On a green hilltop overlooking Mutsu Bay and the Pacific Ocean, a yellow and brown flag was waving marked with the katakana characters for coffee. The flag doesn`t wave everyday, only when the owner is in the mood. Her regulars phone in advance to check which way the wind is blowing.
Coffee shops are few and far between in Aomori; people neither have the time nor the money. Glad for any refuge from the rain, I perched my damp backside in an armchair at the counter. Both the coffee and the obligatory plastic milk cartons came in Wedgwood cups. “The British Ambassador gave me those……he`s dead now,” she said without emotion.
The 72-years-old owner is a bad woman; she told me so herself. But death did not seem to scare her, neither her own or anyone elses. As well as ikebana and oil painting, one of her hobbies is abseiling down rock faces to get to good spots for catching char – she always goes alone.
Family has not given her much happiness: She has four kids who she hardly ever sees and two dead husbands, one died of a heart attack the other of a brain haemorrhage, discovered slumped at his desk a month before retirement. It all makes Obon, the August festival when the dead return to life expecting to be entertained a real ordeal she said. “If I had my time again, I wouldn`t bother with marriage.”
The cafe borders the farming district of Yokohama and the megarich energy complex in Rokkasho where 99% of high school graduates get jobs and even the school trips for elementary age children go overseas. The unusual location has a reason, it cafe used to be in the Misawa air force base. She has been forcibly bought out of her home twice. I thought that must have been hard, she insisted it was a pleasure – she is eagerly anticipating a third buyout.
The rain stopped and I stood up to leave. before I could get out the door, she filled my backpack with cake from the fridge. “I don`t like sweet stuff but people always give it to me.” I liked her even more after that.