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Commercial: TYKU Sake photographs

I consider myself primarily a portrait photographer here in Japan, but sometimes commercial work rolls in from overseas and I am more than happy to take it. In this case, TYKU sake wanted myself and a video team to go shoot some promotional content for their brand in New York. TYKU sake is actually brewed at Umenoyado Shuzo, one of the oldest breweries in Nara prefecture, so now you know you’re getting authentic sake when you buy TYKU.

We went down there in February, the chilliest month in Japan, and my job was to shoot some portraits of the various people working there, as well as document the brewing process, and shoot some of the new packaging on the bottles in authentic Japanese locations. Straightforward, but this has to have been one of my favorite jobs this year, just due to the team and the awesome location and immense amount of creative freedom we had from the client. The shoot was over two days with one travel day and the photos have been used on the TYKU website and social media.

Prepare for image dump with random captions and explanations dotted throughout, hope you enjoy!

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (37)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (36)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (35)

This lady is the 5th generation owner of Umenoyado Shuzo. The blossoms near her face are from the famous 100 year old plum blossom tree for which this sake brewery is name after (Ume = plum)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (34)

The house was absolutely gorgeous and well maintained.

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (32)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (31)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (30)

This man is the Tohji, or Head Chef, and he’s basically the chief of sake brewing here at Umenoyado Shuzo. Here he is inspecting some rice.

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (29)

Kneading the rice and making sure temperature stays even throughout the whole batch – not an easy task with the weather as cold as it was over the two days.

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (28)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (27)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (26)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (25)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (24)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (23)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (22)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (20)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (19)

Steaming the rice happens really early in the morning!

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (17)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (16)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (15)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (14)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (13)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (12)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (11)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (3)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (2)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (1)


Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (10)

Mmmm delicious sake.

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (9)

I photographed these packaging shots at Kyoto’s world famous Fushimi Inari Shrine, known for the thousands of red gates and stone fox statues dotting a gorgeous mountain.

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (8)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (6)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (4)



Tokyo Portraits: Book and Bed Tokyo

Here’s a quick post about some photos I shot in Tokyo for Dragonair’s inflight magazine near the start of the year. The shoot was featuring a new type of hostel in Tokyo (and Kyoto) called Book and Bed, and as you can see, it’s pretty much as advertised. Think of it as a capsule hotel but more homey and there are cool books, and a bit of a hipster vibe.

Here are three selects I made for them – it was a pretty small hostel, but if you’re looking for somewhere comfortable, trendy and cheap, Book and Bed Tokyo is located in Ikebukuro! Go check it out!

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (3)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (1)

Tokyo Photographer, Videographer - Irwin Wong (2)

Tokyo Portraits: Ochiai Yoichi for Nature Index Mag

I photographed this portrait of Ochiai Yoichi in Tokyo in February, 2017 for the cover of Nature Index mag.

For the brief, I was told that Ochiai, who is phD  is considered a ‘wizard’ at manipulating matter using computer-controlled invisible forces, such as waveforms or phase arrays. I’m not really sure what all that means, but it sounds impressive, and the editorial team wanted to keep the wizard/magic theme going in the images. Short of a pointy hat and a grey beard, I came up with a concept that Ochiai could have lights on his fingertips, which would give him the ability to lightpaint and ‘manipulate’ the matter around him at will. Also, the lights would look kind of like the wands from Harry Potter- wizards!

Short of an actual, LED glove, I decided to make one myself. Using a bunch of cheap parts that I bought from Akiba (below), I constructed a really rudimentary but functional LED ‘finger light’ accessory, that I would tape to Ochiai’s arm, if he was ok with it.

Luckily, once he saw my contraption, he was excited about the idea of trying it, and he let me (without an assistant) attach the somewhat awkward (but elegant!) LED fingertip glove to his hand.

At first I was intending to photoshop out the wires however I kind of liked how they looked in the photo (kind of a cyberpunk vibe), and left them in. The editorial team at Nature Index were stoked with the photos and ended up using a select for the cover. Here are some outtakes below!


Japanese Artisans – The Magic Mirror Craftsman

Although I am primarily a photographer based in Tokyo, you’ll often find me traveling to random cities and towns to find artisans and craftsmen to photograph as part of my ongoing personal project to document as many as possible. Since the beginning of 2017, Zeiss has partnered with me to produce a series of videos, photos and text for their newly updated Lenspire blog. Now with this year coming to a close, I’ve decided to post the start of the series on my blog to show you folks where it all started. Please visit the original piece here where there are many more links to nearly a whole year’s worth of master artisans. Anyway, here’s the article below, enjoy!

The Magic Mirror Artisan from Irwin Wong | Photographer on Vimeo.

There are a myriad reasons why I visit Kyoto. For those tossing up whether to book tickets, just do it – it’s a no-brainer. The city is comprised of so many elements that make it endlessly enchanting; crystal clear canals crisscrossed with stone bridges, ancient paved roads aglimmer with soft lantern light, the terraced banks of the Kamo river at dusk…there is no combination of words to fully describe the renewed sense of wonder I get everytime I stroll around the city. For the casual wanderer, Kyoto is a treasure trove of textures and facades, of modern sensibilities artfully mingled with traditional design. The effortless charm this city has is enough to keep me coming back dozens of times, with or without a camera. Boy, do I love Kyoto.

Dig a little deeper than the surface charm however, and there you’ll find vestiges of the city Kyoto used to be: not as a tourism hotspot, but as the former imperial capital and center of religion of Japan for over a millenia. Craftsmen and artisans of all manner flourished in ancient Kyoto, honing their profession year after year, generation after generation, century after century. Carpenters, fletchers, weavers, dyers, metalworkers; hundreds upon thousands of narrow specialties each contributing to their particular cultural ecosystem. Nowadays, there aren’t so many craftsmen or women left. Entire ecosystems have collapsed, no longer needed anymore. In other cases, masters of their craft, unable to find an apprentice, have died without passing their flame onto a successor. Each time this happens, sadly, an untold amount of knowhow and skill built up over generations winks out of existence. As younger generations see less reward in devoting their life to a singular craft the passage of time will surely see more and more of these crafts disappear permanently. For now at least, in the 21st century, there are still traditional craftsmen in Kyoto, plying their trade as it has been plied for centuries on end.

Yamamoto Fujio and his son Akihisa make Magic Mirrors. They work out of a modest atelier on a quiet street, fifteen minute’s walking distance to Kyoto Station. It’s so modest in fact, that you would be forgiven for walking right past it in search of flashier cultural attractions. The sign over their door is also laughably banal – ‘Yamamoto Metalworks’ – a stunningly humble designation given that they are the only people left in all of Japan – and possibly the world – that know how to make Magic Mirrors anymore.

While you may be thinking of those mirrors at amusement parks that make you look fat or skinny, these ones are nothing of the sort. Magic Mirrors (makyo 魔境) are primarily religious items placed in shrines, private residences or even graves, or used as ceremonial tools. No glass is used in their production, in fact the mirrors are milled out of solid discs of bronze – polished, filed and sanded on one side to create a reflective surface of dazzling clarity. The magic part however, comes when you reflect a beam of light off the mirror onto another surface; inexplicably, an image appears. There’s no immediate explanation for why they do this – the mirror is solid bronze and the surface is completely flat. In an effort to understand better, I looked up some sources and came up with this: ‘stresses caused by scraping and polishing cause ‘preferential buckling’ into convexities of a scale too small to be seen by the human eye, but matching the design on the back of the mirror’. Well ok then.

However baffling the scientific explanation for this phenomenon is, the fact is Magic Mirrors have been made for hundreds of years. Fujio is the 4th generation maker in his family; his son Akihisa is the 5th. The workshop itself is bare of ornamentation, but brimming with tools and implements involved in making the mirrors, all bearing the patina of constant use but lovingly maintained in peak condition. A craftsman is nothing without his tools.

The process of making the mirrors isn’t overly complicated – it’s just enormously difficult. Firstly Fujio shows me how he makes the mold for the molten bronze to be poured into. Magic mirrors all have a design on their back, often religious iconography or a Japanese motif, and these are hand pressed into a block of clay using dozens of subtly different carving implements.

After a visit to a local foundry in which the bronze is cast into the mold, the resulting solid block of bronze goes back to the workshop where the laborious process of polishing begins. Once again a large arsenal of tools comes into play – this time in the form of curved blades and a variety of what looks like enormous metal nail files. Alternating implements of varying degrees of coarseness, Yamamoto-san begins scraping and smoothing down the grain of the metal with precise and rhythmical strokes. I ask Yamamoto-san who makes the files and he says that to his knowledge there is but one specialized file craftsman left in Kyoto who makes them, and he’s in his nineties. Another profession on the brink, I reply, to which Yamamoto-san just nods. The slow decline of less popular traditional crafts has been something he has witnessed in his city over the years.

The bronze is then washed and further buffed with special charcoal to further erase the grain of the metal and smooth out the surface. The resulting mirror is startlingly clear; a completely different experience to looking into a regular glass mirror. The show stealer however is undoubtedly seeing the hidden image in the reflected light for the first time. The mind knows that the mirror is solid metal; I saw the thing being made right in front of me so I know there are no hidden tricks built into it. The image of Buddha that the mirror is producing is solely due to whatever magic lies in the hands of a master craftsman carrying knowledge that has been passed down for generations.

As my photoshoot wraps up and I prepare to leave, Yamamoto Fujio begins smoothing away at a steel lantern as part of another commission. His son Akihisa attends to the foundry where two new mirrors have been cast, as well as several other ornaments. As I watch them go about their daily business it’s hard to believe that they are the last people alive who can carry on the ancient art of magic mirror making. Akihisa says he doesn’t have children yet but he intends to pass on his knowledge to a 6th generation if he can. Right before I leave, I observe the quiet fortitude and humility with which they work. Backs bent over and bathed in late afternoon sunlight, their legacy as uncertain as morning mist, they toiled on into the twilight, producing one marvel of craftsmanship after another.

Lenses used in this shoot:

My kit consists of my go-to lenses for any assignment recently – my set of Loxia lenses including the 21mm, the 35mm and the 50mm (the 85mm wasn’t out at the time!). I don’t often like to gush but they are absolutely flawless choices for assignments that require both photo and video. Smooth manual focus, smooth aperture ring, amazing image quality in such a tiny package, what more could you want? I also used another recent addition to my bag, the Milvus 100mm Makro Planar f/2, which is absolutely fantastic for getting up close and picking out details that a craftsman may be working on, which is especially great for video. It’s a little heavier but boy is that lens worth it. Do I even need to mention that the image quality is amazing? Probably not, but I will anyway! All of this fits into one small over the shoulder bag which means I can pack more lighting or video gear without feeling overburdened.

Carl Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 – User Review

I’ve been using the Carl Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 for over 2 months now and I’m going to be sad to return it. The Sony E-mount has been sorely missing a 135mm lens in its line-up and Zeiss has finally delivered in convincing style. I’m going to go into detail a little bit here about why I’ve enjoyed using this lens so much, and provide some sample photos for you all to gander at.

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong Carl Zeiss Batis 135mm Review (4)

First of all, it has to be noted that with the Batis series Carl Zeiss has gone and done something a little different to their usual approach to lenses. The Batis series is completely autofocus friendly, which is good news if you’re not comfortable with purely manual focus lenses (although I have a whole diatribe on why MF is back in a big way – here). Paired with the Sony A series’ rather excellent focus and eye tracking system, this makes the latest Batis an impressive lens indeed for all sorts of applications, which we’ll get to. Firstly however, I want to address the elephant in the room, which some people are concerned about.

I’ve been seeing a lot of angry Internet comments about how a 2.8 max aperture is ‘too slow’ or ‘doesn’t have enough depth of field’ for some of the more ‘professional’ camera forum nerds. I’m going to go into a few reasons as to why you might want to hold your judgement until after you’ve picked this lens up for yourself. Here’s a practical reason first up; while 2.8 might sound like a modest aperture, keep in mind that the difference between your photo being good or garbage does not lie between the figures 2.0 and 2.8. f/2.8 is fast – especially with the high ISO performance of the a7RII and the a7SII – and it’s literally the best compromise between speed, size and weight that you are going to get for the Sony alpha series. I’ve owned 135mm lenses from other companies before where the big draw was the max 2.0 aperture setting, and while I won’t name the company, I will say that I never used it at 2.0. The reason being that wide open, the lens performed like garbage – unbelievable chromatic aberration and an overall haziness to the scene that disappeared when stopped down. So I say thank you to Carl Zeiss for not throwing in a half-baked f/2.0 max aperture purely to tick a marketing box, and making the lens bulkier, heavier and more expensive in the process.

Which brings us onto performance – wide open, this lens is jawdropping, and I say that with absolute confidence having been transfixed by the back of my camera at the results it gives. Where do I start? The basics are solid – virtually no chromatic aberration in high contrast scenes and super sharp from edge to edge wide open. The lens focuses surprisingly close for a 135mm, allowing you to really cream up the background in an orgy of bokeh. The bokeh looks fantastic of course – it’s a Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar design with new lens elements that disperse stray light more efficiently, leading to images that pop with contrast and color. Short story – the lens leaves nothing on the table when it comes to image quality. Technically it is superb, and I can’t think of a single thing that leaves me wanting.

Which brings us onto the user experience. I’ve had the fortune to have used the other lenses in the Batis lineup quite extensively already – the 18mm, 25mm and 85mm, so I more or less knew what to expect in this case. The lens itself is smooth and sleek with no buttons or moving parts other than a wide rubber focusing ring, and that interesting OLED readout on the top. The autofocus is slick and accurate for the most part – but I never know if that’s more due to the camera or the lens. Either way, it’s a smooth experience. The Batis 135mm also works like a dream with the a7RII’s continuous eye tracking autofocus, which can be mapped to a button, meaning that you’ll pretty much always nail critical focus on the eyes – an amazing feature for a portrait lens. My only minor quibble about this lens is that the manual focus mode is electronic, meaning that it’s not the best lens for video as shots requiring rack focus cannot be repeated reliably. For photos it is perfectly usable if a little hard to get used to if you’re accustomed to the smooth focus action of the Loxias or other Zeiss MF lenses.

The real bottom line is well, the bottom line; can you afford it? It’s not the cheapest option out there but since when has a lens by Carl Zeiss needed to compete at the shallow end of the pool? No – if you buy this lens you know you’re shelling out for a premium piece of equipment that has extremely high performance all the way through its aperture range. Whether its dreamy portraiture or reportage from a distance you’re after, this lens performs. And that’s really all there is to say. For further proof, check out the image gallery below.

Youtube Superstar: Kurt Hugo Schneider

A while ago I had the opportunity to photograph Youtube musician and producer Kurt Hugo Schneider when he was visiting Tokyo.

For those of you who haven’t heard of him (although you probably have), Kurt is possibly what you would call a new media superstar – he’s the king of Youtube music with an incredible 7 million+ followers on his channel, he’s an amazing musician and producer, been on Ellen, Oprah, worked with Aviicii, been featured in WIRED magazine, and that’s not to mention his raw talent and ability to get things done. Did you I mention he’s also a super nice guy on top of all that?

Strangely enough, the first time I came across Hugo’s work was not via his wildly successful Youtube channel – in fact it was on a Starcraft II gaming channel called HuskyStarcraft in which he does a parody of Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ called ‘Banelings’. In case you don’t know what a Baneling is a Zerg unit in Starcraft that sprays acid everywhere after it runs up to you and explodes. Yes, I am a gigantic nerd. And so is Kurt. Here’s the link:

The point is I guess Kurt doesn’t have anything to prove. He’s done collaborations with huge companies like Coca Cola, Buick, Sony, etc and has stayed at the top of the Youtube music scene for years. He has more subscribers and Lady Gaga for crying out loud. Pretty awesome to meet and photograph such a talent.

job_0187 job_0184job_0188  job_0193

Playstation VR Portraits

With Tokyo Game Show coming up this weekend I’d like to introduce some portraits I shot for the wonderful folks at Polygon, one of the world’s top websites dedicated to video game journalism.

The article that these photos accompanied was about the long road of development of Playstation VR – the virtual reality headset for – you guessed it – the Playstation soon to be released around the world. The article itself is very in-depth and definitely worth a read; you can check it out on the Polygon website here:

For my part – I was glad to meet Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment (that’s basically responsible for making the Playstations that I have frittered away so many hours of my life on), and although we were required to shoot all of the photos in the Sony Interactive Entertainment offices, I think I managed to get something interesting out of each portrait I made.

Here’s Shuhei Yoshida with the headset.


And of course we had to photograph him with it on. For those wondering, he’s standing in front of a white wall – I used a grid with a very strong cinema blue gel on his face coupled with a custom white balance to get this effect.


Here’s Masayasu Ito, chief engineer behind the project.

Hardware director Yasuo Takahashi

Game designer Nicholas Doucet. I do like a good slow-shutter light streak photo.


That’s it for today! I’ll post more when I have another stretch of free time, sooo maybe in 6 months? See you then!

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (7)

Earning your dinner – how to ask for permission to take a photo.

I’m going to tell you guys a little photography parable today, because who doesn’t like a cute little story with a moral lesson at the end? Every now and then it’s nice to have a peek inside the mental process of a photographer in order to see how certain pictures are made. In this case it’s a pretty simple story with a simple lesson but sometimes those are the ones we need to pay the closest attention to.

Anyway, one of my favorite portraits of the year so far was shot with absolutely no preparation or foreknowledge of the subject’s existence. I’m in Fukuoka, one of Japan’s major southern cities and one of my favorite spots in all Japan. I’m there for a magazine photoshoot, which, as an editorial photographer is a rare treat. Traveling for photoshoots is significantly rarer nowadays so anytime I get to go anywhere to shoot portraits I get super stoked.

Anyway I digress. The magazine shoot was wrapped and in the bag, and I decided to stick around in Fukuoka because I had a personal shoot scheduled the next day for my Artisans project (which I’ll write about in the near future). That means I had an evening to kill in a cool city with no plans, I’ve just finished shooting and I have some serious post-shoot munchies. There’s this cheap hole-in-the-wall eatery I’ve had my eye on that’s supposed to serve the best gyoza in all of Fukuoka, so I know where I’m headed.

I dump all my gear except for my Domke with my Sony mirrorless kit and despite my great craving for delicious gyoza I decide to walk across town to the restaurant, which turned out to be a very good idea because on the way I walked past a shop and caught a glimpse of this:

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (13)

And here’s first thing I did – I walked straight past. I wasn’t even thinking about photos – I was thinking about fat juicy gyoza and the sign for the restaurant was just ahead. It only occurred to me twenty meters down the road that I had just seen something pretty cool, which then triggered the ages old internal debate for introverted photographers like me:

“Wow, that looks really cool, I really want to take some photos.”
“Nar, you’re busy and he’s busy, better stick to the original plan of going to eat gyoza.”
“Well the gyoza can wait, I’m sure…”
“Sure but you’re going to look like a real idiot turning around and walking back to that shop. Plus what if he tells you to piss off?”
“Yeah that would be pretty embarrassing actually…I wouldn’t want to look foolish…”
“You will definitely look foolish. Better leave him alone and go do what you were going to do.”

And so on. Some of you will know how this internal dialogue goes, and I find that even after years of walking up to strangers and asking their permission to take their photo, I still get that little devil voice inside my head telling me no, no, better not bother them, leave them alone, you don’t need to take a photo of them.

The thing is however, the more excuses you make for yourself to get out of interacting with people who might turn out to be scary or unpleasant, the better you’re going to get at it. And the better you get at making excuses for yourself, the fewer photos you’re going to make, which doesn’t really bode well for making a career out of photography. So let me share with you the golden rule in photography for what to do when you want something: ask for it. You don’t ask, you don’t get. Simple as that.

So what did I do? I screwed up my courage, turned around, marched purposefully back to that man’s shop…and walked straight past it again. And then I turned around and did it again. And again, until I felt I had built up enough momentum or courage or whatever I thought I needed to just walk inside and introduce myself and talk like a normal person. Because that’s what we are – normal people doing cool things, and everybody likes it when someone shows genuine interest in what you are doing.

So I guess the rest is history – although it could have been a completely different history if I had let that little voice in my head win out and just gone on to eat gyoza. These cool images wouldn’t exist, for one thing, and the next time I want to approach a stranger for a photo I’m going to find it that little bit much harder to do so. And guess what?? I went and had that gyoza afterwards, and it tasted bloody good! So I guess you really can have your cake (or gyoza) and eat it too.

All shots made with the Sony A7rII and the Carl Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 or the Batis 85mm f/1.8.

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (12)

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (11)

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (10)

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (9)

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (1)

Bonus photos! Here’s the gyoza restaurant that I was crapping on about all post, and as you can see it’s basically just some old lady’s kitchen with a counter – she was eating her own dinner right in front of me! Anyway if a place like this gets a reputation then you know it’s going to be good, and hell yes it was! 10/10 would go again. Tasted like victory.

For the curious, the store is Asahiken, in Haruyoshi.
Address: 2 Chome-13-22 Haruyoshi, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka
Phone: 092-761-3819

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (6)

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (5)

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (4)

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (3)

Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (2)

CEO Portraits: Masaaki Kanai of MUJI

Quick post today guys; this one is a portrait of MUJI CEO Masaaki Kanai that I photographed back in 2014.

Japan is known as an exporter of many things but Nordic-style furniture is not one of them. That’s where furniture and lifestyle juggernaut MUJI come in – their empire of natural fibers and wood grains has expanded across the globe in an explosive fashion over the last few years.

I met Mr. Kanai at the MUJI headquarters in Japan for about twenty minutes and was able to make a variety of portraits before my time was up. On a side note this is the photo shoot that made me decide to give Nikon the boot once and for all – I used my Nikon D4 (quite a high end camera I’d say) and the number of back focused and otherwise unusable shots due to under-performing auto focus made me so fed up that I sold the whole system and bought a into the mirrorless system instead. But that’s a story for another day!

MUJI CEO - Masaaki Kanai, Tokyo Photographer Irwin Wong (1)

Tokyo Bars – Bar Ben Fiddich in Shinjuku

Tokyo is a great place to be a photographer. In a city this big you’re going to find a lot of world class institutions, and one such institution that Tokyo is not lacking in is cocktail bars. In this post, budget airline carrier Jetstar commissioned me to photograph one certain Bar Ben Fiddich for their in-flight magazine、and let me tell you, photographing bars are some of the shoots that I most look forward to. Mainly because you get to drink the subject matter afterwards!

Bar Ben Fiddich is located in Shinjuku, and would have been impossible to find if I hadn’t been told about it. The feel when you walk in is similar to that of an apothecary or the potions room in Harry Potter – the shelves behind the bar are lined with big glass jars filled with all manner of exotic spices and seasonings. The owner Kayama-san is actually a big absinthe fan, and studied in Switzerland in order to learn how to make it himself. I tasted a little of his home-brewed absinthe and was pleasantly surprised by its taste and fragrance. Up until then I had thought of it as the kind of drink you imbibe when you’re feeling you don’t have enough lawsuits in your life. Kayama-san also makes a mean cocktail too, as you can clearly see in the photos. For the purposes of the article, he is making a muscat-flavored gin infusion thing (which I’ve embarrassingly forgotten the name of), but I do remember that it tasted AMAZING.

Anyway here are the details for anyone wishing to visit the bar and check it out:
Bar Ben Fiddich
Nishishinjuku, 1 Chome−13−7, 9th Floor

Enjoy the photos!

Shinjuku Bar Ben Fidditch (28)

Kayama-san pouring a glass of water – don’t worry it will come in useful later.

Shinjuku Bar Ben Fidditch (27)

Those are some premium looking grapes!

Shinjuku Bar Ben Fidditch (26)

A little bit of muddling and mashing

Shinjuku Bar Ben Fidditch (24)

Adding some fancy liqueur…

Shinjuku Bar Ben Fidditch (22)

Shaken and strained into a delightfully concentrated mix…

Shinjuku Bar Ben Fidditch (21)

Adding some spices for a bit of piquancy…

Shinjuku Bar Ben Fidditch (19)

Voila! Kayama-san places the cocktail on the glass of ice-water to cool it without diluting it

Shinjuku Bar Ben Fidditch (15)

Detail shot of the finished cocktail no #1…

Shinjuku Bar Ben Fidditch (14)

Detail shot #2

Shinjuku Bar Ben Fidditch (1)

The clean and cozy interior of the bar. I highly recommend checking it out!