At the Morning Coffee Shop 朝の珈琲屋で

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At the Morning Coffee Shop

   If you climb just a breath up the hill from the former national highway and the Kashiwagi Post Office in Kawakami Village, you can find “kusurimizu”. For the last 1,200 years, since Kobo-Daishi (Kukai) stopped here on his way to Kumano and used his cane to say “Dig here.”, this mountain spring water has provided sustenance for the locals. Gushing when there’s a lot of rain, a quiet stream when there’s a drought, the locals prize this kusurimizu so much that they even built a small shrine for this pure water. Now, this mountain spring water flows down the hill and is divided among the houses. It flows all the way down to the current national highway, and it’s not rare for cars to line up waiting to scoop some of this “Kobo-Daishi Mountain Spring Water”.
   Right along that same national highway, the coffee shop Hide (hee-day) uses this pure water to make coffee. When I walked in, the man sitting at the counter was talking and laughing with the shop’s couple. I sat at a table and ordered the yakisoba meal as usual. The sizzle from the kitchen overlapped with the classic instrumental song playing in the shop, adding a bright romance to everything in sight. The innumerable coffee tickets pinned to the wall. The outside winter seen through a foggy window. The shop lighting reflected in my black coffee. Before I realized it, the yakisoba entered the scene. The rice, miso soup, and takuan pickles were also players. Of course, the water was Kobo-Daishi mountain spring water. I split my Yoshino cedar chopsticks and ate without skipping a beat. The thick pork, I gave a good chew, and the crispy noodles slightly burnt on the plate, I happily saved for last.
   The coffee shop conversation naturally flowed from start to finish. The beautiful couple who runs Hide spoke with the familiar regulars and gave the first-timers a warm welcome. Even the Yakult Lady took a break and naturally joined the conversation. When I was the last one left, the shop owner turned to me and said, “A lot of different people come here, it’s always interesting,” and went outside to see a customer off.