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Showing posts from June, 2016

A Wrap-up of Kanazawa

Greetings from Tokyo. Well, technically I'm staying in Sayama City, Saitama (which is the prefecture just North of Tokyo) about an hour outside the city center by train. My host family--from my six-month AFS exchange trip in high school--kindly agreed to let me stay with them for the next two weeks. I've got an interesting lineup of coffee shops to check out from the get-go, and I'll have a lot of me-time on the train to and from the city (thank goodness for the online Chicago Public Library).

That being said, I had a lovely last few days in Kanazawa that ended up being much more social than I expected.

First, one of my friends (who I randomly met in a cafe last summer--we hit it off and I saw on facebook that she's a regular at Transit Beans so we reconnected earlier this month) randomly asked me if I wanted to go to a "tea party" at one of her friend's house. I said yes--why not?--and she and her husband picked me up in their sporty blue car.


When we ar…

Even the Museum is Starting a Revolution

This Wednesday I took most of the day off to make my annual visit to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. (And apologies for not being as attentive on this blog this year. Promises to remedy that over the course of the next several days.)

The museum had a lot of new exhibits on display for the summer, many of them quite political in nature.

The first was a series of performance art and exhibitions called "Xijing is not Xijing, Therefore Xijing is Xijing". It's a collaborative (and ongoing) project by three men who invented this fictitious nation of "Xijiing" and proceeded to completely outline its admission policies, cultural events, government, and even held their own Olympics at the same time as the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

It's hard to read the photo below, but it says that entry can be achieved to Xijing by performing a song or dance, or reciting a poem. An explanatory video had lots of detail about what was acceptable and what would result in …

Oceans and Flowers

Today will also be, in large part, a post about flowers. Sorry about that. I've been lacking in exciting revelations to share with you all.

After my weekend (which was functionally a break from coffee) I resumed research this past Monday. Monday and Tuesday were normal, but today my host mom said she wanted to take me to one of her favorite cafes and kodawari (remember that word?) spots. It's a cafe and coffee shop called Umi and Orugoru (which means "the ocean and the music box") located on the island called Notojima (which is in the northerly region of Ishikawa prefecture). My host mom's mom (hereafter refered to as "Baian") went along with us and together we drove up to Notojima in my host mom's Nissan Leaf. Because the Leaf is a 100% electric car, we had to stop halfway there (and that halfway was an hour) to charge the car at a Nissan center for half an hour...and we couldn't drive terribly fast. This car is terrible and I never want one.

F…

In Which I Solve a Riddle and (Sort Of) Fake Being a Pro

So it's finally my second weekend here. I've rounded off my week with nine cafes and enough coffee that yesterday evening I actually felt sick and have decided to take day or two break. Fortunately most of these places have other drinks besides coffee, so now that I've tried it once I can give my stomach lining a break. To all you people who drink multiple cups of coffee daily: I don't know how you do it.

Moving on.

On Thursday and Friday I went to several interesting places. On Thursday I went to Nazoya Cafe, which loosely translates to "Mystery Cafe". It's so-named because the owner is a self-proclaimed lover of mystery novels, and not only are his foods mystery-themed (for example, he serves a "Miss Marple Maple Waffle") if you order a dessert, he'll give you a riddle to solve. Customers who eventually solve all 20 questions (you have to order 20 desserts though) are given a golden certificate that proclaims them a "Meitantei" o…

On Beans

Today I'm going to talk about beans. The past few days I've been to several coffee shops that do their own roasting and take pride in that fact--it's their kodawari. This is not an easy concept to translate. The dictionary translates it as "obsession" but it's less like unhealthily obsessing over something about more like a meticulous example of dedication to the craft and consideration to the customer. I'll illustrate with some examples about coffee beans.

The first shop I went to is one I went to frequently last year, both for their affordable lunches and calming atmosphere. Blanket Cafe is nearly my perfect shop: open, quaint, filled with plants, and the owners (a young married couple) are amazingly friendly. I hadn't given them any advance warning of my return, so when I walked in their door shortly after they opened, they were quite surprised! But after I explained why I was back in Kanazawa, they were happy to answer all my questions, particular…

Research Begins in Earnest

Yesterday I began my coffee research in earnest at two cafes, one well-known for its coffee and another I stumbled upon by chance.

The first place I went (promptly at 8:30 am) was called Higashide Coffee. It's run by (go figure) Higashide-san and the shop is strictly drip coffee (not espresso). They even do their own coffee bean roasting in-shop.

Each glass jar is labeled by country of origin and there's a few jars that say "Higashide Blend".
From what I was able to see, the Japanese way of making drip coffee is both complicated and time consuming. Each cup of coffee is made to order--including the grinding of the beans--and is at least a five minute process. 
1. The beans--enough for a single cup--are ground to order.  2. The grounds are then placed in a cone of filter paper, which is then placed into an open-bottomed funnel that feeds into a small pot. 3. Hot water in a silver pot is checked for temperature, then poured from one pot to another.  4. For no more than…