Monday, January 27, 2014

My Go-To In Hiroshima: Bluebird Cafe


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In my quest for awesomely local cafes in Japan, I have the good fortune of living a mere two hours from a city which is famous for its eccentric locally grown cafes: Hiroshima.

While the city boasts many wonder options for cafes, my favorite is a little joint a half hour form the city, called the BlueBird Café.
Nestled right in front of the JR Miyajimaguchi train station, this gem alone is worth the half-hour, 400-yen train ride from Hiroshima Station, and is definitely a must-see if you are going to Miyajima Island.




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The first floor of the café is a small shop selling quirky goods. From the street, it almost doesn't even look like a café. The order counter is tucked away in the corner just behind a huge display of homemade pastries.

The menu boasts an extensive offers of unique lattes and other espresso creations. After ordering guests walk up the narrow staircase to the second floor, with desks, tables, and couches.

If the comfortable seats and laid-back atmosphere isn’t enough to keep you lingering, you could probably spend an entire day just exploring the decorations on the second floor. From the newspaper ceilings, to the Japanese poetry books, to vintage children’s toys, there are certain a lot of distractions to keep you occupied. 

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It is a cozy and quiet atmosphere.
The customers of this café tend to be pairs of women, or the occasion small groups of teenagers will be quietly studying on the large main table. However, there is one guest who I always look forward to seeing, the owner’s cat, who is constantly occupying at least one of the cushions in the café.

On this particular day, she even had her own blanket.



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Now, let’s see how this place measures up on my checklist:
1.     Coffee and Espresso in the form of frothy and sweetened lattes:
Definitely. In addition to the standard offerings of Hazelnut, Vanilla, etc, they even have seasonable specials line Honey or Peppermint.  
2.     Wifi:
Check. 
3.     Ordering at the counter and not have a waiter check up on you:
Check. Since the counter is downstairs, you are out of sight of the staff. They only come upstairs to serve the drinks or pastries, other than that you are totally alone. 
4.     Seating for singles:
Check. There are small tables designed for two, but it's not weird if one person sits there. 
5.     The ability to bring your laptop and sit there uninterrupted for at least two hours without feeling pressured to order something else or leave:
Absolutely. This place is chill. It's easy to spend an entire day here relaxing, eating, and reading. 


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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

More Thoughts on Life and Travel


Back in March I was in my condo in downtown Portland,  sampling Devemdra Bandhardt’s album Mala online through NPR. I had intended to download it, but somehow forgot to do so until this past December.

I finally listened to the album for the first time while driving on the highway to Kobe.


As I was speeding through traffic, going 120 km/h, I realized that I never imagined I would be driving in Japan, let alone on the highway. And I realized I was doing something I never thought I could do, never thought I would do. I thought I knew my strengths and weaknesses. I thought I knew what I could and couldn’t do. But doing something I never even considered doing opened up a new realm of possibilities for me.

I am capable of doing more than I imagined.
It's a very empowering realization, and one that I could only have reached as the result of living here in Japan. Living here challenged me in a way that I would not have been able to challenge myself.

 That’s the beauty of living somewhere instead of traveling. When someone lives in a foreign country they are forced to do things they don’t want to do. They are forced to be challenged. But when someone travels to a foreign country, they can pay for comfort, they can pay to have all their expectations met, they can pay not to be challenged.

But then they don’t get to listen to Mala while speeding down a Japanese highway, driving a friend’s car.

Then they don’t get the rewards of doing something they never considered doing.

My new mantra:

I want to challenged.
I want to be surprised.
I want to be uncomfortable.
I want to be forced to change my way of thinking, and my way of doing things. 

Cafes of Taipei

Last time I was in Taipei, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of cafes present on every street corner, I didn't ev...