Coffee, Culture, Japan
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The Sin of Coffee and Cigarettes

‘Coffee and cigarettes are my only escape’ – sings ‘Never Shout Never’. Jim Jarmusch calls it ‘a magical combination’ and dedicate the whole movie to it. Coffee and cigarettes for relaxation, contemplation and salvation. Let’s spill the beans if this combination is working the same way in Japan.

The days of smoky coffee shops are gone with smoking bans on indoor smoking almost all around Europe. You will never see, let’s say, elegant Kate Moss smoking and sipping a cup of coffee in the middle of café in London. Probably you will not see her in Paris as well. But you might see her in Japan.

While it is more likely to be a fashionable routine of having cigarette and coffee in Europe and US, Japan has a different approach to it. Let me be your eyes for a second and describe what you would see if you pop in to kissaten (old-fashioned Japanese coffee shop).

As soon as you enter, you will notice probably two weird things if you are out of Japan. First, room is filled with cigarette smoke. Although in a bigger kissaten you can choose a non-smoking or smoking room, the smell of tobacco is in the air. Smoking in kissaten is as usual as having a cheeseburger in McDonalds.


Secondly, customers are not young fashionable kids or stunning ladies puffing a ciggy. Kissaten crowd is middle-age adults or ojisan (elderly men) surrounded by old-fashioned, yet very simple interior. And do not even dear to think of George Clooney look business men sitting there and reading daily newspapers. What you actually see is ojisan reading manga (Japanese comics) and indulging in his blend coffee and a cigarette.

It is said that Japan is like absolutely different world. And coffee culture can be a great example for comparison. There is one word that explains all you need to know about Japan and it is ‘perfection’. It applies to everything – roasting, blending, brewing and even forming a beautiful cream shape on your coffee if you ask for it. Well-groomed coffee master will personally greet you and place some ice water aside. A lot of attention to details and customers sometimes make you feel as in a luxury place. However, perfection is a norm in Japan.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/99d/80912950/files/2014/12/img_0890.jpgJapanese modern lifestyle, especially in urban cities like Tokyo, is all about rushing, which cause a lot of stress. Therefore, most adults release their stress in カラオケ (karaoke boxes). And it seems that others are searching for getaway with nicotine and caffeine. It leads to a conclusion that cigarette and coffee rather associates with isolation and relaxation than with fashion. Japanese company Lark even commercialised this daily ritual by starting to sell sets of can coffee and a pack of cigarettes in vending machines.

This double addiction is not poetised as much as it is in Europe or America but it is important part of Japanese routine.

More coffee hunts in Japan coming up soon.


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