One Man's Quest to Bring Good Coffee and Hope to Japan's Tsunami Zone

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

After the earthquake and tsunami, Yoshi Masuda set out to share his love of coffee and vintage gramophone tunes with survivors, driving across Japan in a VW bus and setting up outposts of the HOPE Cafe. His humble goal is to create a scene of normalcy and warmth in a devastated area. Mackenzie Sheppard's entrancing short documentary, Yoshi's Blend, captures his inspiring energy. The filmmaker spent weeks filming and volunteering in the tsunami zone and describes his experience in a short interview below. 


Stills from the film


The Atlantic: What brought you to the area? How did you find Yoshi and decide to do the film?

Mackenzie Sheppard: I first moved to Japan when I was five and graduated from an international school there at the age of 17. For the past few years I have been studying Film Production at UBC in Vancouver, Canada. 

I've known Yoshi Masuda for a number of years, and have always been impressed by his interesting hobbies and unique philosophical views in relation to them. After the earthquake/tsunami occurred, Yoshi was on the ground within a week of the disaster via his connections with HOPE International Development Agency. It was on my return to Japan in June, that I realized what an interesting story there was to be told in regards to Yoshi sharing his passion for coffee with victims of the disaster. I really wanted to show the whole disaster in a new light. The majority of the media tend to portray devastation in the same way -- a way that doesn't tend to ignite hope or action. My hope is that as we approach the one-year anniversary of the tsunami, people will be inspired by Yoshi's resolve and love for the Japanese people. 

What was the process of shooting like? 

I shot over a period of two months. I was never shooting consecutive days, but that time period allowed me to film him at his home in Seto, before he would go on his next trip to the tsunami zone at the end of July 2011. For a few weeks, I was up the tsunami zone volunteering for the HOPE Cafe as a manager, and running it without Yoshi there. During the last few days of volunteering, Yoshi came up by train and I began trailing him with the camera.

What's next for you?

In April, I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from UBC. Over the next year I will be directing more short docs, commercials, and music videos. 

For more work by Mackenzie Sheppard, visit http://www.mackenziesheppard.net.

Via the Vimeo HD Channel

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/02/one-mans-quest-to-bring-good-coffee-and-hope-to-japans-tsunami-zone/252592/