Takehito Nakatani
Takehito Nakatani


Takehito Nakatani

Somewhere in Tokyo

A place for people to mingle and relax
A certain place in Tokyo.

“Somewhere in Tokyo" is a multifunctional space at the crossroads of various cultures, including art, music, apparel, and food. Mr. Nakatani, one of the organizers of the space, has slowly been expanding his circle of friends, meeting people with similar sensibilities. A friend of a friend, after all, is a friend. It was also through “Somewhere in Tokyo” that Mr. Nakatani found himself in the Kabutocho area. In this certain part of Tokyo, a new encounter takes place.

●What brought you to Kabutocho?
In 2018, we hosted a party with food from “Curry Shop Ma-kun” (*1). Mr. Eda of Bal (*2) suggested that it would be more interesting to combine spice dishes with natural wines, and so that’s when I was introduced to Mr. Takahashi of “Human Nature”. I discovered through social media that Mr. Kato, who I had worked with before when he was in a previous job, and Mr. Takahashi work in the same space, so I decided to go for a visit. And that was the first time I visited Kabatucho.

※1 Curry shop Ma-kun
A curry shop highly regarded amongst curry lovers. Aside from making curry, the chef is also a cooking researcher, creative director, and DJ.

※2 Bal
A modern and casual fashion brand incorporating various cultures, with a heavy influence from 90’s fashion and design.
The brand delivers high-quality, modern casual wear and graphics based on urban life.

●Have you ever been to Kabutocho before?
I have a long-standing relationship with a client that works in Nihonbashi, so I would often come here for meetings. I’m usually in the area around two or three days a week.

●So you’re familiar with the area?
I usually leave as soon as my meetings are finished, so I actually didn’t know much about it. But when “Human Nature” opened, I would go for a drink. Most of my meetings only last an hour, but I tend to stay here for hours!

●What are you usually talking about?
We talk mostly about music, gourmet food, recent politics or social situations, and other things that have nothing to do with work. I even find myself playing music with Mr. Takahashi!

●Wine is kind of like a music label, isn’t it?
That’s right. I come here to learn about wine as if I were digging for records. We also have a small wine cellar in the “Somewhere in Tokyo” space, where we can drink wines selected by Mr. Takahashi.

●You’re a member of “Somewhere in Tokyo”, but what kind of work do you usually do?
For work, I mainly do direction, mostly for web content. Mainly I create a brand’s website to support its effective operation.

●Where are you from?
I’m from Shimada City in Shizuoka Prefecture. My parents’ house was located in a village that no longer exists. There’s no cell phone signal and there’s not even any gas or water service!

●How did you get to Tokyo?
I loved clothes and wanted to become a stylist, so I came to Tokyo to attend Bunka Fashion College (*3).

※3 Bunka Fashion College
A fashion college located in Shinjuku.

●You spoke earlier of how remote your hometown is. How did your interest blossom in an environment where you had nothing?
My father was exposed to computers at a relatively early stage, so, in turn, I started playing with them when I was in elementary school. When I was a junior high school student, the Internet was still relatively new, so there wasn’t that much information or resources about computers. Back then, it was easier to access that stuff from overseas. I used to look at my father’s collection of magazines about culture, and I think that had a big influence on me.

●What was your first job?
My first experience of working was as a founding member of BEAMS T, the ART T-shirt division of BEAMS. From there I joined a web venture company.

●What made you get into online businesses?
At that time, everyone knew that they should use the Web, but most people did not know how to use it effectively. I was transferred to a company that was focused on meeting that demand and joined as a director in a company that combined consulting and practical work, working together to create websites and increase sales of those websites. While directing the websites of a major publishing company and a stationery manufacturer, I realized the importance of the web and learned how to use it.

●What were you doing before you started your own business?
I worked at FREAK’S STORE, a select store where many of my friends from school worked. They asked me to start up their web division and I worked there for 10 years. During that time, the annual sales of the company increased by almost six-fold, and one-fifth of the sales came from online sales. It was interesting to be able to experience a business that grew from zero.

● The demand for the web is only going to keep on growing.
Some of my friends from school started to go independent after they turned 30. I helped them with their websites on my days off, and about four years ago, I started my own business as a freelance web director. I even set up an office with old acquaintances as a kind of shared office.

●Is that how “Somewhere in Tokyo” began?
The biggest common language amongst the members is music. Since we didn’t have any desks, we added a DJ booth and designed the space around sound. We also used the space as a blank canvas that could work as a gallery. The address was never advertised, and so that became the concept for “Somewhere in Tokyo.” It was meant to be a kind of salon where people could enjoy art and music. As we pursued these elements, I began to think of things that would be interesting to have in the space, and I came up with the idea of souvenirs for visitors.
To be honest, I pursued my interests in a rudderless, directionless manner. Since all three of us were originally involved in the apparel industry, we have developed our own original fabrics to make T-shirts and sweatshirts. We are making products that break away from the so-called “souvenir” t-shirts that are just a logo on a common t-shirt. We are using these products as a medium to create things with lots of different and interesting people.

●I get the impression that “Somewhere in Tokyo” is primarily about music. I think sound is very important in constructing a space. Could you tell me your roots in music?
I have loved music since I was a child, and I used to play music with my friends on the banks of the Oi River in my hometown. At that time, hardcore and thrash metal were my main interests, but my interests gradually expanded to include breakbeats and techno.

●What drove your interest in music and made you get into it more?
When I was in the Bunka Fashion College, I looked at my friends in the styling department and they were so stylish that I thought I might not be able to compete with them! So I decided to develop my interests in something else, and I became in charge of sound effects for fashion shows. Looking back on it now, I think my interest in direction may have shifted through sound and music.

●You found your way very early on!
Yes, I was a music director for three years. I went to events outside of school and overseas to select music for shows. And before I knew it, music became more important than clothes.

●There is an inseparable relationship between clothing and music, isn’t there?
I feel that the trend of music and culture-based clothing is increasing every year. Personally, I’ve always loved clothes that incorporate music, art, and other cultural elements, but I also love new materials and technical innovations in fibers. I gather information every day, touch the actual products, and study them. Well, to put it simply, it’s getting more and more complex!

The more quality you put into that space, the more memorable and fun that space will become. That's what I like to keep in mind.

●What was the first event that you did at the Human Nature/SR store?
It all started when I made a “Wine Stain T-Shirt”, which featured different patterns of wine stains printed onto the shirt. When I first came up with the idea, I talked to Mr. Takahashi about it over a drink and that’s when he first became interested. But it was also at the time when Covid was just starting to arrive in Japan, so I thought it would be great if everyone could enjoy themselves while playing sounds that went well with the wine in a space-inclusive approach. That’s why we brought in a DJ booth and had a live acoustic performance by “naomi paris tokyo”(*4) to provide the background music. But really, I just wanted to drink good wine with good music!

※4 naomi paris tokyo
Also known as Naomi, of “jan and naomi”. With a neutral look, Naomi has been working as a model whilst also composing a wide range of music from melodic to experimental and ambient. Naomi released their latest EP “21FW” as a solo artist on July 14.

●Gathering like-minded people together in pursuit of their own interests or things that they like is really gaining traction.
Three members of “Somewhere in Tokyo” have always had a love for music. And even though our desks are small and on the edge of the office, there’s a huge DJ booth in the middle! It’s no longer an office, but more like a listening room.

●In these days of digitalization, we tend to focus on broadcasting information to people. So creating a space in Tokyo that has anonymity, in a way, is becoming rarer.
All of our members have independent interests, and we want to keep it that way. I also feel that it’s important to have connections with people and places and to have experiences of researching something and finding a place by yourself. Places like “Somewhere in Tokyo” are exciting to me because even if you look them up, they are still difficult to find. And the more quality you put into that space, the more memorable and fun that space will become. That’s what I like to keep in mind.

● It’s the exact opposite of capitalism, or rather, it’s a way of going against the current situation.
I think it’s more interesting to be in a place where even if you look it up, you won’t be able to find it. That’s why our space doesn’t hold events that focus on attracting customers. Our first priority is to create a space that everyone can enjoy, even if it’s just a small group. It’s hard to do that now due to Covid, but we also have a permanent installation of artworks and artists that use the space for recording videos. Friends will also bring drinks and equipment in the evening to spend time listening to music together whilst chatting about things.

●Why do you limit your visitors to only friends of friends?
We didn’t set it up like that up from the beginning, but I would often bring my friends along when they came to visit. One of the things I noticed was that if you know people who know people who know people, you have a common language, so it becomes a space where you can get to know each other quickly.
It’s interesting that the circle of customers can easily expand because they have many things in common. It would be great if it could be an opportunity for people who are from different fields but have similar feelings to mix within their own genres.
For example, the collaboration wear between reggae singer Asuka Ando and pajama brand [NOWHOW] was released this year, and it was born when we happened to meet at “Somewhere in Tokyo ”. It was a collaboration between two of my personal favorites, and I was very happy to have been a part of it.

Souvenirs are attached to memories, and I feel that having the backing of such memories in the design is one of the elements that enrich our lives.

●Returning to the topic of clothes, don’t you feel completely different when you wear clothes purchased at some event or from a trip abroad? Perhaps it’s because of the memories attached to the time when you bought it?
That’s right. Souvenirs are attached to memories, and I feel that having the backing of such memories in the design is one of the elements that enrich our lives. We all think about how to make clothes that we can wear to make us feel more confident, but I think it has become a tool for us to enjoy our lives. Like wearing a wine-stained T-shirt because we are going out for a glass of wine today.

●Do you always think about these things in your designs?
I think all the members are trying to make this happen. We would like to continue to create products that, when placed as souvenirs, will lead to the production of the store in our own approach.

●What kind of involvement do you want to have in this place in the future?
As well as selling tees, from this year we have also started a business called “Souvenir from Somewhere in Japan”, where we produce souvenirs from the best shops in Japan, which we see as places of interest. We are working with stores not only in Tokyo but also all over Japan. Also, I’d love to make something with Mr. Kato at SR using coffee-dyed fabric someday.

●Have you come up with any new ideas lately?
We are continuing to develop materials such as sweatshirts that do not easily pill. We need to verify the changes in feel and texture, so I keep wearing the sweatshirts now. If all goes according to plan, we plan to sell products using the material this season.

When I get off the station, I first stop by Omnipollos and order a beer……

●What are the future goals of “Somewhere in Tokyo”?
I’d like to do something like an outdoor lounge/select store held only on weekends somewhere in Tokyo. Something outside, but still with great sound design and stuff to buy. I’ve done it several times, but I want to improve the outdoor space concept and its quality, especially when it comes to sound.

●There used to be a mysterious rum bar called TWILLO (*5), is it a similar concept to that?
That store is amazing! It’s as if they can guess your tastes while you’re talking. The improvisation factor coupled with music that is always flowing is great. It sticks in the minds of the people there and gradually draws them together, and is close to what we are aiming for.

A food cart bar that appears late at night in Tokyo.

●If there’s a good sound, we’re likely to gather around it.
A system with good sound design is really good, even when listened to at a low volume. In other words, I think there are still very few places in Japan where you can listen to good sound at low levels. I’m very looking forward to the arrival of the Funktion-One (*6) speakers from England. The guys love music so much that they usually change the sound settings and compare the different sounds while chit-chatting!

※6 Funktion-One
A British speaker manufacturer based in Dorking, Surrey, UK. The company has an established reputation and is used at many festivals and live music venues.

●I think people who read this article will want to go to the “Somewhere in Tokyo” party, but how can I get there?
The office space holds about 50 people, but if there are too many people, people won’t be able to talk to each other. So I think it’s better to have a maximum of 20 people who can relax and enjoy the space. If you go to Kabutocho, you might get to know someone, and then you might be on your way!

●Finally, what is your recommended course in Kabutocho?
When I get off the station, I first stop by Omnipollos and order a beer, then I go to Human Nature for a glass. If you don’t drink alcohol, you can drink a good coffee or an original drink at SR. Start drinking in the evening, then head to Neki or Caveman. After dinner stop by Ao for the last drink. On the weekends, Omnipollos has a Takoyaki event, and K5 sometimes has flower shops and pop-up events with plants and food. Also, listen to music at B. I usually check the sound quality of various places, but I think B is one of the best places in Tokyo where you can enjoy music with great sound quality.

Takehito Nakatani

Takehito Nakatani

Born in Shizuoka Prefecture. In addition to directing brands mainly on the web, he launched “Somewhere in Tokyo,” a multi-purpose space that crosses over various cultures such as art, music, apparel, and food. While developing souvenirs that make a certain place in Tokyo look like a tourist spot, he is conveying the attractions of Tokyo from a new approach.

Text : Jun Kuramoto

Photo : Naoto Date

Interview : Jun Kuramoto

Takehito Nakatani

Somewhere in Tokyo

Hotel K5

Interesting people in Kabutocho

Hotel K5
I would like to stay at K5. I’ve been there on occasion for meetings, and the interior is really nice. I’m sure there’s a certain charm to the place that comes with staying there, so I’d like to spend my evenings visiting the restaurants in the neighborhood, then go to my room and relax with a drink. There are also restaurants nearby that are open for breakfast, so I’m looking forward to spending time around the area in the morning as well.