DISCOVER KABE Vol.7
I have long been a fan of Japan’s junkissa – post-war coffee shops characterized by coffee making apparatus that looks more like it belongs in a chemistry lab than a cafe, and retro decor often coated in the patina of tobacco smoke. So, it is unsurprising that coffee shop Monami, just along the river from Hiroshima Bunkyo University, had been on my radar for a while.
On this outing, we were delighted to be joined by Ochi-san, a Hiroshima Bunkyo University student. I enjoyed listening to her talk about college life and her future plans as we walked along the riverside on a warm autumn afternoon.
Hiroshima Bunkyo teachers must be doing a good job as Ochi-san’s English was very impressive!
And so, on to Monami. There is no mistaking what this place serves, its wares confidently announced from the rooftop. As much as I enjoy junkissa, unsure as to what kind of reception one will receive, it is always with a slight feeling of trepidation that I push open the door of one of these local places. I needn’t have worried, of course. The no nonsense owner welcomed us from behind the counter and casually directed us to a brightly lit table next to one of the large windows.
Although seemingly well ingrained in everyday culture, Japan’s junkissa are something of an endangered species. They seem to be everywhere, but younger people are rarely to be found in them. Ochi-san explained that she and her friends preferred more modern cafes, but I was still surprised to hear that this what not only her first time at Monami, but her first time at a junkissa of any kind.
Junkissa often have quite a varied selection of food to choose from and Monami is no exception. Personally, however, I always have to do a toast check! I just just love the buttery thick-cut toast served in kissaten!
Unfeasibly green cream soda floats are also a must.
The homemade apple pie here was also excellent and went very well with a cup of tea served in a dainty cup.
Monami has been around for almost half a century and you could sense its strong connection to the community as the the aroma of ground coffee beans and sound of laughter filled the air.
A Hiroshima Bunkyo University graduate herself, Nishida-san took over the running of Monami from her mother. Monami offers modern services such as WiFi and free use of power outlets, but Nishida-san is admirably uncompromising when it comes to the pricing of the staple of the kissaten, its coffee, which remains at ¥350 a cup.
Our server’s father returned with a friend from a fishing trip and took over duties behind the counter.
They had had a good day, returning with a impressive catch of hamachi yellowtail and sawara Spanish mackerel, destined for the plates of diners the following day.
So, what did our young guest make of her first jyunkissa experience? I was happy to hear that she found the retro atmosphere highly instagramable (and she certainly had an eye for highly likeable camera angles), and even more delighted that she would introducing Monami to her friends.
Many thanks to Nishida-san for her kind hospitality and delicious toast!
Support local businesses and support local culture. Pluck up some courage and push open the door. Long live junkissa, long live Monami!