Shigesato Itoi (糸井 重里, born November 10, 1948) is a Japanese essayist and copywriter whose works are widely considered to have had a defining influence on modern Japanese culture. He's dabbled in pretty much everything at some point or another over the past thirty years or so — he's done books, he's done songwriting, he's done websites, he's done voice acting, he's done film, he's done television, he's done day planners... The man is an endless font of variety, really, and Japan loves him for it. He is perhaps most famous as an advertisement copywriter and designer, and had a hand in a number of Japan's most famous ad campaigns in the modern era.
Of course, that's not what he's known for in the western world. No, the west knows him better for something that to him and to Japan was little more than a little experiment in storytelling he did on the side. Around here, he's best known as the brilliant mind behind the Mother trilogy of Nintendo video games, namely EarthBound Beginnings, EarthBound and Mother 3. He's a good friend of Shigeru Miyamoto, Hirokazu Tanaka and the late, great Satoru Iwata (who singlehandedly reprogrammed EarthBound from scratch midway through development, rescuing the entire project when all seemed lost), he served on the board of Nintendo subsidiary HAL Laboratory for a while, and he is an occasional participant in the Iwata Asks interview series. Other video game endeavours of his include bass fishing video games for the Super Famicom and Nintendo 64 (he was really into bass fishing in the late 90s) and a health diary for Nintendo DSi.
In 1998, he established the Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun (Pretty-Much-Daily Itoi News, commonly called Hobonichi), a strange news site-hybrid themed around the idea of brightening peoples' days. It's partially a news site, but its biggest draw is its status as the home of his essays and thoughts on life, living, philosophy and his dog, and interviews with interesting people. On that note, he really loves interviewing people — his interviews never fail to be long and interesting and he's filled multiple books with them. This is pretty much why Iwata sometimes got him to do important Iwata Asks interviews when Iwata was still alive — because he's really, really good at it.
He has a Twitter account, which is quite the interesting read if you're versed in Japanese. It's pretty easy to tell whenever he mentions MOTHER, because the title is always written in English.
A small sample of things Itoi has worked on
- Let's Meet in a Dream (in collaboration with Haruki Murakami)
- Left-Handed Dream by Ryuichi Sakamoto - co-wrote "Boku no Kakera" and "Saru to Yuko to Gomi no Kodomo".
- My Neighbor Totoro - voiced Tatsuo Kusakabe (Mei and Satsuki's father); also created the tagline for the film ("These strange creatures still exist in Japan... probably") which contributed to the MNT poster being one of the most famous movie posters in Japanese film history
- Iron Chef - judge on four episodes
- The Mother series:
- Super Smash Bros.
- Norwegian Wood - portrayed the Professor
Tropes associated with Itoi:
- Adam Westing: Itoi parodied his failed attempt at gold mining in both For the Frog the Bell Tolls and EarthBound.
- Bishōnen: This magazine cover from 1983 shows how pretty he was, at least at one point.
- The Cameo: He appears as an NPC in For the Frog the Bell Tolls, mining for gold.
- Celebrity Endorsement: Sort of, because he obviously created it — in Japan, the big selling point of the MOTHER series was always the fact that he, a rather popular celebrity, made it; the ads for MOTHER made a point of pointing that out. Also, he likes to endorse food he enjoys (several of these crop up in the MOTHER trilogy), with a curry restaurant actually using a page full of his praise (and scribbles) as its packaging.
- Cloudcuckoolander: If MOTHER wasn't enough to convince you that this is the case, the rest of his body of work will.
- Cool Old Guy: Pretty much how he's conducted his golden years.
- Gold Fever: He tried his hand at gold mining in the early 90s; this later inspired the Dusty Dunes Desert mining site in EarthBound, which was in development around that time.
- Harmful to Minors: Meta example. As a child, Itoi accidentally walked in to a horror film while at a movie theater and saw what he thought was a rape scene (it was actually a consensual sex scene that segued into murder). The scene traumatized him and ultimately inspired him to create Giygas.
- Heroes Love Dogs: A whole section of Hobonichi is essentially a blog devoted to Itoi's dog, Bouillon.
- Renaissance Man: His talents and creations are manifold and varied, from interviews to ad slogans to video game development.
- Signature Style: His work is always offbeat yet borderline poetic, carry its point well, and will demonstrate a deft mastery of Mood Whiplash.
- Tagline: Once his primary job; he's responsible for many particularly famous Japanese ones.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Croquette rolls. Inevitably, they showed up repeatedly in MOTHER.
- Widget Series: Quite a bit of his work.