“Mr. Tsuguji” -
An affectionate nickname that many Akita locals use to refer to Tsuguharu Foujita. One of those people is the matron at A1, a cafe frequented by Foujita while creating his mural.
It first opened its doors in 1935 as a cafe in the Kawabata shopping arcade. A lively place, it boasted 30 female employees and a large dance floor. It reportedly also included a hip salon, and the owner in those days was a signboard designer with an artistic eye, around which people of culture gathered naturally. The cafe moved to its current locale in 1970, and has a carved mural based on a sketch done by the cafe’s founder. It is rather impressive, so we recommend you check it out.
Inside the premise you will find a trace of Foujita that cannot be seen anywhere else: a tiny picture drawn by the man himself on a matchbox. The cafe hostesses of the day handed out matchboxes in lieu of business. Though the details are murky, it appears that Foujita designed the image on those matchboxes: a picture with the name “A1” and the hostess’ pseudonym neatly printed on it.
“A certain antique store gave me duplicates of the matchboxes, saying I should decorate the store with them because Mr. Tsuguji drew them and frequented the cafe,” said A1’s matron. As the store includes photos taken by Foujita, A1 is a place where art history comes alive.
Today, A1 is a Japanese-style Western restaurant, but you can still order the tongue stew and beef stew that is said to have been a Foujita favorite back in the day.