27.4705° S, 153.0260° E
‘There’s a great momentum in Brisbane.’
Gems in this
Tokyo is 7,156 kilometers from Brisbane, Australia, but to a kid from Japan, it might as well have been a new planet altogether. When Takeshi Takada first arrived in the city, he had little to no English — today, however, his inspiring creative influence extends from Australia all around the globe.
Takeshi is the co-founder of highly awarded creative visual effects company ALT.VFX, with studios in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo and Los Angeles. He is also a passionate contributor to Australian creativity, as a member on the Lord Mayor's Creative Brisbane Advisory Board. We spoke to Takeshi about life in Brisbane, some of his favorite spots and always packing a wetsuit.
On where you’re from
I was born in Japan in a place called Saitama Prefecture, right next to Tokyo. I also lived in Singapore from age one to three, when my father was transferred to Singapore on a project to build a road from Changi Airport to the city. We then went back to Japan and I spent the rest of my childhood there until 12; then our family moved over to Australia when I was 13. It was the year of the World Expo 88 in Brisbane.
On moving from Tokyo to Brisbane
I was definitely an alien when I landed in Australia. I spoke no English; I went to English class in Japan when I was little, but pretty much spoke none of the language. I attended English learning school, funded by the Australian government, with classmates from all over the world — Cambodia, China, El Salvador, eastern Europe and Vietnam.
It was very multicultural, in this alien nation of Australia. People used to have knife fights at lunchtime; they had come straight from places going through civil wars and were suffering from the traumatic effects of that. People used to steal lunches. I had to adjust from being a normal Japanese kid to this new world, full of people from all around the world.
On your relationship with Brisbane
Brisbane is my home. It’s truly a diverse city, and it’s got a little room to grow yet. One third of people in Brisbane are born outside Australia. It is truly a multicultural city. It used to be seen as a sleepy little town compared to Melbourne and Sydney, but it is actually growing faster than Sydney and Melbourne right now. In the creative industry, it is definitely buzzing, with new companies and artists popping up, so there’s a great momentum in the city.
On challenges moving from Japan to Australia
Until I started communicating with people in Australia, I didn’t actually know the concept of being ‘racist’, which is a big word. It’s a massive issue all around the world, but living my early life in Tokyo, I didn’t really know about conflicts of different cultures and religions, because I wasn’t exposed to many real cultural differences in Tokyo. When I arrived in Australia, I went to this school full of migrants and was able to understand different cultures and perspectives, which opened my viewpoint and inspired my creativity a lot.
On growth of ALT.VFX from Australia to America and Japan
My business partner, Colin Renshaw, and I met at another company, and we formed this partnership, running projects together: him the creative, me the producer. I felt like we just became an unbeatable team, and as Alt has expanded from Brisbane to Sydney, Melbourne, LA and now Tokyo, we try to grow that idea of a great team where we are all building something together. As founders of our own place, I hope that we can help inspire others, and with my personal background as an alien, I hope I can help inspire other Asian people especially.
‘I attended English learning school, funded by the Australian Government...people used to have knife fights at lunchtime; they had come straight from places going through civil war and were suffering from the traumatic effects of that.’
On representing the Japanese community in Brisbane
Outside of Alt, I work as a Creative Advisory Board member for the Lord Mayor in Brisbane, and I represent the Japanese community. Until recently, I was a board member of Screen Queensland, and a board member of a start-up women’s basketball team called Brisbane Sting. It’s really fulfilling to contribute back to Brisbane culture. I’m learning a lot.
In Japanese, Takeshi actually means ‘healthy’; my grandfather gave me that name. I’ve always been quite conscious of health and wellbeing, and last year I was struggling a bit health-wise. I had heartaches and headaches, and was seriously worried about myself. My best friends encouraged me to start taking up surfing, which is a great way to reset your mind and has been awesome. Traveling from our Brisbane to Sydney office this week, I brought my wetsuit so I can go surfing tomorrow morning with the crew.
On a favourite surf spot
Currumbin Alley — a surf break at Currumbin on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. This is my regular surfing spot and it’s only about an hour drive from my house. The Alley is one of the more famous breaks on the Gold Coast.
‘In the creative industry, Brisbane is definitely buzzing, with new companies and artists popping up, so there’s a great momentum in the city.’
For me, it’s about people. You meet different people in Brisbane and Sydney, you meet completely different people in Tokyo, and I get inspired by meeting new people from vastly different backgrounds. For inspiration in Brisbane specifically, the National Art Gallery is a great place. They’ve done really well developing the whole place as a gallery and museum precinct. I also enjoy watching rugby and surfing.
On good food in Brisbane
There’s a new Japanese restaurant called Shunsai. The owner and chef, Shun Mori, is an ‘exceptional alien’ who grew up in Australia, lived and worked in Japan as a chef, and is now in Brisbane. He launched this new restaurant six months ago — a great authentic Japanese restaurant in Brisbane. Another exceptional spot is Gerard’s Bistro, a Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant tucked away behind James Street.
On a spot worth a visit
Brisbanites tend to have a soft spot for James Street — the hub of restaurants, cafés and boutiques that nestle on the edge of Fortitude Valley.
‘You meet different people in Brisbane and Sydney, you meet completely different people in Tokyo, and I get inspired by meeting new people from vastly different backgrounds.’
On good coffee
Neighbourhood Coffee Roasters. The best coffee, and an awesome spot to take your family and have weekend brunch together.
On window seat or aisle
I’m definitely a window person. I like to see what’s outside, preferably at the front. Australia is so awesome and an exceptionally welcoming country. When I finished uni, I got a job in Tokyo in the advertising industry, and left Brisbane for eight years in my twenties. I remember taking off from Brisbane, looking out the window, and said to myself, ‘I’m coming back here, and I’m going to make sure I return all the favors which this country has done for me.’ I still remember the view I had out the plane window that day.
On Brisbane in one word