For either a shot of self-contemplation or a cocktail of casual conversation, the intimate bars of Tokyo represent the unique social rhythm of the city.
For many foreigners who pass through or settle in Tokyo, the bijou drinking holes which line the streets have been the catalyst for their love affair with Japan.
Formerly from France, Issam worked in multimedia industries in Paris and Canada before settling in the Japanese metropolis.
Since his arrival in Tokyo, he is inspired by the city at night, the time where the work hours end, and the Tokyojin seek refuge from the day beneath the glare of the city lights. The opportunity to improve his Japanese allowed him to absorb the stories, dreams and visions of creative individuals in the intimate comfort of a bar.
Fascinated by documentary filmmaking and the individuality of artists, Issam’s most recent project, Tadaima, is a collection of videos and stills which focus on an opportunistic form of collaboration.
A direct translation of Tadaima is “right now”, but has the cultural connotation of meaning; “I’m home”.
This term has an emotional characteristic for Issam and constitutes a metaphor intrinsically linked to his experience of living in Japan.
To him, it represents his passion for the introductions he makes with unique individuals, as though it were a destined opportunity for collaboration. A sense of feeling at home with a stranger and sharing their stories with the lens of his camera in the immediate moment of their encounter.
This, to Issam, is Tadaima.
After a Christmas holiday spent in France, Issam returned to Japan with the comfort of knowing that he was home. His friends and family had begun to understand the love he had been growing for his new home, and the prospect of a new job meant a positive start to the new year.
A crew sent from his former company in Montreal was arriving in the city, including Issam’s friend Cyril, and plans were made to meet up in a bar in Nihonbashi, popularly known as a ‘Salary-man’ (white-collar) neighborhood. Drinks were shared over nostalgic memories of sharing poutine in wintery Quebec — hunger spurring the pair to seek an authentic eatery.
As a rule, Issam rejects using search engines to determine where to go, and trusts a more spontaneous approach of walking the streets and discovering new places.
Stumbling upon Yasai Izakaya Genki — a unique-looking restaurant and bakery with an unclear entrance, Issam and Cyril were seated at the counter facing the chef: extravagantly dressed in a colorful Kimono, wig, turtle watch and a tattoo of 天 Ten from Tengoku (meaning heaven) on his hand.
The space was filled with bizarre dolls and plush turtles, and the longer they spent in the presence of the chef, the decor and creative atmosphere began to make sense.
Ordering sake and exquisite dishes recommended by the chef, including an Avocado Okonomiyaki, Issam and Cyril were transported into the world of Niino-san.
Overhearing that Issam is a filmmaker, the chef showed him a video he had been featured in displaying the style and character of Harajuku.
When the meal was eaten and their glasses of nihonshu drunk, the two accompanied Niino-san out on to the street where he removed his wig to display a smiley face he had drawn on the back of his head.
This was the moment in which Issam knew that he wanted to collaborate with this eccentric and truly unique character.
Why do I cook?
A few days later, Issam met Niino-san and his wife at the bakery and restaurant and was shown around their house — a museum of miscellaneous collections of Samurai armor, pottery, and terrariums for their nine turtles.
Once returned to the restaurant, the two improvised and Issam was awed by the chef’s showmanship and comfortable presence before the camera.
... because I want to see you smile.
As one collaboration comes to an end, the Tadaima project goes on. With new locations to fall in love with, different individuals to inspire and perhaps a different cocktail to be enjoyed, who will cross Issam’s path next?
Performance by Niino Satoshi
Director & Editor - Issam Kechouri
Sound Design - Romain Guedj
Color Grade - Max Golomidov
Music - 'Kodama' by 20Syl
Title Design - Jeremie Leonard
Post-production Producer - Julie Guillot
Copywriting - Francesca Roberts
Editorial Design - Julie Guillot
Special Thanks to Cyril Gasté.