiso-ji road, into the plains of Gifu, alongside Lake Biwa, and to Kyoto. Along the way we meet farmers, gardeners, and a host of incredible and inspiring café owners. 


Kissa by Kissa is not a guide.

You can think of it like a film. At a leisurely pace, Kissa by Kissa takes about ninety minutes to read. It’s designed to reward multiple readings and be a book you return to over time. It is linear, but doesn't need to be read linearly.

It sits somewhere between travelogue, photo book, and bizarro ethnographic field study of old café — kissaten — culture.

Those kissaten — or kissa — served up toast. I ate that toast. So. Much. Toast. Much of it pizza toast. If you buy this book, you'll learn more than you ever dared to know about this variety of toast available all across Japan. It's a classic post-war food staple. Kissa by kissa, and slice by thick slice of beautiful, white toast, I took a heckuva affecting and long walk. This book is my sharing with you, of that walk, the people I met along the way, and the food I ate. 

To give you a sense of the distance covered, here's the spread in the book with the map of the walk: 




Kissa by Kissa's cover illustration was drawn by the great Luis Mendo. The illustration is silkscreened onto the cloth. 



Production

From the box it ships in, to the thread the signatures are woven with, everything is made, assembled, and produced in Japan. This book was touched by — and helped employ — several dozen folks with sustainable and humane salaries, across a number of industries — from paper making, to box making, to printing and binding.

 

Here are some shots of the first edition out in the wild, sent in by customers:


 

Here are some pictures of our test prints on uncut sheets checking photo exposure and edits and reproduction qualities on a selection of fine papers: 


  


Contents

  • Foreword
  1. Pachinko Road
  2. A Food for Children
  3. Kissa & Shōwa
  4. Interloping
  5. Ozu’s Geometry
  6. Pizza Toast & Būgen
  7. Thompson
  8. Alps
  9. Kiso-ji
  10. Sofa Chairs
  11. Shutter Towns
  12. Beniya
  13. Coffee Tickets
  14. City of Toast
  15. Canadian Coffee House
  16. Nagoya
  17. Ran
  18. Blood
  19. Kumata
  • Map
  • Photo Index
  • Epilogue
  • Interview with Sean McDonald
  • Thanks
  • Copyright & Colophon

 



About Craig

Craig Mod is a writer and photographer who has been based in Japan for the majority of the past twenty years. His book Koya Bound (2016) is an award winning (AIGA 50 Books / 50 Covers) book about the Kumano Kodo UNESCO pilgrimage path in Wakayama, Japan. Over the past seven years he's walked some 2,500km across the country and eaten several hundred slices of toast, pizza and plain alike. His writing has appeared in publications including Eater, The AtlanticWIRED, The New Yorker, The Japan TimesCalifornia Sunday Magazine, and others. His weekly newsletters on walking, photograph and writing are read by over 30,000 people.