Tokyo diaries: Before starting the day

We found ourselves at Ellie’s cafe while suddenly wanting a hot cup of coffee before exploring Ryogoku. The coffeeshop looked like a storybook picture from Hans Christian Andersen tales located in an inside lane. It was silent all around and the effect enhanced the cafe’s fairytale quality. The owner was a beautiful plump woman with very kind but mysterious slanted eyes. She was talking to another petite lady sitting on the opposite side of the counter. Both of them greeted us and went back to finishing the conversation. I had never before heard women talking so softly and slowly with soft nods of understanding at intervals. The friend seemed to be the one with something to tell and the owner was the patient listener.

We took a seat by the wall opposite the entrance. I could survey the entire cafe from here. It looked more like someone’s house we were visiting on a personal invitation. The women kept on with their soft murmuring conversation like flowing water in a stream in a faraway forest. Realizing we were ready to order she brought two plates with tiny sugared biscuits. I ordered Colombian beans. I wasn’t sure if it would be to my taste, I wondered. The owner put petite cup and saucer with owl design on the table. As I talked I noticed even my voice was really soft as if careful not to disturb anything around. The coffee …how do I say it…took me by surprise. It was so smooth and almost faintly sweetish like Ginseng. It felt smooth on my throat and entered my body with the ease of water. Is this how coffee was supposed to taste? Yes, of course. All this time I had missed out on what coffee was supposed to taste like and felt shocked at the realization. I looked at the women who were in their soft murmuring world oblivious to my discovery.  I looked across at him and he seemed equally nonchalant immersed in his own communion with the coffee. This coffee deserved silence and attention. It did not go well with conversation. I felt as if in a meditation. 

We walked up to an intersection and got lost. We had been trying to search the address for about twenty minutes now. We stood transfixed looking at the road, the buildings, the very long wall surrounding one side of the road. I saw a bakery to my left and nudged him. Bakeries were delightful in Tokyo.  I always saw someone reading something on the window by the seat whenever I walked by any one of them. This one was right across the long wall with murals painted on it. I selected a soft bread with cream filling. The bread was stamped with a Sumo wrestler in one of his signature position. There were people harmoniously strewn across the small bakery. We fit ourselves by the window among them. I had two of those breads. 

I made my way up to the first floor where the restroom was. Beside the restroom door was a small white room stacked with bundle of papers. It looked like a picture from 1960s I had recently seen of a Japanese room in an old house with dark woodsn walls. There was a small bed by the window and all around were stacks of books. There was no one in the room I was peering into. I wanted to walk inside and pick up some papers at random and look at them.  I looked at the two wooden doors which had been left open. I could not step inside but stood there to take in the empty room stacked with bundles of paper. I was taking note with my senses as if I could go back and flip among my memories and take out this particular one when needed. 

The road outside looked more sunny. The long wall more longer. We asked the traffic policemen the address and he pointed to the building right across us.


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