People | 20 QUESTIONS

Illustrator Luis Mendo: ‘Only listen to intelligent people’

by Ayako Nakano

Staff Writer

Name: Luis Mendo
Age: 48
Nationality: Spanish
Occupation: Illustrator, art director
Likes: All things beautiful and positive
Dislikes: Ugly things, negativity


1. What first brought you to Japan? I came for a three-month sabbatical and loved it even before arrival: I came via a Japan Airlines flight and it was as if I was already stepping into Japan.

2. What’s keeping you here? The quality of life is so high — the safety, clean streets, reliable transport, great food, fantastic service, polite people around me. It’s hard to get these things in Europe or the U.S.

3. Whom in Japan do you most admire? I do not know many public figures here so I’ll keep it close to home: I admire my fiancee. She’s managed to be an independent woman without rejecting her Japanese heritage. This seems impossible to others. I think she’s just one example of young, powerful Japanese females who will eventually change Japan.

4. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? The use of onomatopoeia to explain things — daily use of words such as “ふわふわ” (“fuwa-fuwa,” or “fluffy”) and “じょりじょり” (“jori-jori,or “bristly”) delight me.

5. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? “Las cosas importances no son cosas” (“The important things aren’t things”) is probably my favorite Spanish sentence. I also love words we only use in my hometown, Salamanca, like “candar” (“to lock a door”) or “tupirse” (to eat too much”). “Gezelligheid” (“coziness”) and “denkbeeldig” (“imaginary”) in Dutch are also words I like.

6. Describe your most embarrassing moment. That will come on the day I ask my fiancee’s father for the hand of his daughter.

7. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked in your line of work? Once I went to a job interview as a graphic designer but didn’t know much about the company. It turns out they were in fact a porn magazine and wanted me to design the magazine and write stories for it as well. I didn’t take the job.

8. Is Japan cool? Japan is much more than cool. Cool is a perishable word, something you don’t want to be as it’s transitory by nature. Today’s cool is tomorrow’s old fashion. And Japan is much more interesting than that.

9. If you could have dinner and share a bottle of wine with anyone from history, who would it be? Probably Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, British illustrator Quentin Blake and the French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempe. I can’t imagine more pleasure than talking about life and art with them at my table. We would draw on the table cloth and I would just copy their drawings and gestures.

10. What things in Tokyo bring you inspiration? Everything. There’s scenes, moments, people, colors, plant arrangements, buildings, graphics, handwritten signs, anime characters — all giving inspiration, continuously. It’s hard to escape them.

11. What do you enjoy drawing most? I think plants and girls. I actually just had an exhibition at “Clouds Art + Coffee” in Koenji, Suginami Ward, where I mixed them both in my drawings.

13. If you won ¥1 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? Not much … maybe have a nice dinner with my son and my fiancee, and keep the rest in the bank.

14. Which season do you enjoy most in Japan? Can’t choose one. Spring and summer are the best. In winter I enjoy the sunny days, which remind me of my hometown weather. I love the fall, which is not cold but nice and gentle.

12. What superhero would you most like to be? By all means, Batman. He has no special powers and is just a skilled mortal. That makes him so appealing.

15. What do you think about while standing on the train? Who shall I draw next?

16. What’s your karaoke song of choice? The Who’s “My Generation.” Unfortunately, my favorite songs are not in the karaoke system because they are Spanish punk songs from the ’80s.

17. What’s the most useful product/gadget you have bought? My Postalco toolbox, which can hold 36 pencils. I have three of them. The first one I bought is almost nine years old and it still looks fantastic.

18. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Work, do, think. But mainly work. And only listen to intelligent people. Every idiot has the chance to share their ideas nowadays but there are few really worth listening to.

19. Where are we most likely to find you at 10 o’clock on a Friday night? At an izakaya (Japanese pub), drawing on a table surrounded by friends (who are probably also drawing).

20. Where do you go to escape Tokyo? Why would I escape Tokyo? I have quiet spaces everywhere. I hardly ever leave, only to go abroad.