Words by David Kenji Chang
Photographed in Nasu, Japan

Shoichiro Aiba, LIFE Restaurant

Nasu, Japan

1
Aiba at his country home in Nasu, Japan

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For a brisk winter morning, Aiba prefers his coffee outside

Chefs with his success are normally consumed by the relentless grind of the culinary crucible, particularly in competitive, exacting Japan. But Aiba has imbued his restaurants with an altogether different spirit. “Usually working and living here in Tokyo, toiling for years, even with a good salary, it’s so expensive and exhausting people never achieve good balance in their lives,” he says. “I sort of think there are two choices,” he continues. “Either you prioritize time – your private time, your time with your family – no matter how small your income, or you prioritize work and money, no matter how busy it makes you. I like to think our restaurant is a place for people who prioritize time, myself included.”

“I sort of think there are two choices,” he continues. “Either you prioritize time – your private time, your time with your family – no matter how small your income, or you prioritize work and money, no matter how busy it makes you. I like to think our restaurant is a place for people who prioritize time, myself included.”

It takes a world of language to accurately describe the atmosphere at LIFE. The food is colorful, comfortable, and delicious, with a visual sprezzatura that belies just how refined the flavors are. The restaurants themselves, which are all cafe/restaurant hybrids outfitted in rugged wooden furniture and draped in greenery, exude a mix of Japanese kokochiyoi - comfortable, homey pleasantness - and Norwegian hygge. Like their owner, they are bastions of deliberate, slow quiet in the overwhelming bustle of Tokyo.


Full story available in the upcoming Faculty Department Vol. 2 (coming Fall 2019)

Photographed in 2018 – Nasu, Japan.