Seventh piece of a series of spontaneous night encounters, seized and captured by Issam Kechouri.
For either a shot of self-contemplation or a cocktail of casual conversation, the intimate bars of Tokyo represents 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.
There is no better way to practice Japanese so than spending an evening in one of Tokyo’s intimate bars - filled to the brim with unique characters and stories. For director Issam Kechouri, it was within the walls of Tokyo’s hole-in-the-wall bars where creative inspiration was poured from the individuals that he met.
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.
With lengthy courses and evening classes, learning Japanese as a foreigner is no mean feat and requires constant practise. The chance to receive the all-important “Hana Maru” (花丸), the Japanese floral equivalent to an academic gold star, is enough of a motivator for videographer and director Issam Kechouri. With classmate Marin and roommate Benoit in tow, an exploration trip for Tadaima was planned in Koenji, a bustling suburb of Tokyo.
On a usual occasion, Issam lets his trusty dice determine whether he should bring along his camera on a night out, but tonight he had a good feeling and wanted to show Marin how he ‘does Tadaima’ in action.
After a number of highballs in a famous izakaya, the tipsy trio remained in Koenji after the last train. Issam had heard of a bar nearby that he had always felt intimidated to go to alone. Brightly coloured and busy, the Nantoka Bar welcomed the three men with warmth. Artists, creatives and musicians crowded around the bar where the Taiwanese bartender handed out lemon sours and shots of her home liquor.
Eyes began to turn to Issam’s camera, and questions started circulating around what it was going to capture. Nantoka means “somehow” in Japanese, and somehow Issam was going to find his muse within this space. He could feel it.
Thanks to the warm confidence of alcohol and a tough month of Japanese classes, Issam started to make his introductions and take portraits of the customers in the bar. There were so many interestingly dressed people and he wanted to learn more.
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.
In the corner of his eye, Issam saw a woman standing After making introductions, he discovered that Narumi Mikuriya (Nyaru-san) shared his passion for the arts and was an artist and illustrator. Her work was unique and colourful, but also had a darkness that intrigued Issam.
Although it was clear that she was camera shy, Issam told her about Tadaima and she was curious. Being understanding of the reluctance of women to film a video with a male stranger, a compromise was met and they agreed that Issam would film her while she drew a self-portrait.
There is something so personal about a self-portrait. It is an expression of how an artist sees themselves, with all the complications that make them who they truly are.
As Nyaru-san describes it, when she makes or draw something, she tries to express feelings and emotions that can't quite be put into words. When she stands back to look at the finished piece, she is able to see feelings expressed which she initially didn't know how to capture.
After a difficult period of self isolation and depression, the piece acts as a reminder to Nyaru-san that support and healing should come from within.
The window symbolises an invitation to breathe and to feel that you are alive.
The eyes in the centre represent Nyaru-san in a relaxed state, and the necklace became a memento of the moment, something physical to remember the feeling of peace with oneself.
In a way, Issam’s filming of Nyaru-san is more personal than any Tadaima project to date.
The combination of their unique perspectives captures a private moment, a feeling of being comfortable in one’s own skin whilst with another person, a person that you met by chance.
This, is Tadaima.
Why do I draw?
Because I want to make a note of how I feel.
Performance by Narumi Mikuriya
Director & Editor - Issam Kechouri
Sound Design - Romain Guedj
Color Grade - Kristopher Paterson
Music - ''Signal the Captain” by Of Porcelain
Title Design - Jeremie Leonard
Post-production Producer - Julie Guillot
Copywriting - Francesca Roberts
Editorial Design - Julie Guillot
Special Thanks to Marin Charvet et Benoit Palop