Talking fish at the coffee shop

Sometimes I feel Japan has about 18 months to live.  The threat of nuclear apocalypse, real and imagined, is quite depressing.  It`s either jump on the track of the Yamanote line, listen to The Fall for 24 hours or ideally, go for coffee shop therapy. 

Eels at Nishiki food market, Kyoto.

“The eel itself is nice, it`s the sauce that`s the problem.   It`s made by a doshiroto (complete amateur)”, bald man in grey track suit said.

Bald man is my highlight of this two-week tour across Japan.  I discovered him in a Kurashiki coffee shop, sat talking to the lady owner. He was nursing a mug of cafe au lait and a can of Calpis soda. 

Canal through the Bikan historical quarter in Kurashiki.

Feeling totally wired after ten straight days playing the clown/guide, I wanted frivolous conversation.  The Calpis man helped out.    

“The eel sauce is sarasara  (runny)”, he exclaimed. 

“It should be torotoro (sticky), shouldn`t it?” pipes in lady shop owner.

Honma ni nah“(yeah, it should), Calpis spoke with emotion. 

Diverting conversations like this make coffee shops cherished sanctuaries.  Forget the coffee – it usually tastes like heated dishwater, not even cow piss could redeem it.   

Calpis soda, tastes very much like how it sounds.

Conversation structure is easy to follow.  Start with a banal comment about the weather, then introduce a fish story – `the sanma (saury) at Seiyu supermarket are on sale at 300 yen`. 

It`s far easier to talk about dinner options for tonight than the chances of death tomorrow. 

For a Calpis-style flourish, add a couple of `jinsei iroiro arimasu wa`, (life is a mixed bag).  It will make you seem wise/mental.  

A refuge from the terrifying world outside, an air-conditioned womb you will never want to leave, coffee shops are heaven.  If and when apocalypse comes, please let me be inside one talking about fish.

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2 Responses to Talking fish at the coffee shop

  1. Rurousha says:

    You have a knack for describing life’s little insanities. Or should that be life’s little inanities? I always enjoy reading your posts. 🙂

  2. tomointokyo says:

    Thank you Rurousha, I appreciate the feedback.

    The joy of old-style Japanese coffee shops is one of my discoveries of this year. They seem to be dying out, especially outside Tokyo; it`s a shame, I`ll have to start taking my tour groups to them.

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