Japan. We flew into Haneda (vs. Narita), friends drove us to their home in Kikuna, Yokohama. Met at the airport by crazy Eitaro, who came to our coffee bar one day. So tired from the flight I barely understood that he took the train to Haneda to welcome us- meaning there was no way back. Eitaro bikes Tokyo, and with no trains after midnight he slept at the airport. Our welcome itself awesome, then we arrived at 7-Eleven.
It was two in the morning, selecting beer was challenging, and the store so clean, then the prepackaged ice caught my interest, labeled “coffee”. You purchased ice and insert it into the coffee machine before closing the blast door, and select desired strength. Please remember it is very hot and humid this time in Japan, and a typhoon was coming. Cold coffee seemed perfect, and only one dollar. Ground and made to order, revolutionary.
The country is utterly advanced, yet they still produce everything themselves. Made in Japan should make people proud. Bathrooms mostly have heated seats. Bathtubs keep hot for as long as one wants. The sink drains are wider. Stovetops come with a drawer to broil fish. One may drink beer in public, yet it illegal to ride a bicycle with an umbrella. No one checks I.D. when alcohol is purchased if you look over fifteen. No one is fat in Japan (im sorry this must be said), and they dress very very well, even in the country (everyone is beautiful).
Visiting Sanjo, Niigata, I was prepared to work harvesting rice. Instead they drove me out to the fields and were very interested that I was interested in rice farming. Later I went to the rice center and sat in on grading session, very similar to coffee. In the country many families have their own rice mills in their garage, and share a plow with their neighbors. They all have signs that say NO TPP.
The words TPP stand for Trans Pacific Partnership, and in english stand for Free Trade- an ultimate evil, which we stand wholly against. All the farmers in Niigata have signs that say NO TPP- good for them- screw you Americans forcing Japanese to buy your rice. Its odd that we live in the U.S. and have no idea of what we inflict upon others. Why should Americans force themselves on other countries, but of course this issue is not as simple.
After Niigata we met with coffee roaster after roaster. We biked our way through Japan. Highlights included working at Paddlers Coffee, making Stumptown coffee pourover style in Able brewing SS filters, visiting Horiguchi, Be A Good Neighbor, Fuglin, Little Nap, and the Coffee Bar, and meeting with the most lovely people. Most coffee roasters are Fuji Royals it seems, designed after the US Royal (a company later bought by Probat, Germany). Most of the Royals used in Japan are perforated drum roasters with direct fire, and from what ive heard people are doing 20 minute roasts, as compared to the Portland 12 minute roasts. I have to say everyone in Japan was ridiculously nice, and customer service amazing.
In the end we tripped to Kojima for denim, yet found an amazing Kissaten scene (old coffee bar). We went to Niimi, Okayama, only for Aogami super steel knives from Takeda. We went to Ishinomaki for the island of cats, but instead found an awesome kissaten, and a jazz bar ‘Cruiser.’ We visited Hayama and met Five Beans, along with old Courier regular Kenske. And we went to Tsukuba!
We ended up missing our flight home, but luckily made it thanks to Japanese Delta, without any charge. Returning I have a very profound new image of coffee bars, and how carefree biking could be, not to mention a new take on customer service.