The bijou bars, izakayas and restaurants that line the streets are often the catalyst for a foreigner’s love affair with Japan. For local and new arrivals, these hole-in-the-wall spaces offer a shot of comfort in the largest and most vibrant city in the world. For French director and videographer Issam Kechouri, it was within the walls of Japan’s bars where creative inspiration was poured from the individuals that he met.
Issam has worked in multimedia industries in Paris and Canada before settling in the Japanese metropolis. Since arriving in Tokyo three years ago, he has been inspired by the city at night − a time when working hours end and the Tokyojin take refuge beneath the cocktail of city lights.
While the prospect of experiencing an entirely new lifestyle and culture is exciting, English or French is rarely spoken in Japan. A cosy izakaya at night offers the chance to practice ones Japanese whilst hearing of the stories and dreams of strangers.
Unlike in Europe, it is very common to dine or have a drink on your own in Japan. Perhaps it is because of this freedom to be comfortable alone in a social space, the “sitting at a counter” culture is unique and specific to living in Japan. The majority of bars you come across are so tiny that everyone is sat very closely together. If you are shy, you can trust that the bartender will introduce you to your neighbors.
A direct translation of Tadaima is “right now”, but has the cultural connotation of meaning; “I’m home”.
Fascinated by documentary filmmaking and the individuality of the artists he met each night out in Japan, Issam’s most recent project; Tadaima, is a collection of videos and stills spurred by opportunistic collaboration A direct translation of Tadaima is “right now” − but it has the cultural connotation of meaning; “I’m home”. This term has an emotional characteristic for Issam and is intrinsically linked to his experience of living in Japan (it is also one of the first words he learned of Japanese).
For Issam, Tadaima is a metaphor: “If I'm in a bar, I'm waiting for interesting people. And, the opposite way, they are in a bar, waiting for me”.
As a rule, the director rejects using search engines to determine where to go next, and instead trusts the spontaneity of walking the streets and discovering new places. He has also been known to rely a pair of dice to decide where he is to go, allowing for an even more serendipitous experience. Once a week, Issam ventured out into the street in search of a drink, an interesting individual and a story to remember.
Collaborations were made with chef Niino Satoshi over nihonshu and Avocado Okonomiyaki; in a restaurant disguised with plush turtles.
In a bar in Miyakojima, with a master calligrapher, during a typhoon. Sharing stories with surfer Ryusuke Ishidate on Enoshima island.
There are no requirements, no preconditions. Just Issam, his camera, a creator and a connection. The project represents Issam’s passion for the introductions he makes with unique individuals, as though it were a destined opportunity for collaboration. Filming a new friend Chiho Yokoyamadancing in the rain in Shimokitazawa, or sharing the moment he saw the art of kabuki in the comfort of Komatsu Nobue’s tatami room; there is a sense of feeling at comfort with an immediate moment, creativity and a spontaneous encounter. This, to Issam, is Tadaima.