A cultural engineer behind Fukuoka’s coffee scene
Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, said: “Coffee, the favorite beverage of the civilised world.” Even today, we all talk about love, read books, and enjoy music with a cup of coffee in our hands. Coffee and culture are deeply tied to each other. Of course, there is a number of good coffee shops in Fukuoka, but manucoffee is one of the few leading the city’s coffee scene. Masamori Fukuda oversees a lot of things as the president of manucoffee, from store development to finance. He is also well-versed in Fukuoka’s cultural scene, including music and food. He talks about how he sees the current cultural context in the city and his attachment to his work.
“I was a serious volleyball player until my 4th year of university, and I wanted to stay involved in volleyball in some way, but when I thought about it realistically, I gave up”. It seemed that he had always been a coffee lover, but surprisingly, he was a genuine jock. And before he got into the coffee business, he worked in the music industry.
“One of my seniors in college was a DJ. I thought that maybe he could teach me, so I started by buying vinyls and equipment. I was listening to fast drum-based music, reggae, and ragga jungle then. One day, I saw Olive Oil from Oil Works play for the first time in Fukuoka, and I was shocked. He was playing warps and Ninja Tunes that I had never heard before. People in Fukuoka weren’t interested in that kind of music: mainstream hip-hop was popular back in the days. From that point onwards, I got more into music and also had a lot of opportunities to meet various people through it.”
There is no doubt that music and coffee go together like no others, but how did he end up working at manucoffee?
“I didn’t really have a specific reason. I just moved in the neighborhood of manucoffee (laughs). I started out as a part-timer in the evening, while I was also working as a manager at a vinyl store and doing other music-related work during the day, along DJing at events on the weekends. While I was a manager at the vinyl store, I once held an event where we served coffee and people came to listen to our music because I knew coffee and music had a synergy. After that, there was a plan of expanding into more areas, so I was involved in the opening of the Daimyo and Yanagibashi stores. My title has now changed to president of this company after taking over the founder Soushi Nishioka, but I still enjoy doing many things without being overwhelmed.”
Note: Yanagibashi store is no longer in business.
It sheds light on the creative side of the city as more and more artists, musicians and designers have recently chosen Fukuoka as their base. The awareness of the city as a creative capital isn’t yet mainstream, but there’s a reason why those creators set up their residence in Fukuoka anyway.
“Rent is reasonable and it’s easy to try out or start something. Also, it’s compact, so you can’t run business at a large scale like in Tokyo, but if you do things right, you can survive for a long time. Above all, there are always lots of people who you’ll want to talk to more, no matter how many times you meet them. Their characters are unique, and I’m honestly happy that there are so many people in Fukuoka with different styles in various fields.”
manucoffee, which attracts many talented people from various industries, has a wide range of activities based on coffee, such as producing original goods, holding events and developing organic fertilizers using coffee grounds. This coffee shop is now becoming a creative hub. Masamori’s role goes beyond simply being the president: he organically builds relationships with artists and engages in various collaborations.
“It’s easier to meet new people here because they come and have coffee at least once. But I know I’m not a genuine creator, so I’m more comfortable taking the lead from people who are doing interesting things. I make friends and support them to make things easier for them. There were many times when things didn’t go as planned when I tried to take a side of creator, and I realized that if I was going to be the person behind scene, I completely had to be backseat player guy. That’s how I came to my current style.”
As Masamori said he now established his own work style and aesthetics, but what dose he see for the future of Fukuoka.
“In the end, I believe that things like music, art, and VJs can stimulate and stir people’s emotions. This will become memories and memories that the younger generation will pass on to the next generation. I’m not saying today’s younger generation doesn’t have respect to senior, but they are flat in a good way. They have appreciation for the achievements of the pioneers and what they have left behind, but they also want to do the same for themselves. That’s why I think it’s the younger generation that is creating the trends. In the past, it used to be a place to send out the message, but now it’s moved to all online platform. So, it’s all about how to preserve it now, whether it’s a photograph or something else. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the matter of time, so it might be a good idea to use coffee as a way to meet people and talk you don’t normally meet, or listen to music with them.”
“I often think about what people, especially those who are rooted in the local area, find interesting. We don’t need to say, ‘This is what’s great about Fukuoka!’. It’s good if we can raise the quality of the city together. Even if it doesn’t reach a large number of people, I hope there will be things that attracts those who truly understand authenticity whether it’s a spot or a certain movement. The more the better but it’s also important each initiator will value the local area while maintaining their own sensibility and independent attitude. I hope we can create something valuable for the city of Fukuoka if it’s made by a coffee shop like us or other people.”
*All safety measures against the new coronavirus were taken during the interview
Masamori Fukuda (manucoffee CEO)
President of manucoffee (appointed in 2020). He runs and manages three branches (Daimyo, Haruyoshi, and Yakuin) in Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture, carefully brewing each cup from seed to cup.
Interview and text：Takaaki Miyake
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