Trump Room

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“I feel like a time machine,” says Hayao Matsumura, meandering around his vintage fashion shop as if to make the point. “I’m constantly travelling to the future and the past.” He’s attempting to explain his love of retro clothing, and he seems – quite appropriately – a little adrift. A more likely explanation, perhaps, is that he was up all night. Matsumura is, after all, Tokyo’s perennial party boy. The owner of Nude Trump and a handful of other businesses, he is rarely seen without his vintage shades and black cap. But he also dons many other proverbial hats: he’s an entrepreneur, a traveller, a trendsetter, and a guardian of youth. As a constant presence at fashion events, members of Tokyo’s creative ‘it crowd’ invariably surround him. All several decades his junior, they politely call him ‘Matsumura-san’, which in such a casual setting is a term of endearment, as well as of respect. Matsumura’s career in fashion started with the ultimate road trip. It was the mid-Eighties, and he was a young man with a head for business and an eye for trends. Witnessing Japan’s then-insatiable appetite for Americana, he drove coast-to-coast across the United States, loading up his car with jeans, boots, jackets, and memorabilia. On his return to Tokyo, he opened a no-name store in his apartment in the bohemian suburb of Koenji. Among the trinkets on sale were decks of playing cards (known as ‘trumps’ in Japanese) featuring images of naked women, which were illegal at the time. Fascinated customers duly nicknamed the business ‘Nude Trump’. Now located in the Jinnan area of Shibuya, the iconic store remains in business, selling a curious jumble of retro fashions, from glam to punk to downright bizarre. “Things my mother wore, items from my grandmother’s closet – these things will all come back into fashion one day,” Matsumura explains. “Nothing is ever completely over.” In 2006, Matsumura heard a rumour that a discount vintage store was planning to open in same building as Nude Trump. He quickly rented the space instead – later taking over the entire building – and turned it into Trump Room, a club-like venue for Tokyo’s bright, cool, creative young things. Elsewhere in Shibuya he owns the tiny back-alley Piano Bar, and another club space, Trump House. Matsumura has decked each out in a style that might be called ‘timeless decadence’: luxurious couches, mirrored tables, antique portraits and animal heads, all meticulously arranged beneath a sea of chandeliers. It appears fantastical, but this is Matsumura’s world. Fast fashion chains have commoditised much of the local area, but thanks to him, there are still pockets of Shibuya where individuality is celebrated. Matsumura understands for most normal Japanese youth, happiness feels impermanent. The hot summer of adolescence must give way to the chill of social obligation: a desk job, a suit, a mortgage. The party will surely end. Unless, that is, you have the guts to shun conformity. “The people who come here, they’re the stylists, designers, beauticians, … Read More

Mamma Luisa’s Table

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A few steps from one of Shibuya’s main thoroughfares is not exactly where one might expect to find a farmhouse-style restaurant, and yet that’s exactly what Mamma Luisa’s Table is. Opened by chef Pietro Androsoni in 2014, the restaurant was inspired by his childhood growing up on his grandparents’ farm in Florence. “My grandmother made all the food for all the family. Every weekend there were like 15 to 20 people in my house,” Androsoni says. “So I grew up in this environment, with the ingredients from the farm, the animals, the poultry. And I think this is why I am fascinated by this work.” Androsoni started his career at a Michelin-starred restaurant in his native city, before he did a stint at an Italian restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio. Disillusioned by what he says was not the America of his dreams and yet still harbouring a travel bug, when he got a call from his former boss asking him to help open a new location in Tokyo, he decided to take a chance. “I said, I’ll come to Japan, but I don’t want to stay longer than six months. And I came here and fell in love with the city,” he says. “Food-wise, I think it’s the best city in the world. You can experience all the cuisines, the styles—there is so much culture about food in this city.” Mamma Luisa’s Table is named after Androsoni’s own mother, and the restaurant has a relaxed, home-style feeling. Black and white photos of the chef’s family hang on the walls, and at the centre of the dining room is a large, eight-seat table. Warm lighting, distressed wood furniture, mismatched rugs and an open kitchen complete the inviting atmosphere. “The thing I love the most about having my own restaurant is the relationships I can cultivate with customers,” Androsoni says. “I feel I am at home, and the guests are also a part of my home.” Androsoni’s food is creative yet comforting, incorporating ingredients from Japan and around the Mediterranean. The menu changes slightly from day to day depending on the vegetables he finds at the markets. “I use really seasonal ingredients, because that’s one thing we’re losing these days,” he says. “People have gotten used to using asparagus 365 days a year. But for me, we have seasons and I want to respect them. Also because I grew up in a farmhouse, and I think this background is something I bring with me. I used to love to go into the backyard and get the zucchini, and then go inside, wash it and cook the pasta. In 30 minutes you go from the ground to the plate.” Cooking according to the seasons also results in more variety, which keeps Androsoni stimulated. Even first-time visitors to Mamma Luisa’s Table will quickly recognise his passion for his work. “Food is so versatile. Once you understand the ingredients, you can create anything. Food for me is life,” he says. “Food is also my way of … Read More

Utsuwa Kenshin

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Most people lucky enough to have a single-minded passion are born that way. They make a natural decision to dedicate their lives to food, fashion or design. However, for Kenshin Sato, owner of a beautiful Japanese ceramics shop so bijou it must be the world’s smallest, the tale of becoming an expert curator in his field is one of serendipity. “When I graduated from school I had no idea what I wanted to do,” says Sato. “I was flicking through the job ads and found one that sounded promising. It was walking distance from home and I didn’t need to wear a suit. I applied, and got the job.” The then-22-year-old began working for a company that designed table settings for photo shoots. Over the next decade, he came into contact with ceramicists from all over Japan, and his vocation found him. After several years working at a ceramics shop, Sato had the knowledge and the network to set up on his own. All he needed was an affordable space in a good location. Again, fate stepped in. “There was a ceramics shop here before me and I knew the owner. I was visiting one day, and I told him: ‘I want to open my own shop.’ He replied, ‘Well, I want to move mine.’ So I took over the space, just like that.” From the beginning, Sato knew he wanted to focus on emerging talent. And with a size of just 3.5 tsubo in Japanese terms (less than 12 square metres, or 130 square feet), he only has space for the very best. Most of the artists he works with are in their twenties or thirties, producing pieces that combine timeless wabisabi (elegant simplicity) with hints of youthful rebellion. They include the playful-yet-melancholy works of Kazuhiro Katase, whose bold shapes and colours are softened with an unnerving sense of decay; Chie Kobayashi, whose ethereal white bowls look as if they might blow away in the wind; and the rugged aquamarine cups of Asato Ikeda, reminiscent of a calm ocean dangerously awakened. “I could never be a ceramics artist myself. I don’t have that sort of patience!” says Sato, in a confession of sorts from a man who at first appears serene yet self-confident. “But this is the next best thing.” Private buyers are Sato’s main customers, although he recently found himself on the radar of some of Tokyo’s most remarkable restaurants, including Den, whose chef shares Sato’s taste for classy irreverence. Sato works alone – and likes it that way – so because space is limited he often holds special exhibitions at other locations, during which he usually closes the little shop. His ambitious side wants to take the next step and move to a larger showroom. But something is holding him back. “I go back and forth,” he says. “It would be nice to show bigger pieces and more artists, but things would also be a lot more complicated.” So for now, Utsuwa Kenshin stays small. Until fate … Read More

Chatei Hatou

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In hypermodern Tokyo, it might seem there is little time or space for the quiet rituals of the Japanese tea ceremony; its ethos of ichigo ichie – or ‘one encounter, one moment’ – sounds like a quaint echo from the past. Thankfully, at Chatei Hatou, the spirit of ichigo ichie lives on, albeit updated for our contemporary world. Today, coffee is our common fuel, and a rich cup of Hatou slow-drip is that fuel at its best. The coffee shop is located near the heart of Shibuya, Tokyo’s most chaotic and cacophonous neighbourhood. A walk through its teeming streets can leave you feeling sensually assaulted and physically exhausted. For this, a coffee at Hatou is the perfect antidote – and pick-me-up. “Hustle and bustle is what this area is known for,” says barista-manager Kazuya Terashima. “We intentionally made this a calm place – a world within a world.” The sensory experience inside Hatou is the antithesis of its external surroundings: natural wood textures, soothing classical music, beautiful ikebana flower arrangements, and the deep, wafting aroma of coffee. Many regular customers prefer to come to Hatou not with friends, but alone. They sit at the counter and watch the barista at work. Each drink is made by hand with great care – the focus is on perfection, not speed. “It takes 10 minutes, often longer, to make one cup,” Terashima explains. “But people are willing to wait.” The ritual unfolds, step by step: he picks a worn metal container containing coffee beans that have been aged for up to three years. After passing them through a grinder, he measures out precisely 25 milligrams of fine coffee powder in a cloth filter. He heats water in a copper pot, keeping the temperature a consistent 87 degrees centigrade. Then, with unerring concentration and accuracy, he drizzles the water into the filter, saturating the dry coffee until it hits critical mass and begins to trickle into a small glass pot beneath. After that he patiently adds more water – one drop at a time – until the thick black brew is ready. “This method produces a coffee that is stronger than normal, but it also brings out the sweetness of the beans,” Terashima explains. “Many people have not experienced coffee like this before.” Once ready, the drink is transferred into one of hundreds of unique porcelain cups the shop has collected over its 24 years in business, ranging from Japanese Arita to British Wedgewood to German Meissen. Terashima says he makes a mental note of which cup each customer uses, so he can give them an alternative next time, explaining: “Even if they order the same thing, I like to think each Hatou experience should be a little bit different.”