Mount Takao, or Takao-san (not to be confused with Takeo-san), is 599m tall and has been considered a sacred mountain for a thousand years.
Since it is only an hour away from the city center, it is pretty popular for both Tokyoites and travelers. Do not be fooled by its height, there are more than 1,200 plant species as well as plenty of native animals and insects in this area, including wild boars and monkeys.
The snow 雪
It had been snowing just a couple of days before, and with a clear sky and a sunny day, the snow was slowly falling in the shape of drops and dream-like reflections all over the place. The roads, the trees, the temple… everything was covered in a soft white blanket. This beautiful landscape is hard to forget.
The Mountain 山
The views are spectacular. Some days, Mt. Fuji is very easy to spot, although, on this day, it was a bit covered in clouds.
The views from the top of the mountain allow you to see how grand Tokyo really is. Try to spot Sky Tree in the photo below.
Tokyo from the top of Mt. TakaoThe specialty on the top is a dish of Oden. We also enjoyed some miso soup with tofu and delicious handmade, blended coffee. This little guy was enjoying some well-deserved sun on a tree stump.
I had the chance to hike alongside some amazing people. These three young, creative minds from different parts of the world are all full of passion and talent. Meet them below!
Where are you from, and when did you begin with design?
“I am from Colleferro, a small town in the countryside of Rome. I grew up playing bass in a few rock and metal bands. I used to play and provide the art for their CD-jackets, flyers and photographs. After a couple of years, I managed to create a small network of bands and indie labels for which I freelanced as a designer and photographer. That was my first attempt at my profession. I was 19 and, later, I attended the New Art and Technology University. I still love to collaborate with bands.”
“After graduating, I found my first job in advertising and then I moved to Tokyo. I wasn’t really planning to move to Japan specifically, but I always imagined my ideal workplace being in a metropolis, regardless of which one. However, I just happened to have friends here, and I guess that was the thing that helped me make the decision.”
How long have you lived in Tokyo?
“So far for 7 years.”
Can you show us some of the stuff you have done? Your haikyo film photography project is amazing.
“In my free time, I love to explore abandoned buildings and shoot pictures in medium format films. I recently had the chance to start a project called “room with view”, and the project was published on Lomography Magazine.
I’m also the founder of www.tokyographicdesigners.com, an informational hub/blog/community that aims to help designers around the world who are willing to move in Tokyo.
This project takes almost all my free time, which I try to split between design, photography, and mountaineering.
This is my dribbble.”
What are your plans for this year and where do you get inspiration from?
“I’m planning to improve tokyographicdesigners.com, release a couple of new products and push myself more as a climber and outdoor photographer.
Hopefully, I will fly to Nepal and have some fun trekking in the Himalayas.
I get inspired mainly by books, movies, and music. I recently started appreciating alpinists and authors, since I get lost in their stories.”
Cody comes from a small city called Hastings, in New Zealand.
When did you decide to move to Tokyo?
“I was 19 years old and wanted to get out of the place I was born. One day I had a vision of going to Tokyo and it changed my life. It still took over two years to get here, though; I went to university and studied Japanese literature and language before finally coming to Japan in 2012. At first, I worked at a design company before going solo.”
You managed to balance your work in design with your passion for #Derive. How long did it take you to get there? When did you decide to be an entrepreneur?
“I have always done freelance work. My parents ran their own business and I always enjoyed the hustle of making stuff happen myself. I started my studio CBJE in 2015 and it has slowly grown. Most of my work is with Japanese clients, so I need to communicate in Japanese. I try to spend at least 30% of my time on personal projects, where I can develop skills, ideas, and technology that I would not have the chance to use on client’s projects.”
Tell me a bit about your project Derive
“DERIVE explores the world’s first cyberpunk city, Tokyo. It started on Instagram → https://www.instagram.com/cbje_tokyo/ I began wandering around at night and trying to understand the city. I have had the chance to collaborate with a lot of talented people. I will be holding an exhibition in mid-March. Check Facebook for details → https://www.facebook.com/derive.tokyo”
“It is still a long way off, but I would like to explore the ‘daily life’ of the cyberpunk world. Instead of epic stories and heroes, I want to make a film exploring the daily lives of people living in a cyberpunk city of the future. This project hasn’t been announced yet.”
You have been traveling a lot around Japan and talked about the Minshuku. Can you tell me a bit more about them?
“I think my favorite places to stay in the world are Minshuku (民宿). Minshuku are like local hotels, with only a few bedrooms. They are not as rigid as the Ryokan traditional inns (you do not interact with the owners as much as in Ryokans), but there is usually good food and they are great places to start exploring from.”
To finish with Cody’s story, I will leave you with the awesome video he made with all the pieces he shot along the way.
Slim was born and raised in Paris. Growing up, he spent most of his time in popular areas in the center of the city.
Tell me a bit about your childhood
“Very early on, I knew what I wanted to become. At the age of 5, I started playing soccer with the sole purpose of one day being a professional player and representing my country. This journey allowed me to travel to many cities in France, in Europe (and even in the Caribbean), allowed me to become a champion several times and to develop a mindset for competition. Unfortunately – or fortunately ^^ – I had to give up on soccer after a knee injury at 14.
After that, I had no other option but to focus on my high school studies. I rapidly developed a passion for problem solving, mathematics and the world of logic. I, then, naturally chose to become an engineer. It was the fastest way for me to become financially self-sufficient and allow my parents to relax a bit and worry less about my survival.
I didn’t have a precise idea of what I would be doing but was confident that I would get the right opportunity.”
When did you move to Japan?
“At 18, I came to Japan for the first time with one of my best friends, to discover the intriguing city that is Tokyo. I really loved the way people were living and decided that, when I graduated, I would find a job in Tokyo. Five years later, I graduated and started the following day as a web engineer in Tokyo while living close to the beach in Kamakura: goal achieved!
Actually, I always had the goal of building my own company one day and escape the classic full-time job. I originally planned to gain work experience for about 5 years as an employee before becoming independent. I thought it would be the fastest way for me to really improve my skills, but after a year and a half, I had already had enough ^^.
How long have you been able to avoid having the classic full-time job and how do you balance martial arts and developing? it’s a pretty unusual mix and pretty cool too!
Around the time I started my first job, I was also doing boxing. My soccer injury had finally healed, so I was able to train 6 times a week and come back to my first love: sports.
For many, it seems surprising or impossible to combine software development and martial arts. In my case, I see both as very complementary disciplines. I love using the teachings of one and applying them to the other.
Software development requires the manipulation of high-level concepts, the need to be creative, and the ability to make sense out of a large number of outside factors while martial arts focuses on a deep understanding of myself, the mastering of my fears, and developing a strong internal belief. Being able to consistently juggle these two art forms is a key component to my happiness and self-development. I strongly recommend it to anyone seeking serenity and peace of mind.”
I see that you are reading Tim Ferris’ The 4-Hour Workweek. What are you learning from that book? Is it influencing your life at the moment?
“Tim Ferris’ book, The 4-hour Workweek, was recommended to me by one of my mentors a few months ago, when I first began to show frustration from working for someone else ^^. I started reading it after having already embraced many ideas about how to rethink your work, about entrepreneurship, product development, and about how to live a life of fulfillment. It is great to have another eye on these topics and Tim Ferris has taught me another approach to the game of life, so I’m really enjoying it. I am currently adapting and using many of Tim Ferris’ bits of advice regarding time management and automation. It helps me be more focused and effective. I try not to spend much time on work that doesn’t bring any value and focus all my energy on making actual progress.”
You are going to spend 2 months in Thailand. What will you do there? What do you plan to do after that?
“I just started the entrepreneur lifestyle and have been looking at joining a digital nomad hub to improve my skills and network rapidly. Chiang Mai seems to be a good place to start with. I plan to connect with many of the people who inspire me online and make them my mentors so that I can join them as fast as possible. I will keep on developing several projects that I am currently involved in and seek feedback and pieces of advice from my peers.
Also, I want to start Muay Thai while there. I want to add another martial art to my skillset and keep fighting stronger opponents in boxing.”
Tell me about your current and future work projects
“I’m currently developing a few web applications with my friends and I am regularly testing concepts for new, upcoming services that I would like to develop if they prove to be helping people in need. I am about to release the beta version of Honeybird (honeybirdapp.com), a new service for helping small makers promote their products online. We are allowing anyone to become a freelance salesperson, pick the products of these makers, promote them and receive commissions. I am following the Lean Startup philosophy, to improve the solution. We have been working for half a year on this tool, testing the concept, validating the hypothesis, seeking feedback, and iterating quickly.
I love working on this project simply because I feel that I am helping someone and it is a wonderful feeling.
I will also be releasing some other tools: e-commerce platforms for artists, a task management tool and a recruitment app.”
What inspires you? Anything else you would like to say?
“Well, I can get inspiration from anything, whether that be a book I read, a documentary I watched, a discussion with a friend, a travel somewhere, anything really. The reason is that I just love life! It’s a simple feeling but, for me, it is the defining truth that is at the root of every decision I make. In my mind, everything that I want to happen in my life, can not be realized if I am not ready to accept it. If I’m not even capable of simply being grateful for what I have currently, appreciate the moment, and be at peace with myself, nothing will happen.
This is the philosophy I carry with me all the time. If you focus on the good things, the success, the abundance, trust yourself, and continuously cultivate these beliefs, that is when you feel inspired, when you feel a sense of meaning, of purpose, of competence and that feeds you to go forward and make the things that you want to happen happen.
What I want to do now, with the things that I make, the time I dedicate to my crafts, the nomadic lifestyle, is to connect with more people and help them make progress in their own lives. I feel that I won’t be happy unless I dedicate my life to helping and taking care of the people I connect with.
I want to live a life of purpose.”
We wrapped up once down the mountain with a relaxing cup of coffee in a beautiful kissaten and then headed to the station. It was a good day.
- Mount Takao is a great short hike, but it’s even greater if you have the right team and have a meaningful conversation.
- Inspiration is everywhere if you can find the right people.
- What I learned is that having a mission or a challenge in your daily life can change your life and those around you.
I hope you enjoyed these interviews and peeks into the lives of these young creative and inspiring friends.
Thanks to Alvaro for the constant feedback, to Seiya for his Japanese translation, and Vincent for his usual technical support. Also Cody again for English proofreading. Also thanks to Justin Lewis for proofreading and fixing some parts of the text, everything looks better now.
- Cody’s Instagram and #Derive Facebook Page
- Riccardo’s TokyoGraphicDesigners and Dribbble
- Slim’s Honeybird app, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
Note: I have edited the interviews a little bit with a few minor grammar corrections, spaces etc.
See you in the next “State of Tokyo” post!