Diary: Kurashiki Out n About + Musings about changes, economics and entrepreneurship

The magical art city of Kurashiki was holding a Jazz Street event with loads of bands playing at various venues around the historic Bikan area with narrow Edo-period laneways, the magnificent Ohara museum (featuring European post/impressionist art) and lots of little shops selling handmade paper, handicrafts of all sort, plus great coffee shops and kissaten (a sort of Japanese diner/lounge type establishment).

Bonus: Check out the Taiko Drums fronting a Jazz band from this event #video

Evidence and annotations follow: 

First a stop at a coffee shop. Coffee and Toast – this is all (technically he also serves curry and cheesecake) – i love the thought of having my own coffee, toast (plus daal and cake) cafe – i’ll sell postcards too .

Business plan: get toaster, make toast, sell toast – do not scale :)   ts like the easiest foods to obtain in most places right?  Novelty and presentation refined substantially and attentively.

Note: Indeed! The walls were all rough and intentionally unfancy bare plywood, but his equipment and process was all next level and so intentional. Put the effort into what really matters (making great coffee and toast), decorate with a few interesting items (old grinders and classic stereo), have places to be seated comfortably, and let the vibes flow. Zen

Love this too because if you tried to open a toast restaurant (with toppings like bananas or cabbages) in Vancouver, you would either have to charge nine dollars per serving and just have pretentious whatever people coming in, or you would be mocked and out of business shortly. I’m not sure which, but I love that this restaurant exists in a complete state of grace and elegance in the most adorable town.  

There was also this “raw cheese cake” that I’m not even sure I know how to describe except that it was so delicious  

Stopped into a kissaten to listen to Ryoko’s friend sing/play and had earl grey tea in this awesome Grandmother’s mug. Also ordered sandwiches and a huge plate of egg salad and lettuce/cucumber sandys arrived, with crusts cut off. The 2 drinks and sandwiches were cheap enough to think they’d made a mistake when charging. 

Musings 

Kurashiki is really a fantastic place! Has all these old-timey canals, little winding streets filled with cute shops and cafés and what not, impossible alleys and hidden courtyards (some with outdoor performances for “jazz street“ festival along with dozens of bands playing in small venues), but the even best part is a magnificent museum with remarkable assortment of European art especially impressionist/postimpressionists.

I posit that if this museum were in Paris or New York or whatever, there would be a huge line, loads of security, barriers to not get close to the paintings and all that but in this case, there is a sweet old man looking at your ticket and occasionally unarmed I’m security guard asking you not to take photos so much… you have Monet, Gauguin, Toulouse Lautrec, a few Picassos and Pollocks, scattered Matisse, plus El Greco, Dégas and and Japanese artist doing European influenced work (kind of the opposite of van Goghs Japan inspired works). It’s called the Ohara Museum.

Plus around is also Asian folk craft museums, pottery museums and more and more and more (i am usually too wiped out to hit up more than one), plus the aforementioned hidden little coffee shops and cafés, shops with an old lady selling handmade paper… You get the idea.

It’s a short train ride from my house. Come visit! Then just another short train ride to the inland sea filled with little islands with outdoor sculpture installations of such weirdness from the Trienalle.

 A note to a friend re: economy/difference from early 1990s:

Oddly enough, the prices of everything are pretty much the same as they were back in 1993. Stagflation in action. This means (since the rest of the world’s economy has gone up 20% or whatever) everything doesn’t seem as shockingly expensive as in those end-of-the-bubble-days.

Ergo: can of coffee is still ¥110 from the vending machine, ¥250 for 10 eggs.

The biggest change in Japan from back in the day though is craft beer is easy to find (and great!) and fancy coffee… As I recall back then, you had canned coffee or instant coffee or occasionally crappy drip… Now there is fantastic top shelf coffee easily available.

Also in general a bit of… maybe humility – Or lack of obvious consumerism? Back then (in the tail end of the bubble), people were inclined toward brand-y clothes, big watches, pretentious cars and all of that. I don’t see any of that kind of vibe anymore.  Maybe its just me.

I’m still holding onto my dream of making my own little coffee shop, selling in postcards, having board games and a record player. Make a place where the old folks and young folks alike can meet & gather for their club conversations, letter writing, basket making workshops…

All of it   bout the decline in population, it produces a continual conversation about immigration while maintaining culture but within a completely different sort of framework in the conversation happens in Canada or the US.… Well maybe not completely different but anyway.

Most immigrants who do come for that complicated work/guest worker permits are in the big cities or factory cities, or scattered around teaching English.

And, being an obvious foreigner isn’t quite as gawk-worthy as it once was :-)  i find, – note that i live in an area which is just the right size to not be a complete novelty and enjoy just “existing“ here and doing my own thing.

It’s usually quite easy to get around and I just love how people can (still) turn their passions into a small business. Like small coffee shops and cafés or pubs without having to think about “how do you scale this?” “How do you make this into a chain and maximize ROI…” If you know what I mean.

Oddly enough, Japan has a reputation for not being “entrepreneurial” and in some sense there is a prevalence of being risk adverse for *groundbreaking start up ideas*, but entrepreneurship in the sense of making a small business is completely common place.

speaking of the past, my obligatory payphone photo with phone card slot still in action. used to be (before cell/mobile phones) you’d buy pre-paid phone credit cards (with collectible designs though disposable). the phones are still abundant and well-maintained and i find, quite elegant

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