Searching for Hope

This morning I realized it was a national holiday, Shumbun no Hi, (the Vernal Equinox). Originally this day was established in 1878 as  a Shinto holiday to honor past emperors. (Koreisai 皇霊祭)In 1948, it was “repackaged” as a secular holiday observing the beginning of spring. To me, it meant that the gym would be closed today.

Tour guide and chauffeur, Natsuko!

Tour guide and chauffeur, Natsuko!

So I spent time doing things at home until my friend Natsuko called at 1:00 to see if I were home. She dropped by with brown rice from Oasa, her hometown. She gave me a big heavy bag, maybe 10 kilograms! I’d made coffee so she sat down for a moment. I began to tell her how Eri and I want to find some old kissaten coffee shops to visit, ones that have been in business for over 50 years but never remodeled. We want to get a nostalgic feeling of the Showa era.

A Very Helpful Policeman

A Very Helpful Policeman

I began to tell her about “Hope”, the first kissaten I ever visited in Japan. It was in the neighborhood where I first lived. It was summer 1973 and I was very pregnant and so hot with no AC in our apartment. So in the heat of the day I’d go to this shop just down the street called “Hope.” I desperately needed Hope in those days. I didn’t speak a word of Japanese and had no friends or family to turn to for encouragement. Anyway, I’d order one cold drink and sit there for several hours. I was a little embarrassed, of course, as the waitress would begin to straighten the menus and wipe the tables around me. But I really dreaded going back to the stifling apartment, so I kept sitting there until 3:00 PM or so.

Hope Coffee Shop in Kawauchi 4-chome

Hope Coffee Shop in Kawauchi 4-chome

I tried to tell Natsuko where this shop used to be. She happens to be a skilled driver and knows every side street and alley in Hiroshima. She thought we could find it. So we decided to take off then and there in an impromptu hunt for Hope.

After a few wrong turns and a stop a a local police box, we found the elementary school where my 2 English students had persuaded me to run a centipede race on sports day. Then I saw the Nokyo Market and finally we saw a very weathered sign saying , “Hope.”

I found Hope here!

I found Hope here!

It seemed it had been turned into an office and I was suddenly very disappointed. But Natsuko poked her head in and asked a young man about the coffee shop. Yes, he said, it still occupies half of its original space. It was closed due to the holiday but is still in business after these 40 years!

My first home in Japan...still standing!

My first home in Japan…still standing!

We met some girls in Kendo garb and talked with them and with their mother. We found out that Hope serves a very delicious lunch special for only 600 yen. I hope to return to Hope and enjoy the funky atmosphere and have lunch.

  Kanoka and Kihiro Tsueshige

Kanoka and Kihiro Tsueshige

These girls have been practicing Kendo for four years. When asked why they took it up, the older sister told me that her little sister had been sickly and so they did it to strengthen themselves, body and spirit. Good answer!

All in all, it turned out to be a good day! I’m glad the gym was closed so I didn’t miss Natsuko. It’s always fun to be with her!!

They recommend the Hope lunch special!

They recommend the Hope lunch special!

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. todaysillustrationtomorrow
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 14:39:59

    This is so cool! I can’t believe the place still exists after all those years…so many cool little old cafes closed down in past decade so I really didn’t think it would still be around. You’ve always told me about this place as being a somewhat of a refuge from that depressing old cockroach ridden apartment you lived in when you first came to Japan.
    I can’t wait to check it out with you!!

    Reply

  2. cgaylemarie
    Mar 22, 2013 @ 05:31:09

    What a great story! How exciting to hunt down an old favorite spot. 懐かしかったでしょう! 🙂  
    (私のブログにコメントを書いてくれて、どうもありがとうございます!よろしくお願いします。)

    Reply

    • leahmama1
      Mar 22, 2013 @ 09:14:13

      日本語は母国語ですあk?うまいね!まりえは日本のなまえかな?またよませてもらいますね!

      Reply

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