The Great Sakata Fire of 1976 destroyed over 1,700 buildings. Although Iyama's home was not affected by the fire, it had to be rebuilt as part of the redevelopment efforts. A television network, which had focused its attention on Sakata's topographical similarities with Ishinomaki where severely damaged by the tsunami of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, had once interviewed Iyama about the recovery efforts as someone who was very knowledgeable about Sakata. However, he had an unhappy look on his face when asked about the circumstances in Sakata and whether the prompt recovery efforts were a success story. He believes in immediate action rather than sighing over the circumstances though.

 

During World War II, with the personal ties he formed during the days when he had gone regularly to the yose (halls for storyteller's performances) in Ueno, Iyama continued to provide Shonai Yose performances by serving as the owner of the yose hall. In addition, following World War II, he also obtained a ballroom dancing instructor’s license in Ginza, and played a leading role in the development of Yamagata's dance culture. Iyama also developed ski enthusiasts in Sakata by providing an original tour, which he tried to make as fun as possible. The jazz concert, which he organized six years ago, is still a popular topic of conversation among the locals.

 

This spring, he is planning to invite writer Go Osaka who would be part of an event which can be best described as the essence of Sakata literary culture. He rides his bicycle all over the city in an effort to plan a successful event.

 

Iyama, a Sakata native, is also regarded among bartenders as a star of Japanese cocktail history and has admirers from all across the country. His followers and admirers visit his bar from afar to try the authentic Yukiguni. They refer to the trip as a pilgrimage to Kern. The movements of Iyama, the father of Yukiguni, when shaking his cocktails are truly graceful. They are purposeful and beautiful, just like his cocktails.

Keiichi Iyama

Iyama was born in Sakata City, Yamagata Prefecture in 1926. After graduating from Sakata Commercial High School, he moved to Tokyo and worked at Toshiba Corporation's Tsurumi plant until just before the end of World War II. In 1955, he opened Kern in Sakata. Kern is open every day of the year and opens in the morning as a cafe. Iyama's eldest son and his wife are on duty during the day and Iyama and his wife at night. They also serve sweets. Iyama serves as a consultant for the Shonai branch of the Nippon Bartenders Association and is also a songwriter. One song he has written is called "Yuki no Mogamigawa" (Snow-covered Mogami River).

Cooperation: Kazuhiro Kadota, Yamagata Broadcasting Co., Ltd.

Spirit and Spine
‘Kitohone’

created by
THE SPIRIT AND SPINE
CREATIVE FORCE,Tokyo

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
photography
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
ISUKE INC. and ICA
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)