Christopher Berry is a native New Yorker, of Italian heritage, based in Tokyo. With an incredible sense of style and a penchant for beautiful cigars (and Japanese notebooks), we caught up with the Esquire Japan writer in Milan.
What’s the first cigar you really remember enjoying?
It was strong, cheap and purchased one evening at a remote suburban gas station with a college buddy who felt equally restless to escape campus life. The smoking experience itself was hasty and almost entirely forgettable, but the memories it fostered (driving down Pennsylvania’s dark country roads in the winter with a good friend) are what largely remain.
Your current favourite cigar and why...
The Davidoff Signature No. 2. I tend to favour more subtle, easy-smoking sticks; I read that the No. 2 was Zino’s favourite and it’s pretty easy to see why. Baking chocolate, damp hay, cinnamon, coffee and white pepper are the most consistent notes from start to finish. And with Davidoff’s miraculously engineered sticks, you can be guaranteed that a No. 2 in Hong Kong is going to smoke the exact same as it does in Tokyo, Europe or New York, every time. That’s been my experience, anyway. It’s the cigar I recommend most to novices (like me!)
What have you done recently, for the first time?
I recently went to Okinawa for the first time, concurrent with the 75th anniversary of its reversion to Japan. A breathtaking and still tragically misunderstood place, with the most proud and generous people you could meet.
Perfect setting to enjoy a cigar...
Whenever and wherever you are prepared to give it your full, undiluted appreciation—and relax.
Most Prized Possession?
In a burning house scenario? Probably my Godfather’s paintings. He was a native Florentine (as well as an architect, book shop owner and art conservationist) and followed the Italian metaphysical school. I can remember him painting them in his studio like it was yesterday.
What's something always worth paying for?
Efficiency of time.
Favourite place to live?
I’m partial to Japan…
Everything works the way it’s supposed to, and it’s easy to live here with dignity, no matter your station in life. These factors are, of course, tempered by societal and workplace expectations that are generally higher than in the Western world. I find it all balances out nicely at the end of the day. The pace of life in Tokyo is also quite similar to that of my hometown, New York.
What prompted you to move there?
I had a mentor in High School who was a Judo Bronze Medalist in the Olympics. Serbian, 350 pounds, 6’5”, with a booming voice and a big pumpkin head. From looking at him, you’d never have guessed he spoke fluent Japanese and had lived there for years. Yet when he picked up the phone, his demeanor completely changed and his voice broke into hushed, poetic tones that equally confused and astonished me. He was my first real connection to Asia and helped me in a lot of ways at an important time in my development.
Which brands are you enjoying right now?
Kokuyo grid-ruled Campus notebooks in A5 size. I buy them in bulk now and they are really great for journaling or note-taking, and the paper has a nice tooth and generous hand while not being too precious. They’re among the nicer notebooks for sale at the convenience stores in Japan!
Finally, a rule to live by...
Judge people by their actions, not their words.