What does it mean?
Coffee is now very popular in Japan, but it was not always so. I lived in Aichi, and apparently this was the region that “introduced” coffee to Japan, in the sense that the “craze” spread through Aichi and to the rest of the country.
Whether or not that is true, certainly there were coffee shops everywhere in Aichi.
I noticed it especially in Toyohashi, where I lived. There were little coffee places tucked away in residential areas. It was a bit sad, sometimes, that perhaps these coffee places popped up during the boom and now their owners were tied to a business no longer as buzzing as it had once been.
But that never stopped me nipping into little residential coffee places for a morning hot drink before class. And the reason I was so keen to do this was that in Toyohashi you don’t just get a drink. You get what is called “morning set”!
Typically a “morning set” will be a slice of buttered toast, a boiled egg, and a little dish of salad and pickles.
Sure, the drink costs a bit more but the breakfast is definitely worth it.
I honestly got to the point where I would consider a morning without nipping into a little place for “morning set” to have been a morning set wasted! I knew I wasn’t going to be in Japan forever, and I wanted to squeeze as much joy out of that time as I could!
Because of the popularity of this custom, you can often buy a “ticket book” from a coffee place which then gives you perhaps 12 tickets (for the price of perhaps 10 cups of coffee) and pay each time with a ticket instead of a few hundred yen cash.
One place I went to a lot was “Cafe Costa Rica”, right next to the family-run school that I worked for.
Cafe Costa Rica was a chain – perhaps an Aichi chain or perhaps just a Toyohashi chain – so it didn’t quite have the same feel as a home run place, but it had charm in its own way.
The staff wore cute uniforms and the music was always xylophone covers of popular songs (anything from The Beatles to traditional Japanese songs). The place had a relaxed feel to it which made me feel at home, like I was back in Europe. In fact it was more intense than just being at home – I felt like I was in a Professor Layton game every time I went there!
I am not much of a coffee drinker and often I would go to Cafe Costa Rica after work quite late in the evening after a long day. I would know that I was going to head back home and fall asleep so I took to ordering hot milk.
I could tell that some of the ladies at Costa found this very entertaining. I imagine them thinking “ah, perhaps all gaijin drink hot milk?”
One day I decided to buy a ticket book for Costa.
That is what the picture at the top of this entry shows.
At Cafe Costa Rica they had a great system where the customers’ ticket books were stored in a little canvas wall hanging thing with “pockets”. The books had the customers’ names written on them.
The name written on my ticket?
“mister hotto miruku”
Mr Hot Milk
I am sorry for the little Japanese in this entry, but it felt like a fun story to tell on a Sunday!