Tavelers are always coming and going in Kyoto. Some spend only a day, others might stay for a few years. Although Kyoto is one of the historic cities where time seems to stand still, this city has a steady flow of people; tourists, students and immigrants. In Yohey Cogi’s case, it still seems like he is stopping by Kyoto on a trip even though he has already lived here for more than six years. He is a guy with the spirit of a traveler by nature.
Originally from Kagoshima prefecture, located at the south end of Kyushu, Yohey is an independent filmmaker. His major works include two documentary dramas, “Chandmani” (2009) and “Guitar Madagascar”(2014) with director Takeshi Kamei. Both films are like road movies filmed in Mongolia and Madagascar that feature the spirit of local young people with beautiful landscapes and folk music. He has also worked as the partner of Sohei Nishino, an artist known for the series Diorama Map, shooting him working around the world.
We had the chance to interview him about his background just when he’d organized his past works on his site, and get some travel tips for his neighborhood.
You are from Kagoshima, how did you come to Kyoto?
While traveling in South America for 6 months, I was so attracted to the ancient cities such as Antigua in Guatemala and Cusco in Peru. That would be one reason why I thought of moving to Kyoto.
Your journey around South America, how was it?
First, let me talk about how this journey started. After studying visual arts at university, I began to make films such as experimental 8mm films while working part-time as an assistant photographer in Tokyo. But when my grand mother, with whom I lived together since I was born, passed away, I came to think about my life. And I decided to take a long journey to South America, a place whose history and culture I’ve been interested in since my childhood. In fact, this journey became my turning point. I met Director Takeshi Kamei in Cuba. He told me about his upcoming project in Mongolia at our first time meeting. 6 months later after I came back to Japan, we left to Mongolia to shoot ‘’Chandmani’’.
You are very instinctive and active, so you never settle down in one place, right?
Well, I often leave for overseas for few months. I have just returned from a journey with Sohei Nishino to Amsterdam this June and I have a film project with a Chilean filmmaker in South America next year. Travel is always a theme in my work, and Kyoto is always a good place to come back to. That is why I have been based in Kyoto for more than 6 years.
In Kyoto, where do you usually meet up with your friends?
At Gojo Guesthouse, for example. It’s like my home as I had worked there since I moved to Kyoto until recently. There is a cafe on the first floor where I sometimes have a drink after work with my old workmates and friends. I also stop by OST, a cafe/bar run by my friend. We enjoy chatting at the counter. These cafes are cozy and friendly, so I recommend them to travelers who want to talk with locals.
Give some tips for seasoned travelers.
Let’s ask Naoyuki, a member of Gojo Guesthouse who naturally has good recommendations.
Well, about restaurants or bars, if you want to enjoy the atmosphere of authentic Izakaya , a Japanese style pub, Tatsumi and Akagakiya are popular and reasonable. Moshimoya is a good cafe/restaurant/bar near here where you can eat Japanese small dishes, Nikomiya Rokken is also a restaurant serving Japanese food. Ruins is also a cozy cafe/bar and Rokudenashi is a deep Jazz bar.
I recommend Sento, Japanese public baths, for example Asahiyu and Gokouyu. It might be interesting to see everyday life and meet local people, you might be even able to meet Maiko or see Japanese tattoo on guy’s back. At Gokouyu, there are several kinds of baths, a stone sauna and a restaurant. Try a curry bowl there.
If you are interested in handicrafts or old Japanese style houses, Kawai-Kanjiro’s house museum is a unique place. Kanjiro Kawai was a Kyoto based potter, and now his former house/studio is open as a museum. (you can find the information at the bottom of this site)
For those who are tired of the endless list of temples, I recommend a day trip to Shiga, a prefecture next to Kyoto. There’s lots of nature, including Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. We went there few weeks ago from Demachiyanagi station by train and cable car, crossing Mt.Hiei with a wonderful view. It took only 1 hour to get to Sakamoto, a old town in Shiga where we enjoyed strolling. After eating good soba noodles with duck and green onion and drinking sake at Tsurukisoba, we came away with good feeling. (you can find an itinerary on this site)
The last question, do you have special places to spend your time in Kyoto?
I like old and small cafes. There are a lot of those kinds of cafes in Kyoto. I always go there when I want to get energy to read or write. Tabasa is my favorite. I feel comfortable with time flowing slowly. It’s been popular with people in the know for 42 years, as it’s located at the residential area in the north part of the city. If you are looking for a local cafe to chill out even though it’s a bit away from the center, I recommend it. Try hamburg steak with rice, it’s very good! I sometimes go to Unzen and Coffee Zin that are so local and daily use cafes. I also like to eat breakfast specials(we call it “Morning”) ; which often include toast, salad, egg and coffee, at these cafes. Try small local cafes when you find them in strolling in the city.
Thanks Yohey for sharing your vision and local tips. Check out his Site!
Photo: Hanako Kimura
Text: Takami Miyamoto