For many foreigners, living in Japan is easy; the wages are comfortable, the crime threat is low, and locals generally let you do what you want. Language and cultural differences are an inconvenience, but no more. The biggest challenge for long-term life here is the breakfast barrier.
Imagine it: you wake up, throat dry from a night in a dusty air-conditioned room, and breakfast is white rice, a packet of seaweed, grilled fish, pickled vegetables and a bowl of fermented soy bean soup. Not even western hotels offer quality: the Sunroute Hotel in Asakusa offers four choices on the menu, all include broccoli.
But, there is another way: start the day with a morning. Offered at all self-respecting cafes, the morning setto is a Japanised western breakfast, usually including a thick wedge of toast, an egg – boiled or fried, and a cup of coffee.
Finding a good spot for morning is not easy. Mark, a Japanese in my guesthouse, and I regularly discuss where does the best morning in Nishogikubo.
Today, Pot, near the station`s north exit, became the favourite. Their no-nonsense morning – just toast, boiled egg and coffee – was perfect, and the conversation suitably stimulating.
On my visit today, the Pot master`s wife talked to me at length about oyakoko (filial piety). The topic seemed close to her heart.
In Japan, she told me, the chonan (eldest son) traditionally looks after the parents. In return, the chonan receives the parents` assets when they die.
The chonan then has to look after the family grave. Now, the law has changed, and all children receive an equal share of their parents` assets; the chonan has no preferential treatment, and so does not need to be filial anymore.
Catching his wife`s enthusiasm, the master took over, firing off his thoughts on a mix of topics. Tuning in became like listening to excerpts from random TV channels.
Master Channel 1: “Rural Chinese can`t add 1 + 1”
Master Channel 2: “New York buildings are tall because they don`t have earthquakes”
Master Channel 3: “Naples in England is very dangerous”
Master Channel 4: “I died last year and came back to life”
Channel 4 grabbed my attention most. His wife said that since he ikikaeta (came back to life) last year – following heart surgery, his work at the cafe has been relegated to niban – the second most important thing to him. Life itself is now yusen, his priority.
Priority-wise, I don`t know where his poor wife fits in, but I loved their warm conversation and company. The thought of morning at the Pot should get me out of bed early this week.