Artifacts of antiquity

When I came to Japan and worked my ass off in the company from the beginning, I turned to coffee. I acclimated to salaryman tactics of consuming copious cups of coffee to stay awake and worked hours and hours without nourishment. With this, I feel like I have gained some kind of personal control over hunger.

My workplace has an espresso machine that grinds the beans. This might be a better version of such a machine:

Breville BES870XL Barista Express Espresso Machine

At least we have none of that form factor funnel anchoring that you see in hotels likeLavazza, for example. While the quality is well controlled, you couldn’t accept a bag of beans for Christmas.

So I started to get a taste for coffee. Smooth black coffee. But how can you find a coffee shop that has good coffee these days? You would think that a good cafe would have good coffee but that is not the case. When you check for reviews people tend to review the service, the location, the muffins or whatever people eat these days. And many times these shops are completely #offthegrid. So what is a review star worth these days? Even the definition of a cafe has drifted to a borderline restaurant in Japan at least. Take a quick glance at a cafe or a chain coffee shop and you will see a dessert or heavy meal like spaghetti promoted. My guess is that these places do not have great coffee, so you have to look for the coffee machine. Is it a drip or French press? What are they promoting? I’ll have to research these brewing methods myself as well but the bare drip method is a sign.

I followed none of these principles lately when I visited a seemingly age-old Japanese cafe at the edge of Tokyo proper. The interior was well-worn, and decor was well dusted, so I dared not to taste their food offerings but decided that I could roll the dice on their coffee for ¥350 or so. I mean, this place and owners appeared older than myself, so there had to be something appealing to someone to grant such longevity. There were coffee beans pressed between each table’s glass and wood which was a cool touch. I briefly checked it for mould but it seemed dry enough.


My ice coffee turned out to be bitter as hell, while my partner’s latte turned out well. I was compelled to add invert sugar.

The highlight of this old place was on checking out. Similar to hot yoga in that regard. It feels good to stop feeling pain. Saving people from hell is better than sending people to heaven. This might be a bit of an overstatement for this cafe.

Next to the cash register was a device that I had never seen before in my life.


It was a battery-operated calculator and trusty abacus combo. The cashier mentioned that the older couple owners only used the abacus, hence, the calculator had been turned off. I mean I pride myself in reducing batteries for eternal solar power devices and while an abacus is admirable, it adds a substantial layer of delay in today’s minute to minute world despite being powerless. There was even an indentation for their writing implement, which was a standard pen. This was fascinating as I had only seen abacuses as decorative ornaments or children’s toys prior to this moment. The abacus can be used for basic math even with multiplication and division! You can learn how to use one on the internet.

The abacus looks to be fragment of our collective memory. Maybe we will need to revive this device again in the future if we lose power, and this old couple would not skip a beat. If not, the device will remain an intriguing and antiquated contraption of mathematics for our amusement.

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