Yoshinobu Nakayama

Discover Coffee


Yoshinobu Nakayama

中山 吉伸


Barista Message Yoshinobu Nakayama

Promotion Support Department / Barista

From Gihu Prefecture



Competition results

  • 2012

    Japan Siphonist Championship: 2nd Place

  • 2013

    Japan Siphonist Championship: Champion

  • 2013

    World Siphonist Championship: 2nd Place

  • 2014

    Japan Siphonist Championship: 2nd Place

  • 2015

    Japan Siphonist Championship: Champion

  • 2015

    World Siphonist Championship: 2nd Place

  • 2018

    Japan Siphonist Championship: Champion

  • 2018

    World Siphonist Championship: 5th Place


  • 2012年

    ジャパン サイフォニスト チャンピオンシップ 準優勝

  • 2013年

    ジャパン サイフォニスト チャンピオンシップ 優勝

  • 2013年

    ワールド サイフォニスト チャンピオンシップ 準優勝

  • 2014年

    ジャパン サイフォニスト チャンピオンシップ 準優勝

  • 2015年

    ジャパン サイフォニスト チャンピオンシップ 優勝

  • 2015年

    ワールド サイフォニスト チャンピオンシップ 準優勝

  • 2018年

    ジャパン サイフォニスト チャンピオンシップ 優勝

  • 2018年

    ワールド サイフォニスト チャンピオンシップ 第5位

From Toast and Banana Juice to Coffee

I come from a family of five—my parents, my sister and brother, both of whom are somewhat older, and me. I grew up in Gifu, where there’s a tradition (called morning service in Japanese) of coffee shops serving breakfast at low prices. On weekends, my parents would wake us up and we’d all go to a coffee shop for breakfast. I always ordered toast and banana juice, because that’s what my big brother ordered. I really looked up to him—he was an all-around athlete and he was good at drawing manga and making things by hand. In elementary school I tried to copy him by joining the manga club and working hard at arts and crafts, but I couldn’t do any of those things as well as he could. People started comparing me to him, so I came to dislike trying to emulate my big brother.

I was getting upset more often—upset with myself for not being good at things, and sometimes upset with my sister and brother for treating me like a kid. One weekend, at our usual coffee shop, my dad said to my brother, “Isn’t it time you tried ordering coffee?” And my brother replied, “Nope—it’s bitter.” Then I piped up and said, “I’ll have some.” A little worried, my mom said, “It’s bitter—are you sure?” I brushed aside the question. Toast and coffee were placed in front of me, while my big brother got his usual toast and banana juice. Sure enough, my first real coffee drinking experience left me with one impression—“bitter.” I wondered why on earth people thought it was good. But I hid my real reaction and bluffed, “No problem!” Sounding impressed, my brother said, “I’m surprised you can drink something so bitter.” Coffee gave me a sense of superiority; by drinking coffee, I was able to act like a grownup and show everyone that I could do something my brother couldn’t. At some point when I was in high school, the coffee that I’d been drinking to show off really became an indispensable part of my morning. Having said that, I just made instant coffee—I wasn’t at all particular. You might say the only thing I was particular about was the fact that I drank coffee every morning.

My Family’s Odd Way of Life - The Origin of My Interest in Customer Service?

My dad was a blacksmith by profession and he loved making things—or rather, he was the kind of person who couldn’t sit still. He’d spend all his holidays working on various home improvement projects. One day there was a garden in the bathroom; another day, we found that the bathroom ceiling opened automatically and we could view the night sky. Balconies and little botanical gardens appeared. The house was changing all the time. I suppose I grew up in a slightly odd home. My parents’ current house is the one we moved into when I started high school, but the situation was the same at the house we lived in before that: my dad’s DIY projects were always transforming it. That house had a bar counter and a mirror ball. There were about 100 karaoke records in the living room, and there were quite a few evenings when the room was bustling with guests, almost like a bar. I did feel that my home was a little strange…but even though I was a child, I liked the atmosphere, with all the grownups drinking and having a great time. My mom talked to people over the counter and made drinks like whiskey and water or shochu with hot water, and I’d help take the drinks into the living room. I remember feeling happy when grownups who I brought drinks to would thank me or say, “That’s a super smile!” It might have been those moments of “heart-to-heart communication” that first made me aware of customer service. Well…maybe.

From High School to Career (Attaining My Dream)

Since I was eight, I’d always dreamed of working for a railroad company. My ultimate goal was to be a crew member—a train driver. So I went to a technical high school and specialized in machines and motors. The company that my dad ran was actually a machine manufacturer, so I was used to and enjoyed industrial studies and training, but I never had any intention of taking over my father’s business. I’d always planned to work for a railroad company.

After graduating from high school, I attained my decade-long goal and got a job with a railroad company as a train crew intern. In that moment I really felt that my dream had come true. During the initial training period, however, I underwent the required medical fitness exam and was informed that my result was “unfit.” It seemed to me that my ten-year dream had crumbled as soon as I joined the company. Just after embarking on my career, I was wondering about my future. This indescribable mental state lasted quite a while. Gradually, though, a new resolve emerged. I became more determined to take on the challenges of the life I’d been given. In a 180-degree turn from my industrial studies in high school, I worked for the next 12 years in areas like sales and management, human resources and PR, transferring eight times, relocating nine times, and amassing a variety of experiences. All the work I was involved in during that period was humanities-related. None of the fields were the ones I’d hoped to work in when I was hired, but I have no doubt that these experiences outside my field of interest ended up widening my perspective as a person in the working world.

At the same time, I had qualms about my career, since I hadn’t gained any experience in the areas unique to the railroad company. I wanted more and more to do the kind of work that can only be done at those companies, and the kind of work that only I could do. It’s a matter of course that railroad companies oversee safety and make sure there are no accidents, but it takes enormous effort to achieve a zero accident rate—and even when it’s achieved, the company receives no special thanks from the public. At the time I was in a slightly escapist frame of mind, and I felt that I wanted to do more to make people happy, to contribute my unique strengths to society. The desire to find a place where I could feel at home was getting stronger, and I started to worry about my future.


家族は5人、両親と少し歳の離れた姉と兄と自分。 生まれ育った岐阜には「モーニング」という文化(習慣)があり、朝早く親に起こされ家族5人で喫茶店に行き朝食をとるのが週末の過ごし方だった。決まって頼むのはトーストとバナナジュース。いつも兄の注文を真似していた。 兄はスポーツ万能、漫画もモノ作りも上手で憧れの存在だった。小学生の頃は、兄の真似をして漫画クラブに入り図工もがんばってみたが、兄のようにはうまくできない。次第に周りから比較されるようになると兄の真似をすることが嫌になっていった。








A Place Where I Could Feel at Home

While worrying about my future, I also thought about the past, and on my days off I went around looking for old-style coffee shops in Tokyo. What did I order? Toast and banana juice. It gave me a nostalgic feeling, as if I were returning to my starting point. Then one day I ordered toast and coffee. I suddenly remembered that coffee used to be the drink that enabled me to seem grown up. Gazing at the black surface of the coffee, I thought back fondly on those days. I spent an unusually long, peaceful time sipping my coffee, and a new thought came to me unbidden: “I’ll make a concrete change.” For the first time in quite a while I was filled with a positive, cheerful feeling. When I was young, coffee had helped me seem grown up, and now it had given me the courage to move forward. At the same time, I was captivated by the pleasant atmosphere of the “coffee shop.” The feeling that I’d like to do this kind of work in the next phase of my life became stronger. I was 29 at the time.

Discovering Maruyama Coffee - “The Coffee of the Future”

Since I loved coffee, it seemed to me that if I wanted to run a coffee shop, the least I should do was learn to make really good coffee. I did an online search for “delicious coffee” and came across a term I hadn’t heard before—“specialty coffee.” Then I did a search for “specialty coffee,” and the site at the top of the list of results was “Maruyama Coffee.” Picturing an individually run coffee shop, I clicked the name and discovered that the store (the current Komoro branch) was actually a lot bigger than that. I was impressed that some of the people there were Japan barista champions, that they used a coffee making method (French press) that was new to me, and that the staff members in the photos seemed to really be enjoying their work.

I’d always had a mental image of the coffee world as a “retro,” old-fashioned world of obsessive, slightly cantankerous artisans. To put it in color terms, the image was dark brown and burnished gold, and suggestive of cigarette smoke. But the Maruyama Coffee website left me with a strong impression of light, clear brown, the unstained brilliance of silver, and the green of nature. I clearly remember the excitement I felt. It seemed to me that this was not the coffee of the past, but the coffee of the future—that something new was about to begin through coffee. Although it was through a computer screen, this was the moment when I first encountered Maruyama Coffee.

Strangely Good Coffee

Since I lived in Tokyo, I looked for a place in the city that served Maruyama Coffee and found a certain cafe. I immediately went there to have my first taste of Maruyama Coffee. Since no other customers were there, I gathered my courage and sat at the counter, right in front of the shop manager. “Maruyama Coffee, please,” I said, and he retorted, “Everything on the menu is Maruyama Coffee.” To my embarrassment, I had thought that Maruyama Coffee was one specific type of coffee; I didn’t know anything about the connection between Maruyama Coffee and the coffees on the menu—Guatemalan, Costa Rican, Brazilian, etc. (so-called single origin coffees). I stared silently at the menu. Finally, the manager said, “To start, why don’t you try the Maruyama Coffee blend?” I obediently ordered the blend.

It was French press coffee. My first impression was that it was murky, so I felt a little perplexed. My first taste of Maruyama Coffee was…“I don’t really understand.” I didn’t dislike it, but the aroma gave me a strange sense of lightness. I’d always judged the flavor of coffee based on how little sourness and intense bitterness—how little unpleasantness—it contained. This was the first coffee I’d ever had that didn’t seem to contain any of those things. I was confused by this first-ever experience of coffee that had none of the unpleasantness I was looking for. “So, how do you like Maruyama Coffee?” asked the manager. I wasn’t able to express my first impression right away, but what I finally came up with was “It’s strangely good.” Of course, that was really disrespectful to the coffee, but it was my candid feeling at the time.

An Unexpected Opportunity

Seeing that I was a total novice, the manager started sharing his extensive knowledge of Maruyama Coffee, baristas, the COE (Cup of Excellence) and more. For a blank slate like me, this was information overload, so I hardly remember anything. All I remember is that he said something totally unexpected: “The president of Maruyama Coffee will probably be happy to show you around the factory if you go for a visit.” I thought, “There’s no way that would happen,” and immediately posted on Twitter what the manager had told me. Twenty minutes later, I got a reply: “Would you like to come?” When I looked closely at the Twitter account, it was Kentaro Maruyama, whose photo I’d seen on the Maruyama Coffee website. Simultaneously shocked and happy, I made an appointment for a factory visit then and there, on a public Twitter exchange. This would be my first visit to a directly managed Maruyama Coffee store, as well as a completely unexpected opportunity to meet the head of Maruyama Coffee.










素人まるだしの感想に、店主は丸山珈琲のこと、バリスタのこと、COE(Cup of Excellence)のことなど、どんどんとウンチクを語り出した。無知な自分には情報過多でほとんど覚えていない。唯一覚えているのは「丸山珈琲の社長さんなら、訪ねて行ったら工場の中でも案内してくれるんじゃない」なんていう想像もしなかったような発言。「そんなことある訳がない」と、店主からそう言われたということをTwitter に投稿した。すると20分後「来ますか?」という返事が飛んできた。そのアカウントをよく見れば、丸山珈琲のサイトに写真で出ていた丸山健太郎さん本人だ。驚きながらうれしかった自分は、そのまま公な投稿のやり取りで、工場を見に行くアポイントを取り付けた。これこそが、丸山珈琲直営店を初めて訪問する機会であり、それは丸山代表に会いに行くという思いもしなかったきっかけだった。

His Character Impressed Me Even More than the Delicious Coffee

About two months after that Twitter post, I arrived on the appointed day at the Maruyama Coffee Komoro store. A staff member showed me to a seat, and moments later I was greeted by the person I’d seen in the photo, Kentaro Maruyama himself. He smiled so warmly, it was hard to believe this was our first meeting. I didn’t have confidence in my ability to carry on a conversation about coffee, so I was uncharacteristically quiet. Mr. Maruyama said, “Order any kind of coffee you like,” so I ordered an espresso. When he asked what I thought of the taste, I nervously blurted out, “It’s pretty sour.” Then I thought, “Oh, no, that was rude.” I was worried because I’d had some bad experiences. In the two-month period prior to meeting Mr. Maruyama, I’d visited a lot of cafes—not coffee shops, cafes—and ordered espressos and cappuccinos. Occasionally I’d converse with a barista or manager, and when I mentioned sourness, they’d give me a haughty retort—“That’s because you don’t understand the flavor” or “It’s not polite to use the word sour in a cafe that serves good coffee.” But Mr. Maruyama just laughed and replied sympathetically, “Sour, sour.” Then he said, “But don’t you think the aftertaste is pleasant?” In this easygoing way, he taught me how to savor the taste of coffee. Then he said, “Let’s try it with sugar,” and put sugar in his own coffee. As he sipped it, Mr. Maruyama—who certainly knew more about this coffee than anyone else—exclaimed, “This coffee is incredibly good!” and laughed heartily. Then I put sugar in my coffee. When I tasted it, I was amazed. It actually tasted juicy, as if I were drinking fruit juice. Seeing my reaction, he smiled triumphantly and said, “Hehe—good, right?” Even more than the delicious taste, what remains most vivid in my memory is the hospitality that transformed “strangely good coffee” into “strangely enjoyable coffee.” That’s the thing about Mr. Maruyama. Despite his impressive accomplishments and position, he’s completely unaffected, and he always makes sure the other person feels comfortable. That feeling was new and different from what I’d experienced at other cafes. After the espresso, we enjoyed a cappuccino together.

Looking back now, I think the experience was actually an easy-to-follow introductory course on delicious flavors that I hadn’t known about. I discovered new flavors transcending the borders of the “coffee taste map” I’d drawn for myself while trying various types of coffee. At the same time, being guided through and taught about these flavors enabled me to understand them and revise my own way of thinking for the first time. It seemed the experience of enlarging my taste map had taught me that enjoying flavor is even more important than understanding taste.

As promised, I was taken on a tour of the Komoro factory. I became so absorbed in the conversation that I was surprised to see it was almost time to catch the express bus back to Tokyo. It looked as if I wasn’t going to make it, so Mr. Maruyama drove me to the bus stop, despite the fact that he’d just met me for the first time. Someone who happily goes to that much trouble for others—let’s just say Mr. Maruyama is a strangely good person.

Let Me Be Part of Your Company

After that first meeting with Mr. Maruyama, I would go and see him at Maruyama Coffee in Karuizawa. I also attended several Maruyama Coffee seminars at affiliated cafes in Tokyo that were rented out for that purpose. The more I understood about specialty coffees, baristas, cupping, Maruyama Coffee’s projects and so on, the stronger was my wish to be involved in Maruyama Coffee’s unique business—rather than run my own coffee shop, an aspiration that had been born of a desire to escape reality. A company that carries out a nearly unprecedented kind of venture work; a simple business model that connects growers and customers even though some risk is involved—I wanted to help make Maruyama Coffee a company that continued to gain the public’s acceptance of this ideal business model as a matter of course. When I saw Mr. Maruyama in Karuizawa again one day, I handed him materials outlining my ideas for a business vision that could only be realized by Maruyama Coffee. Finally, I gathered up my courage and said, “Please let me be part of your company.” Six months later, I went to work for Maruyama Coffee. I was assigned to the Komoro store. I was 30 years old.

PR People Are Baristas, Too

After joining Maruyama Coffee, I was assigned to the Komoro store. The entry level period was short, and soon I was assigned to the office division as I’d requested. At first I worked in PR and marketing. In my work, I participated in barista interviews, and after that I had occasion to proofread and check the interview articles. We could appreciate the differences in the flavors and characteristics of the coffees served during interviews when we actually drank the coffee, but I felt that it was really difficult to convey the subtle nuances of these differences in words and photos alone. This experience taught me that, while making delicious coffee is hard, communicating delicious flavor to other people is even harder. I was taught that Maruyama Coffee’s philosophy is “Baristas are messengers.” I was starting to believe that public relations people are messengers who report the merits of coffee, and that public relations work was a type of barista work, even though the communication is one-way.

That’s when I understood what my aim should be—to become a barista who could provide enjoyable experiences to customers. It may seem as if that kind of barista can be found anywhere, but I didn’t think that was the case. There are lots and lots of baristas in the world who can make delicious coffee, and there are baristas who can explain the merits and backgrounds of coffees. But there aren’t so many people who can communicate the appeal of coffee in various ways. And when they can, the communication is usually one-way. It seemed to me that there are hardly any baristas who can offer enjoyable coffee encounters tailored to each customer’s values and experience. To me, “barista” was not an end, but a means. Rather than just making and serving delicious coffee, I wanted to be someone who introduces people to a world of enjoyment that radiates out from delicious flavor. The reason I came to feel this way is that my first position after joining the industry was in public relations—an area in which serving coffee to customers, as baristas do, is not an available option. What was important was not just making coffee, but telling people about it; not only telling, but being understood; and not just being understood, but offering enjoyable experiences. This time, coffee had helped me realize what coffee should bring to the world.

Making Siphon Coffee in a Random Way Resulted in Incredibly Good Coffee

Having said that, I was still lacking in experience in the coffee industry. I couldn’t even make really good coffee, let alone convey its appeal. I felt that I had to engage with and study coffee more. And I thought it was important not just to study, but to aim for a specific goal. That goal was to enter a barista competition. At that time there were many enthusiastic staff members at the store who awaited opportunities to enter barista championships. Since I was coming from a division that was not directly connected, I thought it might be good to try a different type of competition. So I tried making coffee with various coffee makers that I had at home. Quite a while earlier, I’d purchased a siphon coffee maker, although I didn’t really know how to use it or how good siphon coffee is. I got it down from the back of the shelf and made coffee in a random kind of way, and it turned out to be the most delicious cup of coffee I’d ever had. I was thrilled. It was like when you cook something in an improvisational way and it turns out to be incredibly good. The really frustrating thing was that I didn’t have the expertise to recreate that taste. I didn’t know why it was good, how it got that way, or what I had to do to make great coffee again. For that very reason, I thought that if I could control the process myself, I’d be able to offer delicious taste and enjoyment and make people happy with my coffee. With that thought in mind, I became the first person from Maruyama Coffee to enter the Siphonist Championship. It was 2012 and I was 32 years old. Maruyama Coffee took my resolve seriously, and that was the start of the rapid acceleration of my coffee life.

The Siphon and the Door to Life

When I go shopping, the window displays where I can see children’s fingerprints on the glass always strike me as good displays, and I always end up giving them a closer look. It has nothing to do with quality or price; it’s because there’s something about them that triggers an emotional response and draws my interest in a natural way. Of the many coffee extracting devices, the siphon is the one that comes closest to this. As soon as you start making coffee with a siphon, everyone comes to see—young and old, men and women, people of all nationalities. I really love the Japanese word oishii—good, delicious—which contains two Chinese characters, one meaning “beauty” and the other meaning “flavor.” The goodness you taste when you take a sip of coffee is the flavor aspect; but you can say a cup of coffee is oishii in the true sense of the word when the things experienced before and after tasting the coffee are beautiful—appearance and movement, gestures and stories, the hospitality of the person who makes the coffee. As a barista, I don’t want to limit myself to offering coffee with great flavor; my aim is to offer each individual guest an enjoyable and beautifully delicious world through service that conveys a sense of oishii in everything surrounding the coffee drinking experience.

The coffee siphon has a history of about 188 years. Of all the types of coffee makers, it’s one of the oldest and most widely recognized methods. But today there are only a very few people in the world who truly love and understand siphon coffee and serve it in an enjoyable way; that’s the current reality of the siphonist. On the coffee serving side as well as the coffee drinking side, people have yet to discover all the possibilities of the siphon. And that’s what motivates me. It’s only been seven years since I entered a siphon coffee competition for the first time in 2012, but since then the world of siphon coffee has undergone a major transformation among both professionals and customers. This isn’t something in the past tense; the real start is yet to come. In the near future, we’ll finally be able to make people happy by serving them siphon coffee. Through siphon coffee, I’ve become happy myself. There’s happiness in the great taste of the coffee, in my connections with other people, in my meals, even in the purpose of my life. I have the feeling that, through siphon coffee, I’ve found a kind of happiness that no one else can offer. In the past, coffee enabled me to seem grown up. Now coffee has made me a real grownup at last.















Message to customers


I’ve been in this business a relatively short time, but in that time I’ve encountered many types of coffee produced by many different growers. Superb coffee isn’t about whether it’s good, it’s about how it’s good—about enjoying the differences in the characters of different coffees. A coffee is the creation of a grower; and I think of the Omotesando store, which has many of these creations on its shelves, as a sort of museum. Look, drink, savor—through its story and the way it’s displayed in a home, a work meets a visitor, and its unique value thus becomes complete. In offering people these encounters and delights, we baristas are just like museum guides. Coffee is something that customers should experience and enjoy in their own way, without any constraints. So please feel free to talk to us and ask questions. Coffee is communication. I plan to continue welcoming customers with pride in my work, in order to offer each of them a delicious cup of coffee and an experience they can enjoy in their own unique way.