Japan Italy Bridge interviews: Kenta Kambara and Nobuyuki Arai

We are back with another installment of our series “Japan Italy Bridge Interviews“! This time, we had the pleasure of interviewing the amazing Kenta Kambara, a wheelchair dancer from Japan, and Nobuyuki Arai, video director. These two collaborated with Gerbera Design’s brand, KUDEN by TAKAHIRO SATO. The promotional video that they created together will soon be available online, but before that, let’s hear about how it all began and what they thought of the experience.

JIB: To start, please introduce yourself.
K: My name is Kenta Kambara and I am a freelance wheelchair dancer who was born with a disability called spina bifida.
I work as a system engineer in my day job, and outside of that, I am a street performer and also an aerial acrobat and have performed at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.

A: My name is Nobuyuki Arai. After graduating from college as a photography major, I went to Germany and the Czech Republic to continue taking photos, and then began my work as a professional photographer in 2014. I’ve also been producing videos since 2017, and have also been working as a travel videographer since 2018.

JIB: Could you tell us about what led to your connection with KUDEN?
K: This all started was when an acquaintance of mine first told me that I’ve been invited to perform. Following that, I received a long and enthusiastic message from Mr. Sato, and it was his message that made the decision for me.
I was quite busy during that stretch of time, and it was also a period when I received many other offers to perform in videos too, so I was a little unsure. But his passionate message and him telling me that he could be flexible with the shooting schedule were what made me decide, “Yes, I’ll accept your offer.”

A: I was originally already acquainted with Mr. Kambara, the dancer and he asked if I would take part in this project as well. At the time, I have yet to come to know Mr. Sato, but he watched my videos on YouTube, and then asked to speak to me through Mr. Kambara. That was how it began for me.

JIB: Please tell us more about this collaboration that you’re doing with KUDEN now.
K: After accepting Mr. Sato’s offer, hearing about the brand concept from him, and receiving the storyboard from Mr. Arai, I began to think about my choreography as a dancer.
The Samurai Mode clothes were to be the stars of this video, so I wondered, “What movements would place emphasis on them?”. I thought of creating an atmosphere akin to swaying in the wind to bring out the unique characteristics of the clothes, like raising my arm and letting the wind blow against the sleeves. I wondered, what will come out of such movements that capture such an effect, or movements that are softer and lighter?
Adding to that, I combined those ideas with choreography and movements that I already have, and looked at the local topography while considering “how I would dance in this spot (chosen by Mr. Arai)”.

A: Like how it is with the Samurai Mode Jacket, Mr.Sato has a lot passionate beliefs and feelings, so I wondered, “Should create something that I personally really, really like?”
Of course, in the end, I did come up with something I personally liked, but I also pondered over what Mr. Sato was looking for. For example, right before the shoot, it’s sad but we heard that the sewing factory went bust, and I felt that it would be great if we could express that Mr. Sato’s emotions surrounding these clothes in the video. And, what was going to express those emotions was Mr. Kambara’s movements, so then I had to think about how I could magnify Mr. Kambara’s moves. For the shooting location, I chose a place that was wide and where nature’s textures came through strongly. From there, I took in ideas and created the final product.
The Samurai Mode Jacket, Mr.Kambara’s dance, Mr.Sato’s emotions; there were so many “idea elements” and combining them together created the video.

JIB: What made you want to work with KUDEN for this promotional video?
K: As I’ve mentioned, I was probably reading the personal message from Mr. Sato that made me decide that I wanted to do this. Because it really was a very long, very enthusiastic message (lol). And although what could be done isn’t much because of our schedule, I’m grateful that I was given the chance to work with such a passionate person after all.

A: Before the production of this video, I’ve actually had a few shoots with Mr. Kambara before. Mr. Sato have watched them but… they were simple shoots that were done at the time, and both Mr. Kambara and Mr. Sato spoke about wanting to do a proper shoot some day. So, when Mr. Kambara contacted me about this new project, I was more than happy to join in and be a part of it.
It was after that when I got to meet Mr. Sato, and while speaking to him, I could tell that he was a very passionate person with strong beliefs. To me, Mr. Sato is older than me and a mentor, but Mr. Sato said to me, “Use me (this project) to have fun”, which made me feel that as long as I was to produce a video with Mr. Kambara and Mr. Sato, I would honestly be able to create something interesting.

JIB: After having completed this shoot, what do you think of the experience?
K: After watching the video, you’d probably understand that it was quite hard work (lol). Especially because it was raining heavily that day. But the footage turned out as it did because of that, and thinking about it now, it was fun and this is something that was only possible because of that downpour. It was tough, but that made it fun as well.

A: Every time I’m about film something, I’m always very nervous. Because of that, I’ve felt quite a bit of pressure from the get-go. Rather than creating something from scratch, this time, I had Mr. Kambara’s dance in my head, which he had shown me numerous times, and had already picked a song that would be best suited for it. I spent days cooped up at home, listening to several hundred songs to decide on that.
I definitely also had the sense that “I can’t deliver something disappointing!”. Even on the day of the shoot, I kept watching the filmed footage and thinking, “How can I make this better?”.
In the past, when I’ve done shoots with Mr. Kambara, he has never said to me “I can’t do that” when I asked anything of him, so I ended up having more and more requests, like “I’d like you to do that”, or “I’d like a bit more from you”. But, in the end, I guess that’s because Mr. Kambara fulfills them for me (lol). The weather wasn’t great either, but I feel that we were able to create something wonderful.

JIB: What are your future plans? Will we be seeing you collaborate together again in the future?
K: Going forward, I want to continue taking on the challenge of more interesting projects too. In terms of specific goals, I hope to perform at the opening or closing ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Especially so for the Olympic Games. There are no events in the Olympic Games that wheelchair-bound athletes can participate in, but we can still take part in the ceremony, so there’s that.
Instead of limiting myself with the idea that “I can only participate in the Paralympics because I’m wheelchair-bound”, I’m setting my sights on the Olympics to dance on that stage and create more interest in the Paralympic by doing so. I think this makes it all that much more meaningful.
And to shoot something with this team again… Of course, I’d want to. I want to, but when asking myself, “Will you be able to deliver something that tops this?”, I can’t say with a hundred percent certainty nor confidence that I will be able to come up with an even better choreography than this time’s. In other words, I am satisfied with this video. I feel that we’ve made something that’s way better than I could’ve ever imagined.

A: When you film a video, you can follow your own rules, but when I’m creating something, I want to make people feel that “rules don’t matter”. And that’s why, for this project, I decided to put aside everything that I had always and ever done to steadily create something new with a fresh mindset and without being bound by rules or methods.
To me, I do feel that we really did produce something great for this promotional video (PV), but of course, while doing this, I’m still hoping that I’ll create that’s even better for my next work and I’ll work towards achieving something better in the future, so with those thoughts in mind, I believe that I’ll certainly be able to create something amazing for my next production.
Rather than saying exactly when the second phase will take place or what it will be, I think that I would be better if I can feel and look at Mr. Sato’s and Mr. Kambara’s emotions at that time with a fresh perspective and then bring it to life in a video.

JIB: For our blog, please tell us what you think of the relationship between Japan and Italy.
K: My impression is that the relationship between Italy and Japan isn’t distant, but neither are the two countries very close. But Japanese people love Italian cuisine. Of course, I love Italian cuisine too. I’ve never been to Italy, but I want to visit someday. And, if possible, I want to dance there too!

A: The impression that I have of Italy is that it is cool. Be it with fashion or food, or cars and so on. Japanese receive good influences from them.
On a personal note, I have experience of working with an Italian company president. He was very unique and smart and kind. He had a friendly image, and I have even gone to Italy when he invited me to his wedding. Compared to a Japanese wedding, it was much more informal and had an enjoyable atmosphere.
I got to see all kinds of wedding celebrations when carrying out bridal photoshoots, and because of that, wedding ceremonies are have left a deep impression on my mind.
I originally wanted to be positively influenced by Italian style and I think that there aren’t many Japanese like me who have received such wonderful influences from Italians.
Through these, I’ve personally received a lot of positive influence from Italy, but I still really don’t know what kind of positive influence Japanese people can leave on Italy, so I think that going forward, it would be great if I, as a videographer and as someone who conveys information, can deliver Japan’s good points to Italy. This time’s video can also be considered as one of those. I think it would be great if we were able to convey the aura of the Japanese Samurai through Mr. Kenta Kambara’s dance, which resembles the wielding of a sword in battle, and through the jacket that he wears, which was inspired by Japanese traditional Kimono.

JIB: Lastly, please leave a message for our readers.
K: I’m very excited about having Italians watch our video. I’d be happy if you feel something being conveyed to you because it will be through dance instead of a language.

A: I’m very glad that the video that we made will be seen by lots of people within the country and from abroad as well!
Talk about the next project has also sprung up within the team, so I’ll take this opportunity to say that we hope that you’ll keep an eye out for our upcoming activities. We’ll continue creating amazing productions, so please do look forward to it.

And that was our intimate interview with Kenta Kambara and Nobuyuki Arai! Having read it, how do you feel? What do you think? Do share your comments with us on our Facebook page!

Also, before you go, do know that the Samurai Mode Jacket mentioned in the interview is now available in their online store alongside their newly released Samurai Mode Shirt! They do also offer gorgeous vintage Kimono and Haori in their store, so do make sure you check it out! You never know what you may find!

– Contact –
E-mail: support@ku-den.jp

– Links –
Website: https://ku-den.jp/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kudenjp/