The duck and I consider ourselves to be members of the creative class. And for us, and even more so the real creatives, it’s not too rare to spend hours at a local coffee shop, sipping on a cup of overpriced cappuccino while creative history is in the process of being written.
To be honest, I’ve always joked about spending my waking hours at a Starbucks, half of them working there, the other half writing my Academy Award worthy hit screenplay as a struggling artist in L.A. (with the most current MacBook Pro model that, weirdly, I could afford, just as I could my three daily liters of fancy coffee while I’m living in a small run-down apartment, together with my twenty roommates). I yet have to start writing a feature-length screenplay and, well, get used to the idea of actually writing pretty much anything half-serious outside my own little room. But, other than that, my future plans are set!
In Japan, too, spending hours at a coffee shop typing away on your laptop is a rather common sight. However, as the duck and I have noticed, it does not stop there. Coffee shops (especially the chains) are often filled with people pursuing all kinds of work and pleasure; I’m talking: working on a laptop, doing homework, studying for an exam, doing language exchanges or giving private lessons, sharing photos from the ten most recent trips, making plans for future travels, old-school reading the paper or new-school a tablet, (unintentionally) catching up on some sleep, writing the next Harry Potter, waiting for the typhoon outside to stop, activating a new SIM card, making plans for world domination, catching up with friends after years… or just minutes, working on group projects, preparing for job interviews, writing blog posts or the next Citizen Kane… are just a few activities you’ll see upon entering a coffee shop in Tokyo. The duck and I particularly love those places for some good old creepy people-watching! Because coffee shops function as atmospheric multi-purpose-rooms that come at the low rate of a beverage of your choosing that you will get to enjoy in tiny sips over several hours (if you’ve mastered the craft of time efficient sloth drinking), you might not be able to find a seat at the first cafe you enter, so you’ll have to do some shop-hopping before you finally find a space that you can conveniently reserve by putting down any selection of items (umbrellas, handkerchiefs, make-up bags, hats, sunglasses, coats, backpacks, your firstborn, etc.) that you consider less important than a nice beverage and a seat for the next few hours of your busy Tokyo life, all before you even think about ordering your drink.
But wait! We’re not only talking cafes and coffee shops; fast food chains are just as popular. We’ve found ourselves rummaging through our bags to find something that’s just valuable enough to be considered a valid table reservation at a McDonald’s where we were to enjoy a tiny cup of refreshing ¥100 grape soda!
Of course there are also other reasons for overcrowded coffee shops and fast food restaurants (one of them plainly being the massive amount of people in central Tokyo), but that shall be material for another post.
I’ll go check on the duck now to make sure that there’s some coffee left for me!