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Just behind one of Koto-ku’s many canals, you’ll find Sunday Zoo, opened only Friday to Sunday. I duck in at 1pm after lunch, just as two salary men are heading back to the office with sleepy satisfaction.

I inspect the glass jars, each clearly labelled with a country flag, roast, and wash details. Most of it is in Japanese. In the end, I decide on a Honduras. The owners, the Okunos, explain that their unusually wide selection is due to last week’s Valentine’s Day rush.

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Their weekly small-batch roasts.

Since opening two years ago, and despite their unusually brief hours, they’ve quietly gathered a coffee following far beyond this residential neighbourhood. By the time I’ve completed my order and take my seat, a mom has brought her toddler son in. By the time my coffee arrives a few minutes later, two other women have slipped in, and it begins to feel cozy.

Akemi-san quickly flips open an extra chair for one of the moms. She picks a picture book off their shelf for the boy, and one for baby girl sitting on the chair as well. There are plenty of magazines for the adults, but they’re more interested in chatting with each other or the owners.

 

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Owner Okuno Nobuharu making my cup of coffee.

Nobuharu-san has a beaming smile and even when his patrons gather eagerly in front of him, he’s never rushed. He sticks to his four filters. His meditative focus begins with the grinder, then on the water, then on the brewing. He sets his timers and waits. When everyone is served and a hush snuggles into the room, he may continue a conversation from earlier, or he considers his roasts. His small-batch roaster is right beside the counter.

I sip my coffee, which I take black. The flavour is light, fresh with cherries, maybe a hit of blossoms or tea. It’s mild, which I’ve found typical of Japanese roasts, and smooth.

 

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This feels like an open-house living room, with an elastic serenity that accommodates whatever characters come in. When the conversation ebbs, the faint country music and jazz float from the back corner, where the single burner stove and sink is.

Before I know it, an hour and a half has passed in the little corner table that I’ve occupied. It’s a small slab of wood which just fits my portable keyboard and propped up smartphone. Despite the steady traffic, the Okunos never ask me to move, even though I’ve taken up the bench that goes with the table. There’s something about them that allows me to relax even though I’m conspicuously out of place amongst the friends catching up and the individuals sipping their coffee while watching him brew.

By the time I leave, an entire group has come, but there’s room for them too. I’m done my article; it’s time for me to pack up. As I do, Akemi-san passes me a map of the area’s local cafes, encouraging me to try them all. It feels like I’m leaving an intimate afternoon tea party too soon. By the time I bow and slide the door closed Akemi-san calls just firmly enough above the chatter, ‘Matta ne!’ Until next time!

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Their modest thoughtfully assembled shelf collection.

Good For:

  • Coffee: Drip / Pour-Over (they serve decaf)
  • Friends: Hangouts & catching up
  • Work* They don’t have WiFi, and there is one small table that will fit a netbook.
  • Chilling and reading* (small, but the owners are friendly)
Address: Hirano 12-chome 7-4, Koto-ku, Tokyo
東京都江東区平野12丁目7−4
Hours (Closed Tues-Thurs) Fri, Sat, Sun: 10:30-18:00
Sun: 10:30-16:30
営業日【月・火・水木 定休日】 金・土・ 10:30~18:00
日 10:30~16:30

If you liked this post, check out the full list of Kiyosumishirakawa’s Cafes.

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