Japan trip update (& Thanksgiving week hours)

The Portland Japan connection is old. Sapporo after all is our sister city, and the reason why we have so many cherry trees along the waterfront. Of course we are connected now to many other cities everywhere. Especially connected since one side of my family is Japanese.

I am currently in Sanjo, Niigata, Japan, at my wife’s parents house. On day three of our stay Courier’s laptop had a fatal encounter with coffee and my daughter. We did what anyone would and immediately flipped it upside down, and powered it off. Later we completely removed all of the internals after two days, cleaned them with alcohol, and let dry. no-luck, after hours of cleaning and drying, and learning about checking for damage a little heartbreaking. So we bought a new laptop in Tokyo, but work had to wait until we ordered a hard drive enclosure so we could salvage our data and migrate it to the new macbook pro. Now everything is exactly where we left off, and we can work again.

We first came straight to Niigata for a few days before heading back to Tokyo, where we did a series of events making coffee. Always weird making coffee in a new place. The bigger obstacles have been soap residue on the dishes, and having to explain that they must be rinsed again. Sometimes the complication is that the water is cold only, and so it takes extra effort to get soap off. Water in Tokyo is good, but slightly harder than Portland, yet not terrible like vancouver washington in terms of hardness. Another little learning thing is brewing coffee into different size glass for serving. We like glass because people can see the coffee being made. Mostly we were just winging it, and getting used to different grinders, having to evaluate the quality of grind as well as variation in size just by looking.

Most of the coffee that we have had out has been from convenient stores, cold brew from grocery stores, and .. Starbucks. We have had coffee from modern chain stores, just looking for new things. We have not been able to make coffee a destination, because trying to get around with a small child who insists on being carried is hard.

Highlights so far include riding a ton of escalators, dancing to the cool sounds on the train. and lets see. Our daughter sneezed food all over a business mans suit on the train, (we were cracking up) he took it very well. Later we sat next to a young woman asleep on the train and Ryoku (daughter) said really loud “Nay Nay!” which means sleeping in Japanese. The woman was only partially asleep and woke, with Ryoku pointing at her and super close.

Our first coffee event was really about India, at Rokujigen Kissaten. Rokujigen is the location of Haruki Murakami’s Jazz Kissaten, and now Rokujigen is the third generation shop owned by Mr. Nakamura. Nakamura does many things, but one of them is a researcher of the writer- Murakami. He purchased the shop to preserve it not only because of Murakami, but the building itself has a lot of history, and is one of the oldest kissaten in Japan. Along one small wall are only Murakami books in different translations and languages. the hours are very flexible. This was our second time making coffee at Nakamura’s kissaten, but this time from behind the bar. And we got to speak a little about Portland, as we were invited because of a strange tie in with India to Portland’s coffee scene.

We also got to stay in a very old and classic Ryokan (hotel) located in Ogikubo. Very cheap, clean, and classic Japanese hotel in a very lovely neighborhood. My favorite part was getting to use an old beer vending machine for the first time, located off the lobby.

Its kind of cold in Niigata and having kerosene heaters in the rooms is a novelty. Being here makes me realize how easy it is to get awesome coffee in Portland, but also how superior Japanese 7-11 coffee is to Starbucks. anyway thats the update. looking forward to visiting friends, and visiting hardwarestores until i return.


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