Softly spoken and with an acute eye for detail, Genta Narita is the manager of Tas Yard, a casual kissaten that sits on a quiet corner in Sendagaya. Over and above his work at Tas Yard, Genta is also involved in various events and pop-up projects, whether it be a drip coffee stand or an after-hours cocktail bar.
I’ve come to know Genta over the past few years and aside from sharing my love for classic bars run by unforgettable masters, he also takes a somewhat unorthodox approach to organising his living spaces. Intent on learning more, I ventured to his second-floor apartment in Yoyogi to share a coffee in his meticulously organised living, dining and kitchen space.
Ben Davis: Windows wide open to the sound of falling rain — this space feels like it was made for relaxing. How do you usually spend your time here?
Genta Narita: On my days off I usually get up early, prepare a light breakfast and make some coffee. I leave the lights off and sit here by the window with a book. I like the fact that there’s some distance from this building to the next — it’s nice that there’s some greenery in between.
BD: You’ve also gathered quite an interesting collection of things.
GN: I’ve always collected things. I like old things, like the boxing gloves in the corner, along with things that make you laugh a little. I have two sisters and so I grew up sandwiched between girls — that might be why I’m drawn to things that are unique and a little bit cute, rather than overly masculine.
BD: I can’t help but ask, what’s the story behind the big portrait?
GN: My father is a sign painter and so we always had a lot of art-related magazines at home (in Iwate Prefecture). When I was young, maybe around 15 years ago, I came across a short article about an artist named Misato Oka. Printed alongside was a photo of her left-facing portraits lined up on a gallery wall. I was really interested in her work, but eventually forgot her name when I moved to Tokyo.
A few years ago, my boss’s wife invited us to her friend’s exhibition. When I looked up the details, I discovered that her friend was in fact Misato Oka, the artist I’d discovered as a 20 year old in Iwate. I ended up meeting Oka at the exhibition and when I told her my story, she offered to paint my portrait. That’s how the painting came about.
BD: Between the objects, the old shop fixtures and the way everything is organised, this space has a style of its own.
GN: I wanted to create a space that felt a little bit like a bar. I arrange things in a particular way — rather than organising the space based on how I live, I organise it more like a shop. It’d be fun to have some music, but at the same time, silence is comfortable.
BD: You compose the space.
GN: That’s right. People often ask if it’s hard work arranging everything in such a precise manner. But for me, it’s quite enjoyable. When I think about my days off, I guess that I do quite a bit of cleaning.
BD: What about after work — do you usually just come home to bed?
GN: Some nights I come home and start making drinks – I like doing that.
GN: Just simple drinks like highballs and gin & tonics. For highballs I use Templeton Rye – it’s a little sweet and has a nice vanilla scent. If I want something a bit heavier, I’ll make a short Godfather.
BD: With no curtains, you must put on quite a show.
GN: If I’m trying something out I’ll shake it, but I usually don’t shake at home. [Laughs]
Endless thanks to Tokyo-based editor (and regular AP contributor!) Ben Davis for sharing this ‘Keys to the City’ interview with us. It’s the first in a series of interviews about spaces for living and neighbourhoods to call home, brought to us by R-ESTATE TOKYO, an English-language real estate website offering everything from designer apartments to renovated rooms, retro residences and rooms with a view. (It’s also the sister site of R-STORE, a website tailored to Tokyo’s Japanese residents.) Keep your eyes peeled for more ‘Tokyo Life’ instalments on AP soon.