Coffee With: Daisuke Matsushima of Paddlers Coffee

May 16, 2017

Daisuke Matsushima is an affable guy who knows that a cafe is more than a place to get a good cup of coffee. He spent many years in Portland before traveling the world and seems to have friends at every turn when he’s in town, which, lucky for us, is often. He opened the welcoming Paddlers Coffee in the Nishihara neighborhood of Tokyo four years ago this month, and has since been serving up Stumptown coffee and good vibes to his locals and travelers alike. But his inspiration to open the cafe came from an unlikely–and devastating–occurrence.

After traveling for 9 months throughout the US and Central America, the Fukushima earthquake hit Japan.

“I was in Brazil when the earthquake hit five years ago. I decided to go back and help out in Japan,” he says. “I volunteered to make sure everybody had food. The whole city was gone,” he says.

He called on people he knew to donate money, food and blankets. He opened up his bank account to help the fallen city. He says this sense of community helped inspire his decision to open a cafe to get people to come together in the kinetic city of Tokyo.

“That was one of the reasons I started Paddler’s,” he says. “I thought people in Tokyo needed a place to go and hang out.”

From his own experience he knows the good traveler karma that comes with talking to strangers and asking locals where to go, and he’s paying it forward at Paddler’s in both English and Japanese.

“We make sure that travelers have a good time. I always give suggestions to people who come visit. I always help them find the good spots,” he says. “I know how it feels being in a different country not knowing anyone. I want to people come to Japan and not just go to a tourist spot.”

He shared with us some of his photos and good advice for traveling like a local.

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How do you take your coffee?

Black. (Always!)

What's your favorite place to drink morning coffee?

The bench outside of my cafe.

What makes Tokyo different than anywhere else?

You can experience the most crowded train rides in the world.

Do you have a secret hideout?

The best ramen shop in my hometown, Nakano.

When traveling is there anything that you never leave home without?

My camera - a Contax T2.

When friends come to visit, where do you take them?

My favorite local restaurants that they can't find in little alleyways.

What's different about coffee in Portland and Tokyo?

Tokyo definitely has a wide range of choices. There is the traditional Japanese Kissaten, which is a coffee house that doesn't necessary focus on the quality of coffee, but is more focused on serving food such as sandwiches, spaghetti and other snacks. The Kissaten is usually popular for an older generation. There are also a lot of international coffee shops that have variety of roasting methods.

You are a keen world traveler. What are your rules for the road?

Say yes to pretty much everything.

Some people try to plan ahead–I would say just dive in and go with the flow because you will meet people and you’ll try something you’ve never done before.

How do you meet people when you’re traveling?

Just start talking to people. I was in Cuba for a month hitchhiking, I would just go up to people and start talking to them. Some people say it could be dangerous, but I never felt in danger.

To me, the best thing about traveling is meeting people. I run a coffee shop because I get to meet people and it kind of feels like traveling.

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In honor of their 4th Anniversary, Paddlers Coffee launched a special box set with Colombia Julio Corpus, an exlusive roast from Stumptown Coffee. Check out their instagram for more views of the cafe and Daisuke's travels.