24 hour sushi in Akihabara at Isomaru・アキバの磯丸水産の寿司居酒屋

Tokyo is a beautifully colourful place.

I really appreciate good design in life. When people, businesses and local authorities make an effort. A lot of elements come together to make a place enjoyable. The shape of the buildings, the colours, the cleanliness, the ease of getting around.

Life can be busy, it can get tiring commuting around, rushing to work, rushing to meet people. Everything is a better when the places we go feature interesting and beautiful design.

One of my genuine beliefs is it shouldn’t just be about minimising costs and maximising profits, it should be about making the world a better place.

Japan nails this in some aspects of life.

A few years ago on one of my first trips to Japan I took a photo of a man looking into a sushi restaurant in Akihabara while scratching his head.

At that time I hadn’t eaten in Isomaru Fisheries (磯丸水産).

It’s a 24 hour seafood restaurant and bar. The one in the picture is in Akihabara – a famous district for electronics and manga / anime goods.

I went back to Isomaru in January this year to eat a few times. On this trip I decided to take a second picture of the Akihabara branch to show the full view of the store front, it’s a very colourful multi-story building with a cool billboard picture of a fishing boat at the top.

Isn’t it awesome?

They have really well priced Sushi. Not exactly premium quality, but pretty good.

On top of the sushi there are lot’s of cooked dishes including some food you can cook on a grill at your table. One of the recommended dishes is crab meat in a special sauce you can cook on the grill yourself. You can also cook various kinds of fish yourself. I had a pot of muscles.

Portable Loft, Yangjae Citizens Forest, Seoul and; Fish in The Pool

I found the cutest local cafe in Seoul with the friendliest owners.

It’s called Portable Loft. They also have a craft / design store – Portable Lollipop.

I found their blog; you can see some pictures of Portable Loft and the owners plus their friends / family here http://blog.naver.com/jungurion/220896163629. The Lollipop website http://www.portablelollipop.com/

The cafe and store are located in Yangjae Citizen’s Forest; totally off the tourist route, but not far from Gangnam. About ten different buses from Gangnam pass by the area.

It was a lucky find, I happened to stay in an Airbnb apartment above the cafe for the week.

The owners don’t speak English, but despite that they made me feel super at home. Through pointing and gestures I managed to order their delicious hand drip coffee in the morning. They also have two draught craft beers on tap and a selection of other drinks.

The owners gave me one of their postcards which is based on a hand drawn sketch of the cafe. You will recognise the lady in the postcard and blog pictures by the distinctive hairstyle 🙂

Portable Loft really inspired me. If I were to have my own cafe / shop business this is pretty much the blueprint I’d love to create it based upon. Some of the charming features I loved were:

  • Hand chosen craft beers and hand drip coffee that show care and love for quality
  • Beautiful natural interior decoration – a little bit ‘Scandinavian wood feel’
  • They do have a food menu, but it’s literally one cooker behind the bar, so cute
  • A lot of customers appear to be friends and I saw groups come and enjoy relaxing and talking to the owners
  • The cafe and shop show an interest in art and design and they have built a really interesting collection of products.
  • They are off the beaten path so I think most of their customers are local or may come based on word of mouth etc. no unappreciative tourists!
  • They have a music system in one corner and they have a pile of vinyl and CDs next to it and their selection of music is beautiful. A lot of acoustic and calming sounds.

Talking of music I came across the fish in the pool by Hekuto Pascal album while sitting in Portable Loft. I didn’t know what it was, but realising it was Japanese I snapped a pic of an empty CD cover with Japanese text on it. I later found the album on Spotify:

This is some seriously beautiful music.

I’m slightly embarrassed to say this music actually brought me to tears a few times.

The album is mostly instrumental, but the final track has lyrics and there is something soft, sweet and magical about the melody and vocals. Perhaps there is an undertone of sadness. It’s a songs that makes me feel an appreciation for people and places, but also a sadness for lost opportunities and lost times.

Portable Loft is one of the reasons I love to travel. Forget the tourist checklist, I really appreciate the chance to see a corner of local culture and to meet people that care about art and design and customers.

I recently came across a book called Do / Design: Why Beauty Is The Key To Everything by Alan Moore.

It’s a great little book that takes about good design and why that matters in life. This resonates strongly with me and I think design along with community are two of the most important things that can bring enjoyment to everyday life.

Portable Loft hit’s both of these perfectly.