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Turtles in Tokyo (oh, and Coffee)

Yesterday was my first day of research in Tokyo. In the morning I successfully navigated a multi-train, hour and a half trip from Sayama to the far East side of Tokyo (the Monzennakacho/Kiyosumi area, for anyone who knows any Tokyo geography). I had two coffee shops as my goal: the Kiyosumi location of Blue Bottle Coffee (which some of you may know as James Freeman's California-based chain) and the first in Japan, as well as the nearby Arise Coffee Entangle which appeared on every one of the "where to drink coffee in Tokyo" lists I found online.

The Blue Bottle Coffee in Kiyosumi (which is actually quite a residential neighborhood) is a 7,000 square foot monstrosity with a cafe space, roasting space, and other work areas all in one building. The inside is also pretty industrial.

They only had communal tables, which I found interesting, and I ended up having a nice conversation with a mother-daughter pair across from me. But, I confess, the coffee wasn't for me. It was very fruity and, like the mother said across from me, "almost like ume (plum) juice". I'm sure that flavor profile is perfectly desirable for some, but I like a more bitter brew.

So I walked down the street to the conveniently located Arise Coffee Entangle, which was very pleasant.

I was a large fan of the (fake) mounted rhino head. The Master and his assistant were very chatty and kind--offering tidbits about their personal coffee philosophy (customer communication is key!) and recommendations for other shops around the city.

Since Arise was located directly across from Kiyosumi Park, I decided to check it out. It's one of the Nine Cultural Heritage Gardens, a remnant from the Meiji Period (1870s). Formerly the mansion of a merchant, one Kinokuniya Bunzaemon, it was later donated to the city after the Great Kanto Earthquake. It was a lovely park: a large pond with several scattered islands and a path that ran around its circumference. There were also several stepping-stone pathways that extended out onto the water, so you could get very familiar with the local wildlife:

The garden itself was also incredibly scenic. It's very easy to imagine that you've stepped out of the incredibly crowded Tokyo city and into some other world, but then if you look anywhere beyond right in front of you, you can see the towering apartment buildings looming above the garden wall and the illusion is quickly shattered.

As I was leaving, the gatehouse had an area set up for people to write their Tanabata wishes. Tanabata--July 7th--is a holiday that celebrates the one day that the Cowherd and the Weaver can meet (the rest of the year they're separated by the expanse of the milky way). People write their wishes and hopes for the year on sheets of colorful paper and tie them to branches of bamboo so they come true.

My slip says "sotsugyou ronbun wo jouzu ni kakimasu youni" which means "I want to write a good graduation thesis"!

There it is with the rest of everyone's wishes, so of course it's going to come true, now!


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