File No.015
Tadatomo Oshima (IDÉE)
Takahiro Shibata (EATer)
Kazufumi Otsuka (EATer)

Megumi Seki

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相場 正一郎さん 『緑と家族愛に包まれた、心地よくつながる暮らし』
Shoichiro Aiba
"LIFE" and "LIFE son" Managing Chef / Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

『緑と家族愛に包まれた、心地よくつながる暮らし/A Pleasant Life with Love and Green』


代々木公園に程近い、代々木八幡商店街にあるイタリアンレストラン「LIFE」と、昨年4月に参宮橋にオープンした「LIFE son」のオーナーシェフを務める相場正一郎さん。オリジナルプロダクトの制作をはじめ、地元の情報を集積したフリーペーパー『PARK LIFE』を発行、近隣のショップとローカルイベントに参加するなど、シェフという肩書きにとらわれることなく、マイペースで町に根ざした活動も行っている。




Shoichiro Aiba is a managing chef of Italian restaurants “LIFE” at Yoyogi-hachiman shopping mall near Yoyogi Park and “LIFE son” opened last April in Sangubashi. In addition to his role as a chef, he has been involved in many other activities such as developing original products, publishing a local free paper called PARK LIFE, organizing local events with other shops and so on.


Aiba’s house is located between those two restaurants. He lives in a forty-year-old vintage condo in a quiet residential area near Yamate Street. “The landscape here is similar to my hometown in Tochigi”, said Aiba. As you step out onto the balcony from his large living room, the view of luscious green landscape refresh your mind as if you were not in the center of Tokyo but in the forest. As Aiba said “although I try not to have too many stuff in this house, I do feel relaxed with hobby tools”, there are guitars, cameras, surfboards and other hobby tools in every room. How many hobbies he has! 


On a sunny Saturday afternoon, we talked with him about his work and private life while enjoying the view from the window.

























―Let us start with the reason you chose culinary career.


Because my parents ran a delicatessen in Tochigi, I thought I would do something relates to cooking in future very naturally. Also my uncle’s a log cabin-style restaurant influenced me a lot.


―You went to Italy right after graduating from high school without attending Japanese vocational college, didn’t you?


My father encouraged me to do so because he thought that I should gain more and more experiences while young. Since all of my cousins went abroad to study, I always though that my turn would come next.


―Why did you decide to go to Italy?


When I was a high school student, there was a big “Italy boom” in Japan. I saw a young chef from an Italian restaurant on a Japanese cooking program called “Ryori-no-Tetsujin (Iron Chef)” and admired him (laugh).


―So, do you like Italian food most?


No, I love Chinese food (laugh). My family always spend New Year holiday in Yokohama. My father has lots of fond memories in the city because he enjoyed his college life there. I may love the time with my family in Yokohama China Town rather than Chinese food itself.




















―What did you learn in Italy besides cooking technique?


“Give first priority to your family, and leave your work on the back burner”. This way of thinking had a profound effect on me. Therefore I say to my staff that they can get some days off if there is any family commitment. All the people working for my restaurants have good relationship, too. And I cherish the time with my family, such as sitting at table together.


―What did you do after you came back to Japan?


In Italy, I met an apparel brand owner who often came to the restaurant I use to work. After I came back to Japan, he told me that he would open a restaurant in Harajuku and asked me to be its manager. I said yes and worked there for three years.


―And then you opened “LIFE”. Is there any particular reason to choose Yoyogi-hachiman?


When I worked for the restaurant in Harajuku, I had to bring monthly sales report to the head office in Hatsudai by bike. Because I didn’t familiar with Tokyo at that time, the places I knew were only Yoyogi-hachiman and Yoyogi-uehara where I always passed to go to Hatsudai. So, when I decided to open my own restaurant, the name of the area in my head were these two only (laugh).
















―These last few years, Yoyogi-hachiman shopping area becomes livelier with many café and restaurants run by people of your generation. But I suppose it wasn’t like that when you opened “LIFE”. Wasn’t it a decision required much courage?


To be honest, I was very anxious in the beginning. What really did it were the words of my father.


―Did he give you an advice?


Since my father had run a delicatessen for long time, I asked him to come with me when I looked some properties beforehand. When he saw the place where “LIFE” is, he said lightly “I’m quite sure that local people will come this place”(laugh). His words gave me a push I needed.




















―Did you have a certain image of your ideal restaurant before you opened “LIFE”?


When I came back to Japan, there was a big “café boom” in Japan. I saw Japanese café after I came back and felt really comfortable to stay there as the place for young people to chat with their friends although it’s totally different from the ones in Paris or Milan where café has its own culture. So I had a rough image of my ideal restaurant which has a style of café and serve Italian food.


―Why did you give English name to the Italian restaurant?


After studying Italy, people tend to give an Italian name to their own restaurant. But there were so many Italian restaurants in Tokyo at that time and I didn’t want my restaurant to become one of those. Mine had to be unique, one-of-a-kind restaurant. That’s why I gave an English name, “LIFE”, to it.


―The interior of “LIFE” is also impressive. Did you use any shops or restaurants as a reference?


I used my favorite furniture shop “TRUCK” as a reference. When I visited their shop in Osaka, their “self-build” concept inspired me. So I decided to use my own hands when I open my restaurant.




















―昨年4月にオープンした2軒目の「LIFE son」は、最初から隣駅の参宮橋でと決めていたんですか?




―How was the reputation for “LIFE” when you opened it?


As my father advised me, local people soon accepted us as a “local cafeteria”. Since the locals became our regular customers, I didn’t have serious financial problems. I think I was really lucky.  Now most of our customers come regularly.


―What do you think is the reason you could have so many regular customers?


Although it’s an Italian restaurant, we serve Japanese daily dishes like cooked seaweed and sweet radish on the side of lunch plates. My father cooks those dishes. We could attract elder people and give relaxing atmosphere in the restaurant because of his dishes, I think.


―So your father cooked those relishes!


I served prosciutto or salami in the beginning, but my father said, “You can’t serve salty relish with salty food” and gave me the daily dishes he cooked forcibly (laugh). I wasn’t happy with this at first because I thought it wouldn’t match. But our customers really love it despite to my worry. Now all the ex-LIFE members who started their own restaurants use my father’s dishes.


―Your second restaurant “LIFE son” opened last April in Sangubashi. Did you have the location in mind when the idea came up?


I was thinking to have my new restaurant in Hatsudai or Sangubashi. Since I have to go there everyday, it’s not practical to have my working place far from my home (laugh). So this condo is located between those two restaurants. And I like to invite people to my place. I often meet up with my friends at “LIFE” and have a meal together before I bring them to my house.


















温かみのある木製の家具に惹かれますね。あと、子どもがいるということもあって、できるだけモノを少なくして、シンプルに暮らすように心がけています。あと、オーストラリアの雑誌「Smith Journal」は、インテリアの参考にしたりしています。


―How long have you lived here?


For three years. I used to live in a different place in same area and was interested in this condo. I looked for larger places in this area because my child was born. The condo has perfect living environment. I’m sure that I couldn’t find better place.


―The view from the balcony is amazing.


This area is so greenery that you will not even feel you are in Tokyo. I feel relaxed being here because the landscape is similar to my hometown in Tochigi. As I bring greens and plants from my restaurants to home during winter (laugh), inside of my house is also very green now.


―Do you have any particular taste for interior?


I like warm wooden furniture. Because we have a child now, I try to live simple without too many stuff. An Australian magazine called Smith Journal is a good reference of interior for me.





















―Your house is really enjoyable with cameras and guitars around.


I have lots of hobbies and feel comfortable surrounded by things I love, such as cameras, guitars, surfboards, skateboards, radio control cars… I always buy new things after chatting with my friends with same interests (laugh). A photographer who lives near here has this camera case from Patagonia. I came across it at a shop in Kamakura and bought it on impulse. I took all these pictures here. I keep taking it since I was in Italy. As the overseas sceneries are just perfect for a picture, I really enjoyed it.


―Where is your favorite place in this house?


This sofa is my place in this house. I always sit here with the footstool to unwind myself. My son does same thing when I don’t use it (laugh).


―Do you have a piece of furniture that you are emotionally attached to?


It should be a natural wood table I bought at “Pacific Furniture Service” about fifteen years ago. I went there to buy a sideboard, but I fell in love with the table at first glance. After thinking and wondering for very long time, I bought both of those. When we moved in this house, in fact, we were about to buy a new bigger table because our baby was born. However we decided to buy an extra top board to cherish it forever. My wife and I have a special fondness for this table. Also, this kid’s high chest specially ordered to TRUCK is a notable piece for me. Since it’d take about 6 months to get this, I ordered soon after my wife told me that she was pregnant. I asked “TRUCK” to make it slightly bigger than ready-made ones. Now it’s full of my son’s stuff. My wife and I thought that this chest should be at a place where we can always see. That’s why it’s in our living room. My son can’t reach its top drawer, though.










最近、周囲に同じような志を持ったお店が増えて、みんなと仲良くしてもらっています。「Little Nap COFFEE STAND」の濱田君とも、よく話すんですけど、もっと町に還元できるイベントができればいいなと思っています。昨年11月に、代々木八幡エリアの飲食店8軒で『ヨヨハチハシゴ』という、参加店のワインが飲み歩ける100人限定のイベントをやったんですけど、予想に反してチケットはすぐに完売。ワイングラス片手に、赤ら顔でみんなが町を歩いている感じがいいなって(笑)。


―フリーペーパー『PARK LIFE』や雑誌『Base』も、地域密着というか、町づくりのようなことをコンセプトにしているのですか?








―After visiting your house, I feel you value your relationship with your family and friends. What kind of activities would you like to do through “LIFE” in the future?


Recently, there are many like-minded shops in this area and all of the shops get along really well. Mr. Hamada at “Little Nap COFFEE STAND” and I often discuss about the event we’d like to do in the future, which will give back something to the local community. We organized an event called “Yoyohachi Hashigo” last November. During the event, limited one hundred people who bought a ticket beforehand could have free refills of wine at any participating shops and restaurants. To our surprise, the tickets were immediate sellout. It was fun to see red-faced happy people staggered along (laugh).


―You always do things with community-based approach. Do you have similar concept to publish the free paper PARK LIFE and Base magazine?


There is a café called SHOZO in my hometown, Kuroiso, Tochigi and the café’s always tried to develop the town. The café’s owner, Shozo, has created new communities long before the “café boom”. His thoughts and ideas influenced me in some way, I think. The encounter with the editor, Mitsuharu Yamamura (BOOKLUCK), also changed me. We met through an interview and found that we have similar thoughts and hobbies. Since then we start to make magazines and free papers together.


―The idea of “a free paper made by a restaurant” is interesting.


Go to shopping after walking around Yoyogi park and having lunch in “LIFE” - I felt that our customers would like us to set some “walking routes” like this. I though it’d be great if they become happy to see this paper with some information of some local shops. Apart from publication, it’s always good thing if my activities can give back to the local community. Yoyogi-hachiman is different from downtowns like Shibuya, Harajuku, Daikanyama or Jiyugaoka. I’d be grateful if “LIFE” could produce communities and good feelings with our own local style.







Translation : Aya Takatsu


相場 正一郎

1975年、栃木生まれ。総菜屋を営む両親のもとで育ち、18才の時に修行のため単身イタリアへ留学。帰国後、原宿のレストラン勤務を経て、2003年に代々木八幡でイタリアンレストラン「LIFE」をオープンさせる。レシピ本の出版、フリーペーパーや雑誌、プロダクトを制作するなど、幅広い活動が注目されている。2012年には参宮橋に姉妹店「LIFE son」もオープン。ふたつの店のキッチンに自らも立ち、メディア対応もこなすなど、多忙な日々を過ごす。


Shoichiro Aiba

Born in Tochigi in 1975. He was grown up with parents who ran a delicatessen, and moved to Italy to study cooking at age of 18. After going back to Japan, he started to work at a restaurant in Harajuku. In 2003, he opened his own Italian restaurant “LIFE” in Yoyogi-hachiman. His various activities such as publishing cooking books, free papers and magazines always gather broad attention. In 2012, his second restaurant “LIFE son” was opened in Sangubashi. He is extremely busy being managing chef of two restaurants at once and responding to the media as the owner. 

写真:関 めぐみさん
Photo: Megumi Seki

Born in Washington D.C., the US. Her one-month-only photo exhibition in Ishiki beach in Hayama in August 2010 got a reputation as well as her photo book “Hatchi-gatsu no Syashinkan (The Photo Studio in August)” featuring the photos showed in the exhibition. Recently she works for magazines, advertisements, catalogues and artists’ photo books.