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TADAIMA EP:8 Bodybuilding

Eighth 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. 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 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.

What constitutes a ‘sign’? Sometimes, it is a moment of pure clarity, spontaneously expressed at a time when it’s truly needed and least expected. Other times, all it takes is seeing the name of a bar or a friendly face that sparks a memory and tells you that you are in the right place at the right time.

On a warm Autumn night in 2020, Issam was ready to find his latest adventure in the streets of Tokyo, and an individual who could inspire the next Tadaima episode. Like in so many cities across the globe, the bustling streets of Tokyo were emptier and lacking it’s essence due to the Coronavirus pandemic. A new lockdown had just begun in the capital, which meant that the bars and restaurants which famously crowd the streets were closing earlier than normal. Even in Shinjuku, which is an area of Tokyo popular with tourists for its extravagant fashion and bustling streets, the energy was significantly calmer, which lead Issam to doubt whether he was going to find anybody to collaborate with.

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.

Wing-man Nico in tow, Issam decided to venture further out to Shinjuku Sanchome. Memories of many ginger highballs and good times floated back into his memory as he saw the name of a karaoke bar he had visited only two years previously: Angelo which didn’t seem to be closing as early as every other bar in the neighbourhood. Was it a sign that this is where the next episode lies?

A kind woman called Mama welcomed the pair into the establishment with appetizers and drinks. After sharing conversations with many diverse people at the busy bar for some time, practicing their Japanese, the door opened, and in walked a very large, bad-ass man. Issam immediately remembered the kindness in his face and quickly decided that it was he needed to know more. Annoyingly without his trusty camera, Issam and Nico approached sixty-two-year-old bodybuilder, Akihiro Nakashima and the pair began to discuss their passions.

Akihiro-san shared stories of how he began his career in bodybuilding at the age of forty, and how after taking fifteen years off, made a comeback in the sport. In 2017, he competed for the first time in Los Angeles, where he placed 5th in the 40-over category. In 2019, he won the 60+ class. He announced that he was also given the title of Mister Universe, and showed the pair some of the medals he had won in his tournaments.

The pride he showed in talking about his sport was moving, especially that all his work had been achieved naturally and he was a member of the PNBA (the Professional National Bodybuilding association. After sharing the previous work Issam had created for the Tadaima project, Issam started to feel a similar pride for his craft and decided that he definitely needed to film Aki-san.

The bodybuilder connected with Issam’s concept to capture the stories of real Japanese people, and told him to come back to the bar with his camera.

A week after, the pair were back, and this time, with his camera. Aki-san would be back after his training, so they enjoyed the night all the same sharing drinks and words with others around the bar. Issam started to take portraits of those in the bar, and a couple in particular were curious of the camera and began to tell the videographer their story. The couple then asked Issam to Immortalise a kiss between them with his camera, which offered a touching moment.

Why do I do bodybuilding?

Because bodybuilding is my reason for living.

Once Aki-san had arrived and he was really in a good mood, the crowd in the bar began to cheer all together for this arrival.

An agreement was made to shoot in Aki-san’s gym, and the result of a story of signs and chances taken.

This, is Tadaima.



Performance by Akihiro Nakashima

Director & Editor - Issam Kechouri
Camera B - Nicolas Amblard
Sound Design - Romain Guedj
Color Grade - Max Golomidov
Music - ''Long Distance” by Sam Gellaitry
Title Design - Jeremie Leonard
Post-production Producer - Julie Guillot
Copywriting - Francesca Roberts
Editorial Design - Julie Guillot

Special Thanks to Gandalf De Maupeou D’Ableiges De Monbail