This was one of the most fun jobs I've ever worked on! A four page story about world Sandwiches for POPEYE magazine. I got to eat sandwiches on the house, take photos, meet the cafe owners, write reviews, laugh wayyyy to much with POPEYE Editor Natsumi Oh and I somehow I also got paid?! Whaaaa? It sooo did not feel like work.
All of these adorable illustrations were drawn by Natsumi-chan!
If you're Aussie and in the Tomigaya area I really recommend popping into Bondi Coffee Sandwiches for a little taste of home.
One of my favourite cafes from the shoot was Ace. Seaweed toast anyone?
Walking into Ace is like a step back into the 1970s. Red retro leather seating divided with round edged partitions, individual retro leather stools lined neatly up along the counter seating, throw in some faded posters and sheer curtains to complete the look. Even the menu is an amazing little retro artifact. The images of the sandwiches on the menu were actually taken on film photography in the 70s and deep etched to be used on today’s menu. There is no compromising over here at Ace. In fact, the owners, a team of two brothers, took great pride in telling us about their hand painted signs and how they could easily go to Tokyu Hands and have a circle cut to shape but rather, they prefer to cut everything by hand. Starting with an octagon and then slowly rounding off the edges to make a circle.
Ace’s signature sandwich is the Nori Toast which comes in at an incredibly reasonable ¥170. The concept of this sandwich is an extension of nori-ben, only with the rice replaced with bread. I absolutely loved the nostalgia of this concept. I grew up with sandwiches for school lunches in Australia, so even the idea of getting sent off to school with a nori-ben packed wrapped in a pretty furoshiki by Mum is very special and unique for me.
The lovely brother team invited me behind the counter and described in detail each step of the making of the stores signature Nori toast. We were shown in detail, twice in fact, the sandwiches special recipe which consists of butter, soy sauce and nori on toasted white bread. Not just any plain nori will do, though. During our visit we were offered tastes of various different nori. These guys know their business. One nori we tried was a lemon and honey flavoured nori, which actually had quite a tang to it. There was a sort of sensei-like charm that came with the owner brother team. So much knowledge and right down to the point. These are the kind of people you want to learn from. I got the impression that I could ask them anything and get the right kind of advice. And not just about nori toast.
I can not tell you how amazing it was to be sitting around in a 70s kissaten style cafe with two brothers and POPEYE staff, listening to everyone chatting away in Japanese and tasting various nori. One of those 'I. can. not. believe. this. is. happening. How did I get here?' kind of moments. Before I moved to Tokyo in 2010, I had visited Japan 9 times. And, of all the experiences in Japan, this was without doubt one of my most favourite experiences ever. Standing behind the counter, alongside a pink bin filled with grounded coffee and sandwich crusts I thought that I could not have been happier. I desperately wanted to dedicate my days to making nori toast and welcoming salaryman and other guests with an ‘irashamase’. I couldn’t imagine being happier doing anything else.
Getting back to the decor for a moment, it’s worth noting that Ace boasts some serious retro items such as an analogue phone, which, on the day of shooting, they asked us to call, and sure enough, the sound was straight out of the 1970s with it’s charming ‘bringgggg bringgggg’ chime. We also spotted a vintage Seiko clock which apparently, hasn’t broken once. It’s the kind of place you could set a film in.
This hidden away little gem is a popular one. When chatting about a friends article about Ace, the brothers went to a lovely little cupboard and pulled out some envelopes of press from other magazines. ‘Oh no, not this one’...’Oh, here it is’ as they pulled out various envelopes with print outs from various magazines. It’s the type of place you could easily pop in for a quick sandwich, or you could stay for hours. When asked if the brothers chat to some customers for quite a while, they said ‘Yes!’ adding that some customers are such regulars that they even say ‘Tadaima’ (Welcome home) when they walk into the cafe. Although I don't often find myself in the Kanda area, from now on I am making special trips. I want to become a local here and one day be able to say 'Tadaima' when I walk in.
See the video of our shoot here.
Thank you lovely Natsumi-chan! Sooo many special memories! I love how you captured my annoying comments: 'Swoon' 'コレモ！' 'アリエナイ！'ヤバイー' (笑)
The Sandwich issue of POPEYE mag is so so great and a must have for Tokyo cafe goers!