Qompendium is an evolving and ever-changing platform for philosophy, art, culture and science, represented by a series of print publications: magazines, books and monographs. Furthermore, it is enriched by a gallery concept, a work shop and a fast-moving online portal.
Described by its makers as the National Geographic of pop culture, Tokion spans two cultures and two languages, and has built up a horde of firm followers since its launch 9 years ago. Multi-talented co-editor Adam Glickman describes the scene.
The interview was conduted in 2005.
Qompendium: What makes your magazine special?
Adam Glickman: Tokion began as the first Japanese/English bilingual magazine to be distributed both in Japan and the West. It was to act as a bridge between the two cultures. Since then the magazine has grown to be much more international in scope. I think what sets us apart is still our strong connection to Japan and our other projects.
Tokion is not print based, why?
Right, this is the other thing that sets us apart from other magazines (except maybe vice). Tokion makes clothing, documentaries, holds an annual conference, and does special projects. The magazine is the flagship of the Tokion brand. Projects like the Tokion Tree Fund or the King of Zine are simply ways of trying to give back a little.
The Tokion store in NYC is specialized in limited series fashion items. What are your ideas on this current obsession with all things „limited edition“?
I think at this point that the marketing approach is beginning to wear thin. It seems like there is more supply than demand, which negates the whole idea of exclusivity. Companies are only limiting editions to how many they can sell.
Is Tokion Magazine a commercial venture?
No. My mantra has always been that I sell ads in order to make a magazine; I don’t make a magazine in order to sell ads. That said it’s important to appeal to a broad range of readers if you want your magazine to grow and be relevant. If you’re making a magazine that nobody is reading, it’s self-indulgent.
What setbacks did you face when you started?
The hardest part of starting anything is definitively deciding that you’re going to jump in and make it happen. From there you just deal with the inevitable setbacks you face along the way as obstacles to overcome.
Selling the first advertisement is always the hardest, do you agree?
I don’t remember what they paid, but I’d say Sub Pop records was the first ad we scored, probably about 0? The first media planner that gave us an ad was Katerina Bartoli at TBWA Chiat Day who booked Absolut. She took a meeting with me when Tokion was still a 56 page 2 color glorified zine. If only more media planners had half the brains and backbone she does.
Do you consider Tokion to be work or play?
Tokion has always been really hard, really consuming work, but if I didn’t enjoy it or find it rewarding I would quit.
The best thing about your job and the worst is ...
Not having to shave every day is nice. Egos and complainers are sometimes annoying.
The democratization of creative technology, did this help you in your start up?
It’s made Tokion and every other magazine like it possible. I began my publishing career in the early 90s before computers had been fully integrated into the design and production process. I had to learn how to do color-separations, typesetting, photostats, etc. I was very prolific with my exacto blade and glue stick. It took hours and hours to do what take 10 minutes now. Time aside, before computers, the costs of publishing were simply too prohibitive.
How do you select what gets published?
There’s so much stuff to get excited about. The stuff that excites us all ends up in the magazine eventually. They are all a reflection of pop culture; just different aspects of it, there are so many magazines and so much information available today that all niches are filled one way or another.
Is the creative economy a reality?
Sure. More than ever. Richard Florida wrote a best seller about its significance as a sustainable force in the global economy.
Has Tokion opened doors to other projects?
The beauty of Tokion is that it is a large umbrella that allows us to go off in different directions and work on projects that interest us. Be it documentaries, of events or even politics.
Your modern visionary or icon could be ...
Can I say Steve Jobs?
Date of Birth
Lucas Batzke Berkow, Adam Glickman and Hideo Obara.
A whole bunch of great companies.
Media-savvy 18- to 35-year-old men and women.
New York City and Tokyo.
Size of team
9 in New York, 4 in Tokyo.
Number of pages
Format (including size)
Paper in 203mm x 273mm.
Issues per year
After a spell working with legendary cartoon publishers Fantagraphics Books, Adam Glickman transferred to Tokyo in 1995. He soon became fascinated with the prominence of pop culture in Japanese society, and formed the concept for Tokion magazine and so the first Japanese issue was born. Taking his ideas back to the States, he launched the American version in L.A in 1996. The magazine maintains offices in Tokyo and New York City, and Tokion has become a brand in its own right, with a store in New York, an agenda of events and exhibitions, and a documentary production company.