Coffee Seibu

I had been in smoke filled rooms before. Clubs in Melbourne before the smoking ban came in. Divey Izakayas in Shibuya where old salarymen avoided going home after work. None of those really compared though. Something bout 40 years of smoke, hitting the velvet curtains running up and congregating on the ceiling is something else. You could almost feel every cigarette that had ever been smoked in that room.

‘I absolutely love it here.’ I proclaim, knowing full well I haven’t smoked a cigarette in anger in about 10 years and that the air was so warm I’d be pining for fresh air within 30 minutes. ‘This is a Japan I’d have never have been a part before now.’

Green and Yellow stained glass windows gave an uneasy tinge to the room through the lights behind them. Wood veneer on the walls added to the 70s vibe that were no doubt stylish of the time. Opaque art deco shaped light fittings jutted out from the walls. The richests of red velvet cushioned booths accented it all and the hum of conversation, laughter and thought of the patrons lingered through the haze of cigarette smoke.

A manga artist was having his work critiqued by his business manager sat in the booth next to us. On the other-side, an older man smoked and drank coffee only ever engaging who I presumed was his daughter ever so often with a wry comment or conversation. She sat leaning away from him, but never dived so far away from thought that she would miss his comment.

Classic black coffee was served on a plain porcelain tea cup, with a tiny brass spoon to mix your cream or sugar in. I ordered a black chocolate cake out of the hazy glass cabinet at the front. Unsurprisingly it tasted like it was from the 70s but I still enjoyed it. 

We stayed for roughly 3 hours, talking, laughing and thinking like so many of people before us. I’ve never felt more pleased to contribute to the history of an establishment… me, white, foreign, a stranger. I sat there, the same as those who did 40 years ago and felt like I belonged.


‘She’s there. She’s standing right there at the bar.’ He looks down, and lifts his head back up. ‘Yep… that’s her alright.’ As if confirming he’s actually standing in the same room as her and not in some computer simulation.

‘Ah-sa! Did you see her too? Kozue is here.’ Chi yells.

‘I know! She’s beautiful right!?’ He says a bit too assertively, oblivious to the fact he’s telling Chi how beautiful another woman is.

She’s shorter than he thought… a lot shorter. Models tend to be tall, at least in his experience, but she’s slight. Her black hair tied back drawing a spine down the back of her white t-shirt. He continues to take quick glances in her direction for another minute or so before something strange started to happen. He forgets she’s there, and his mind starts carrying him elsewhere.

For the first time in a long time, perhaps ever, he doesn’t feel like an imposter. He’s in a room, at a party, metres away from people he’s only ever seen in Vogue and indexed with 4.5million other followers. He takes a sip of his Whiskey, bops his head to the music and thinks how foolish he’s been for placing importance on being judged by others, because for all their ‘judgement’, he’s still in this room, at this party, metres away from everything.

Oxford Street

‘I thought that the moment I said it, that it would be some sort of silver bullet. That suddenly every thought of stress, anxiety, depression, self worth, would all just magically end. That I’d be able to feel normal again and be myself. The truth was that when I said it, my voice broke. I had to say the damn words twice. For some fucked up reason I still was broken even though I’d said what I wanted to say for the last 8 months.’

‘Maybe stress isn’t that simple. Maybe depression isn’t that simple. Did you think about that?’ She taps the side of her glass with the spoon and places it carefully back onto the saucer. ‘These things damage us, repaint us in a new coat that we may not be comfortable or satisfied with, but that’s how mental illness works. One day the wall is green, and then all the sudden you wake up and it’s blue… it won’t be green again until you get the paintbrush out and paint it again.’

He nods and looks at her, placing his palms flat on the table. ‘I’m just… I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad that all the anxiety I created in my head is over.’

‘I hate to tell you, it’s not though. The wall is still going to be blue underneath that new coat. Just don’t forget that also under that blue coat is who you were before. It’s important.’

He smiles, places his right elbow on the table, lifts his palm to his face and leans into it. ‘You’re right. You’re always right.’ He closes his eyes and lets the warmth of the sun in for the first time in as long as he can remember.

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