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We met up with Tokyo-based cinematographer @nobu_arakawa. Nobu Arakawa tells us how he got into film, his stopover in Australia and why working in hospitality made him the filmmaker he is today.
Hello Nobu, can you please tell us more about you and your work and life in Tokyo?
Hi guys, my name is Nobu and I’m a Tokyo-based cinematographer. I moved here about 5 years ago after coming back from Melbourne, Australia.
How would you say the city of Tokyo changed you and your creative work?
In many ways. At first I was struggling to settle down as I didn’t have any friends after coming back from Australia. Then I was slowly getting used to the city and luckily got the job I love. There is an endless stream of inspiration in this city. I particularly like this area called Oku-Shibu, a deeper part of Shibuya which leads to Yoyogi-Koen that boasts a large variety of small unique shops and restaurants.
You’ve been moving around quite a bit with a stopover in Australia before you settled down in Tokyo. Based on your experience, what makes living and working in Tokyo so unique?
For me, it’s the diversity of the people and culture. You’ll never get bored of living here because so many things are happening simultaneously and are constantly changing. I’m from a small town in the south of Japan called Oita where everyone knows each other and the pace of life is pretty slow. While everyone around me was applying for university in Japan, I decided to apply for a University in Melbourne, Australia, and I got in. I always knew that I did not want to do what everyone else around me was doing.
Before you got into filming, you worked in Hospitality. What was that like and are there any skills you could transfer to filmmaking that you’re still relying on today?
Communication skills. I actually used to work at the Park Hyatt Tokyo and Grand Hyatt Melbourne before getting into the coffee industry where I could gain knowledge about food and drinks, but also on how to communicate with diverse groups of people from all over the world. It was a valuable experience but I definitely don’t miss making cocktails and handling 5+ plates at once.
When it comes to the filmmaking industry, it’s not just about shooting a beautiful image, but also about building a connection with other creatives and clients in my opinion. Having an open-minded mentality is imperative if you ask me.
What got you initially into filming?
My sister! She is a model based in Tokyo and she was like, “why don’t you become a videographer? It seems like a good job where you can earn decent money!”. That’s really all it took to convince me. The next day, I bought myself a $2,000 Sony camera and some lenses. After a month of experimenting around, I quit my job at the Cafe and Cutters Studio, a post-production company as an intern.
Your work has taken you all across Japan. Do you have a favourite shoot location or memory that you still like to think of every now and then?
Sapporo. People haven’t really realised how amazing the city is. The capital of the north offers so much more than just their world-class powder snow for skiing, but they also have such a strong local cuisine. I really recommend the ramen shop “Junren”.
As a Tokyo resident and lover of good food, could you please share your top 3 favourite restaurants with us?
1: Zuichou for Katsudon
2: Hattan for Beef Tongue Yakiniku/Japanese BBQ
3: Ta-im for Isreali food
What do fashion and functionality mean to you? What are your expectations for apparel and design? Has your fashion purchase decision criteria changed since you started working as a videographer?
Design and functionality. As a filmmaker, having functional clothes that you can rely on in extreme outdoor weather conditions is an absolute must.
In-between all the filming and editing, how do you unwind in a city as busy as Tokyo?
I love going to the Onsen and sauna. There’s nothing better than a long hot bath when I have the time. It’s just so good to leave your phone for a few hours and simply be left alone with my thoughts in a freaking hot sauna. It gives me so much inspiration and surprisingly, you notice a lot of things that you normally wouldn’t.
What advice would you give young creatives on their way of pursuing their dreams?
Do what you love! Once you find something you like or even a small interest, pursue it, try to do it your way and share it with your friends! Keep doing what you love is the key to success!
Thank you very much for your time!