Yuki Kageyama: Exploring Japan’s Secret Hideouts for Grown-Ups

A base or a hideout. Well, whatever you called it — you can bet that you had one as a kid. But it’s not just about larking around when young. Hideouts can also be hubs for alternate ways of living, a refuge and a means of returning to a more innocent childhood world.

Hideouts are necessary spaces in everyday life and function like an abode. Since we are thinking about all things related to Japanese homes at the moment, when we heard about a new book by Yuki Kageyama called “Secret Hideouts for Grown-Ups”, we were intrigued to say the least. It introduces a range of examples from around Japan and also pointers on how to create a hideout yourself.

In many ways, we are making PingMag from our own “secret” base in Uguisudani, so we were keen to speak to Kageyama about what he found out.

himitsu kichi kageyama yuki

The first thing we want to ask is about when you got interested in “hide-outs”. After the Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima disaster, a lot of people in Japan are talking about alternate lifestyles and places to live. Was it this kind of conversation that inspired you to write and release your book now?

I started to think that the concept of a “secret hideout” was interesting when I used to work for a publishing company and was involved in putting together a book on how outdoor festivals are made. I thought it was interesting to create a book explaining the know-how of a socially undefined job or way of living. I also edited a book by Takahiro Nogata about how to build a secret hideout and so then I had the idea of making my own book about secret hideouts for grown-ups. And yes, the 2011 northeast Japan disaster was a big turning point for secret hideouts. Due to the kind of times we are living in surely more and more people are now creating their own spaces where they can be satisfied.

You showcase a lot of different “hideouts” as per various categories. How did you come up with these types?

This was quite a painful process. I wanted there to be a lot of variety. It should be something that can just create in your head to a certain extent. If you think of it as a “secret hideout”, then it is one. I thought the flexibility of this concept was interesting.

himitsu kichi kageyama yuki hideoutIllustrations by Yoshifumi Takeda

The definition of “secret hideout” or “secret base” is pretty interesting too. In your book, it might be a vacant piece of land, a coworking space or a tree house — pretty broad! What do you think actually is a hideout?

In a word, it’s a place where you can maintain your own way of living.

秘密基地“Secret Hideouts for Grown-Ups” by Yuki Kageyama (DU Books)

Is the aim of your book to introduce examples of secret hideouts? Or is it more to be a guidebook for how to make one? Or even both?!

It can’t really function as a guide since the places themselves are sometimes secret, so I’d like readers to use it as a collection of hints and pointers for making their own hideout.

You introduce a real variety of places all over the country. The research alone must have been tough to do. How long did it take you to write the book?

I researched as I went to see places so it took around a year. I went to the places in Tohoku while I was in the area on business. I set a target of 20 places (and ultimately featured 18) and then changed the categories as I did the writing.

himitsu kichi kageyama yuki

Saying that, you don’t have to go so far to find hideouts, it seems. In your book there are some examples nearby, such as the Yokohama tree house or the “self-built” one in Tokyo’s Minato ward. Reading about them makes you want to head out into the streets and get exploring.

Right, I guess it’s a bit like Genpei Akasegawa‘s 1980′s club for uncovering hidden buildings and urban landscapes. I hope more people search for and make secret hideouts.

Well, you include tree houses, a hot spring and even a camping van. Which was the most surprising hideout?

Well, they were all full of surprises but I guess “Slow Base” in Hachinohe was particularly striking. It’s a total of 13 tree houses, which took five years to build. Talk about doing a job properly!

Yes, in a way, you can’t just discard many of these hideouts as just retro or DIY projects. For example, one of your examples is a stylish tea room! What was the most innovative you encountered?

Kashiharappa Onachi owns a vacant lot and rents it out to people just as it is. Since Tokyo is so crowded, this idea works well and is an interesting concept.

himitsu-kichi-kageyama-yuki-hideout-4Illustrations by Yoshifumi Takeda

In your book you talk about how a secret hideout is building a place to be — creating your own way of living. What kind of people live in this secret hideouts?

They are the kind of people who don’t want to compromise how they live. In a way, they are people with a child’s mindset. They can even make their own jobs. For example, take the coworking spaces in the book.

The book design and illustrations are also really nice. The latter was handled by Yoshifumi Takeda. How did this collaboration come about? And what was your thinking behind the book’s visuals?

Our first time working together came at last year’s Towada Oirase Art Festival I was involved in the editorial direction and he contributed illustrations for the festival’s booklet. I used illustrations in my own book because I wanted to help out the reader’s imagination. My book features 18 secret hideouts but actually there are countless more and you can always build any number of others.

himitsu-kichi-kageyama-yuki-hideout-6Illustrations by Yoshifumi Takeda

Lastly, for someone who knows so much about hideouts, you must have a base of your own, right? Or perhaps it’s a secret…

Well, I have one in my head! I would like to make one some day, though. If I’m allowed to think of my home-cum-office as my secret hideout, then I guess I have one…

Well, if you make one, please let us join you inside.

Yuki Kageyama

Born in Tokyo in 1982. A freelance editor, he works on art and cultural publications, and applies his editorial perspective to many other kinds of projects. Examples of his recent output includes the F/T Journal “Tokyo/Scene” for Festival/Tokyo 2012 and editorial direction for Towada Oirase Art Festival.

“Secret Hideouts for Grown-Ups”