An Interview with MOE NAKASE (model / illustrator / barista)

An Interview with MOE NAKASE (model / illustrator / barista)

Release Date: May 13, 2016

Vaughan: Thank you for taking time to speak with us Moe. I saw you on an ad on the Yamanote line coming here today!

Moe Nakase: hahha… a few people I’ve met recently look at me and say that I look familiar or that they’ve seen me somewhere… yeah, we usually work out it’s from that ad….

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V: That’s funny. So, it’s spring in Japan. The cherry blossoms have come and gone…. Is spring your favourite season?

M: A lot of things start in spring. I seem to meet a lot of people, and it’s a relaxing feeling seeing the cherry blossoms. I went to Yoyogi Park the other day with a friend. Actually, it was in the evening, and the cherry blossoms were white. So special.

V: Sounds beautiful… Tell us about a typical day in the life of Moe Nakase. What have you done today?

M: Well, I woke up at 5, washed my face, and did a bit of drawing. I left home at about 7:30 and went to Fuglen to start work. Breakfast was the usual banana and cappuccino. After Fuglen, I had a meeting about an upcoming project – there’s this hotel in Shonan that’s asked me to draw on the walls of some of the rooms…

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V: Wow a hotel room with your work on the wall!?

M: Yeah, it seems like an exciting project – it’s actually not just the walls… it’s pretty much everything in the room.

V: Nice! I look forward to seeing it one day! Well, we’re here today at “Shimokita ka dokka no cafe”… one of my favorite spaces in Tokyo. Have you been here before?

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M: No, never. It’s amazing… I can really see why you like it. There’s no sign outside. When I came in I was like “Ohh Wowwww”. It’s like a secret spot. The walls are all concrete but there’s not a cold feeling here at all… Very warm, on the contrary… The owner is so lovely too…

V: Moe, the first time I met you was about 3 years ago at a cafe… and we’ve often bumped into each other at cafes, especially kissatens… what is it that you like about the cafe and coffee?

M: Well, I never used to drink black coffee. The first time I really enjoyed the taste was at Fuglen. And now I’m really beginning to understand the intricacies of the taste of coffee. “Today’s coffee” at Fuglen is always changing. Sometimes it’s Guatemala, sometimes Ethiopia, the tastes are so different… everyday is a new day kind of vibe.

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V: Is there something else… other than the taste of coffee?

M: I usually like to go by myself to cafes. But yeah, obviously at Fuglen cause I’m working there now, I know a lot of the regulars. And it’s just a great place to be part of. You know what I mean? Of course it’s a relaxing space, but it’s also an exciting space. Where the places I usually go, Cafe les Jeux and Satei Hato, I’m by myself. I see people doing their thing… some people are working, people having meetings, some people are just reading a book. Alone, but not alone, yeah?

V: Alone but not alone… I like that. What do you do at the cafes?

M: Well, I just draw normally. My boyfriend and I seem to spend a bit of time at cafes too… sometimes we just sit and let time pass and don’t say anything. Other times we chat about life, the future, problems – you know… There’s things we don’t discuss at home, but we can discuss there… I’m not sure why but yeah…

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V: Tell us about Fuglen. How long have you been working there?

M: I started working there last August. I actually used to live near there, and was often a customer. After some time, Genta, one of the baristas, asked me if I wanted to a job working there. I thought he was joking at first. But after a while, as my interest in coffee grew, and after he asked me a couple more times, I thought I’d give it a shot… and now I’m there like 3 or 4 days a week.

V: Is it fun?

M: Yeah! It’s sooo fun. I enjoy it so much.

V: Was it tough at the beginning?

M: It was difficult at the beginning, I hadn’t really worked part time before, and never in the service industry… it was like the first time for everything. Of course I didn’t know much about coffee either. But that’s why it was fun. It’s good now, I mean, it’s getting easier to work there, but I’m still learning a lot…

V: Tell us about an interesting episode at Fuglen… something you won’t forget.

M: Well, I’ve a spilt a lot drinks! hahaha. There’s this jet, where we wash the pitchers, you know, you kind of press down to wash glasses using it too. Well, I’ve misplaced the jug on it, and water has sprouted out.. And it’s a Saturday when there’s a long line… Yeah, that’s happened 2 or 3 times! I don’t know.. there’s a lot of these stories… I have burnt so many toasted sandwiches… you know, suddenly there’s a smell… and I’m like – ohhhh nooooooo! There’s a mixer, and I forget to put the top on and it goes everywhere…. Yeah, they get a bit angry at me… But I’m getting better… I could go on and on!

V: hahahahaa. How about a positive memory?

M: Well, I’ve been able to learn how to use the espresso machine! At the beginning it was frustrating because I couldn’t make anything very well. But along the way, a few of the regular customers who tasted my coffee when it wasn’t so good now tell me that my coffee is getting more delicious – and they tell me that I’m doing better, so I feel really good about that… And also, a lot of people talk to me about Fuglen as well, you know, they tell me that they like the space, and some of them even say they were able to really enjoy drinking black coffee after trying it here – and I’m like, that was the same with me!

V: Sounds like you really like working there…

M: Yeah, it’s not easy work, but I’m really enjoying it. The staff and customers are great.

V: What’s your favourite Tokyo cafe besides Fuglen of course!?

M: I’d have to say Cafe les Jeux. How about you? Hato? I saw you there again the other day…

V: Yeah probably… Why les Jeux?

M: It’s the environment, and the people I suppose… I always feel welcome..

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V: Tell us about your illustrations…

M: It’s not just illustrations.. it’s a lot of different things. I’ve obviously done the illustrations with you for the bands you’ve invited over to Japan… I also do oil paintings, and recently I’m using bee wax, it’s not so popular these days.. but a long time ago in Greece it was often used…  I like doing a lot of detailed pen drawings too… Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 weeks to do something that I want to do…

V: Why do you like drawing?

M: I just want to get some output, you know, what’s in my heart… I can’t really explain it – and I don’t know if my work can be understood… And some people might not understand what it’s all about… people might feel different things… but that’s also totally okay. Sometimes people ask what I’m drawing.. so if nothing else, it’s nice to have a chance speaking with interesting people about my work…

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V: Where do you get inspiration?

M: Well, my parents are sculpture artists… so they have inspired me a lot.

V: Finally, tell us about your film photography on your other insta account (@mmm49mmm)! I love your photos!

M: I have a Fuji Film / Natura camera… My boyfriend takes a lot of photos and he kind of got me into it…  I mainly of nature; mountains, forests and rivers… my photos aren’t amazing, but I get inspiration from them for my drawings… I remember things, weird things; the people I met, the things they were wearing.. the conversations that were had… it’s like a time warp of some kind..  You know, time keeps going, but sometimes, after I look at a photo I took, time goes back… I don’t know… but yeah, it’s just another part of it I suppose…



Shimokita ka dokka no cafe is located nearby Shin Daita station.

You can follow Moe Nakase on instagram here @moe0814n 

Interview by Vaughan @vja

Photography by Nik van der Giesen (@nvdg81)

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