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kottke.org posts about Japan

In Search of Forgotten Colors

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 13, 2018

The Victoria and Albert Museum filmed this short four-part documentary about the Somenotsukasa Yoshioka dye workshop near Kyoto, Japan. They make dyes using only natural materials, producing vibrant colors using little-used and often long-forgotten techniques.

Sachio Yoshioka is the fifth-generation head of the Somenotsukasa Yoshioka dye workshop in Fushimi, southern Kyoto. When he succeeded to the family business in 1988, he abandoned the use of synthetic colours in favour of dyeing solely with plants and other natural materials. 30 years on, the workshop produces an extensive range of extremely beautiful colours.

Another great find from internet gem The Kid Should See This.

Hoshi Ryoka, one of the world’s oldest hotels

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 11, 2018

From visual journalist Fritz Schumann, a short, poignant documentary on Hoshi Ryokan, a Japanese hotel built on a hot springs that has been run by the same family for 1300 years, making it the oldest running family business in the world.

This ryokan (a traditional japanese style hotel) was built over a natural hot spring in Awazu in central Japan in the year 718. Until 2011, it held the record for being the oldest hotel in the world.

Houshi Ryokan has been visited by the Japanese Imperial Family and countless great artists over the centuries. Its buildings were destroyed by natural disasters many times, but the family has always rebuilt. The garden as well as some parts of the hotel are over 400 years old.

The ryokan is now on its 46th generation of ownership. As you might expect, the changing role of the family in Japanese society has put the future succession of the hotel to the next generation in jeopardy. (via open culture)

The world’s smallest sushi is made from a single grain of rice

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 29, 2018

Tiny Sushi

At Sushiya no Nohachi in Tokyo, you can eat sushi that is made using a single grain of rice. The tiny sushi came about when a customer challenged the owner’s son to make the smallest possible sushi.

The most difficult tiny sushi are the ones with nori seaweed — those are the sea urchin and egg. For sea urchin, he has to put a small piece of nori around a grain of rice horizontally. For egg, he has to wrap the nori around the egg and grain of rice. It’s pretty impressive to witness.

You can see the small sushi being made in this video:

That said, when we asked how often they need to make a plate of small sushi, we were surprised.

“Just a few times a week and at most five times in a day.” Though when customers from overseas order, they tend to be extra enthusiastic about the tiny sushi.

He told us that one woman from Europe burst into tears and cried for an hour and a half after seeing the cute, little sushi.

(thx, jason)

Older Japanese women are shoplifting to find community and meaning in jail

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2018

Shiho Fukada

Shiho Fukada

In Japan, where 27.3% of the population is 65 or older, elderly women are committing petty crimes like shoplifting in order to go to jail to find care and community that is increasingly denied them elsewhere. Japan’s jails are becoming nursing homes.

Why have so many otherwise law-abiding elderly women resorted to petty theft? Caring for Japanese seniors once fell to families and communities, but that’s changing. From 1980 to 2015, the number of seniors living alone increased more than sixfold, to almost 6 million. And a 2017 survey by Tokyo’s government found that more than half of seniors caught shoplifting live alone; 40 percent either don’t have family or rarely speak with relatives. These people often say they have no one to turn to when they need help.

Even women with a place to go describe feeling invisible. “They may have a house. They may have a family. But that doesn’t mean they have a place they feel at home,” says Yumi Muranaka, head warden of Iwakuni Women’s Prison, 30 miles outside Hiroshima. “They feel they are not understood. They feel they are only recognized as someone who gets the house chores done.”

All photos by Shiho Fukada. The first photo is of Mrs. F, aged 89, who stole “rice, strawberries, cold medicine”. She says: “I was living alone on welfare. I used to live with my daughter’s family and used all my savings taking care of an abusive and violent son-in-law.” The woman in the second photo recounts:

The first time I shoplifted was about 13 years ago. I wandered into a bookstore in town and stole a paperback novel. I was caught, taken to a police station, and questioned by the sweetest police officer. He was so kind. He listened to everything I wanted to say. I felt I was being heard for the first time in my life. In the end, he gently tapped on my shoulder and said, ‘I understand you were lonely, but don’t do this again.’

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy working in the prison factory. The other day, when I was complimented on how efficient and meticulous I was, I grasped the joy of working. I regret that I never worked. My life would have been different.

I enjoy my life in prison more. There are always people around, and I don’t feel lonely here. When I got out the second time, I promised that I wouldn’t go back. But when I was out, I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic.

The neon glow of Tokyo modified car culture

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 08, 2017

New Zealand drift racer Mike Whiddett recently travelled to Japan to explore Tokyo’s “extraordinary after-dark modified auto scene”. He found people making California-style lowriders, Dekotora (my favorite, if only for the sheer spectacle), illegally modified cars, and a man who says with a straight face that “driving an unmodified Lamborghini is boring”.

What’s interesting is that more than one of these guys in the video repeated some variation of “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me”. I….don’t believe you? If there’s one thing most humans care deeply about, it’s what other people think about them, particularly when you’re driving million-dollar, pulsing-neon supercars around the world’s most populous city.

1000 marathons to spiritual enlightenment

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2017

The monks of Mount Hiei in Japan perform a spiritual practice called Kaihōgyō in the form of a 1000-day pilgrimage that’s spread out over seven years. There’s secrecy around the practice so it’s difficult to know the precise details, but the gist is that each year, a monk undertaking the practice spends 100 days (or more!) walking 25 miles (or more!) in the middle of the night (because monks have their regular duties and chores to do during the day), stopping at more than 250 sites to recite prayers. That’s 25 miles each day, mind you.

And then there’s this, thrown in about 2/3rds of the way through, just for good measure:

After 700 days, the Kaihogyo practitioner faces what Mitsunaga calls an exam. He enters a hall and prays nonstop for nine days, without eating, drinking, sleeping or even lying down. It’s a near-death experience, the monk says.

“Put simply, you just have to give up everything and pray to the Immovable Wisdom King,” he says. “By doing this, he may recognize you and allow you to live for nine days.”

The practitioner interrupts his prayers every night to come to a small fountain and get an offering of water for Fudo Myo-o. Toward the end of the nine days, the practitioner is so weak, he must be supported by fellow monks.

Finally, his old self dies, at least figuratively, and he is reborn to help and lead all beings to enlightenment.

You can read more about at Wikipedia, The Guardian, and Nowness.

Gorgeous trees on display at the 2017 World Bonsai Convention

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2017

Bonsai 2017

Bonsai 2017

The 8th World Bonsai Convention was recently held in Saitama, Japan. Billed as “the Olympics of the bonsai world”, over 300 trees were on display and one of them sold for ¥100,000,000 ($900,000). Japanistry and Bonsai Tree have some photos of the outstanding trees shown at the event. Bonsai Tonight also has some photos and descriptions of the trees from the convention, but I wish the photos were bigger. (via @sluicing)

Update: Bonsai Tonight made some larger photos available, so I couldn’t help including this one, from a post on the satsuki azalea bonsai, many of which were in full bloom.

Bonsai 2017

Beautiful. (thx, Bonsai Tonight

Japanese robot sumo wresting is incredibly fast

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 20, 2017

Robots fighting each other in arenas is a popular sporting event; see Robot Wars. In Japan, such competitions often take place in small sumo rings and the robots need to move incredibly fast to achieve victory. Robert McGregor compiled some of the fastest and most vicious footage in this video…and none of the footage is sped up in any way. Note the protective leg pads worn by the referee in many of the clips…there must have been an “incident”. (via @domyates)

The birthplace of soy sauce

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2017

The small coastal Japanese town of Yuasa is known as the birthplace of soy sauce. Fermented sauces made using soybeans had been around for centuries in China, but a Buddhist monk who settled in Japan in the 13th century started making soy sauce “as we know it”.

Using the abundance of clear, spring water from the town of Yuasa he began producing a type of miso that he had learned about on his travels that had been used to preserve vegetables. A byproduct from this process — a liquid that collected in the barrels of the miso paste — was soy sauce.

More than 750 years later, factories in Yuasa still produce soy sauce using traditional methods.

At a spa in Japan, you can get a back massage from a cat

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 30, 2017

Don’t know about you, but I need a cat massage right now. You can’t hear it, but I bet that cat is purring big time as well. (My pal Matt was the first person I’d heard refer to cat kneading as “making muffins”, which is an essentially perfect and cute description. He also calls when a cat sits with all four of its paws tucked up underneath it “loaf-a-kitty”. Again, cute and perfect.)

A Japanese smartphone you can wash with soap and water

posted by Tim Carmody   Jan 31, 2017

Smartphones have been getting more water-resistant for a while now, but this is pretty crazy. Via Ina Fried at Recode, who writes:

The phone is a successor to an earlier handset that worked only with certain types of hand soap. The washable phone can be used with a range of soaps, including foaming body wash and hand soap… Waterproof phones have long been a thing in Japan, so it’s not too much of a stretch to think there might be an appetite for soap-proof devices.

In the US, smartphones have gotten so ubiquitous as to be boring — all of them big, flat, and offering slightly different versions of the same thing. I don’t know — maybe that’s an unfair characterization. But I wish the market were just a little weirder, wilder, offering different things to different people with different needs and lives.

Koya Bound, beautiful photographs from Japanese pilgrimage path

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2016

Koya Bound

Craig Mod and Dan Rubin recently walked the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage path in Japan, taking thousands of photos along the way. They made a book of the photographs and have launched a Kickstarter project to make more copies of the book and do some other fun stuff.

The book, of course, is beautiful — Rubin and Mod are great photographers and designers - but direct your attention to the economy of their project description:

In March of this year, Dan Rubin and I went on a walk. The walk was along Japan’s 1,000+ year old Kumano Kodo pilgrimage path.

From that walk, we made one copy of a book of photographs called Koya Bound.

Together, with your help, we’d like to make/do a whole lot more…

This is what we did, here’s what we made, and we’d like your help to do more. That’s how you do Kickstarter, folks.

Update: The website Rubin and Mod made for the project is live. It’s super simple but extensive…I especially like how the journey progresses as you scroll down and the photos “spotlight” out from the path. Strong web design work.

55 generations of sake brewing

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2016

One of the oldest businesses in the world, Sudo Honke is a sake brewery founded in 1141 and managed by the Sudo family for the past 55 generations.

We’ve been making sake for at least 870 years.

I love the “at least” bit. You can buy some of their sake online. (BTW, feel free to supply your own “Sudo, pour me a sake” joke.)

10 things to know about Japanese street fashion in 2016

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2016

As you can tell from whatever “outfit” I’ve extracted from my closet and placed on my body each morning, I know close to nothing about fashion. But I love reading about it. This piece about circa-2016 fashion trends in Tokyo neighborhood of Harajuku is interesting in many ways. Take the first section on Genderless Kei and Kawaii Boys.

Genderless Kei

Though the Kawaii Boys’ styles vary, the most popular look is childlike rather than traditionally feminine. These are not crossdressers, most of them are not gay, and they are not trying to look like — or pass as — women. They are specifically aiming for a happy fun Genderless style. That said, none of these new generation of Kawaii Boys are afraid of incorporating traditionally female fashion elements and makeup into their looks.

When I typically think of genderless fashion, I think of someone dressing “in between” the two dominant genders in relatively nondescript drab clothing that leans masculine. So it’s interesting to see the different approach described here…men wearing traditionally feminine clothes to average out as genderless.

As odd as it sounds, Japanese-ness is also making a comeback in Japanese fashion:

Fashion designers may have finally gotten his message, as we’ve never seen as many Japanese characters in street fashion as we did in 2015. The kanji print boom was just one of the many signs that young Japanese creatives are looking inward as well as outward for inspiration.

The classic Japanese sukajan (souvenir jacket) has been ubiquitous on the streets of Harajuku and in vintage shops since the end of summer. As Spring approaches, the low cost trend shops are well stocked with souvenir jackets as well. Influential indie boutique and underground Japanese brands are offering t-shirts, bags, dresses, and accessories printed with messages in kanji, hiragana, and katakana.

The post also delves into economic and city planning territory with sections on tourism and gentrification. (via @moth)

A history of Japan

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2016

Bill Wurtz’s History of Japan is the most entertaining history of anything I have ever seen.

Air Bonsai, a magnetically floating bonsai tree kit

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2016

Air Bonsai

A group from Tokyo is selling floating bonsai tree kits on Kickstarter. The starter kit is $200, which includes an electric base and magnetically floating pot…plant not included. (via colossal)

Scenes from Fukushima, four years later

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2015

Podniesinski Fukushima

Photographer Arkadiusz Podniesiński recently took a trip to Japan to the area affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. He toured towns closed due to high radiation levels, talked to former residents, and observed clean-up efforts in some of the less affected areas.

When entering the zone, the first thing that one notices is the huge scale of decontamination work. Twenty thousand workers are painstakingly cleaning every piece of soil. They are removing the top, most contaminated layer of soil and putting it into sacks, to be taken to one of several thousand dump sites. The sacks are everywhere. They are becoming a permanent part of the Fukushima landscape.

The contamination work does not stop at removal of contaminated soil. Towns and villages are being cleaned as well, methodically, street by street and house by house. The walls and roofs of all the buildings are sprayed and scrubbed. The scale of the undertaking and the speed of work have to be admired. One can see that the workers are keen for the cleaning of the houses to be completed and the residents to return as soon as possible.

Podniesinski Fukushima

Podniesinski Fukushima

(thx, james)

The hardest working man in Japanese porn

posted by Susannah Breslin   Mar 16, 2015

Details has a long, strange profile of Shimiken, the “king of Japanese porn.”

On a sunny Saturday morning in eastern Tokyo, a silver Audi pulls into a parking lot and sparks pandemonium. Out of the driver’s seat bounces a small, stocky man with bulging biceps, spiky orange hair, and a broad smile spread across his effulgent, spray-tanned face. He bounds onto the pavement wearing a hoodie and a T-shirt that reads SEX INSTRUCTOR. To his left, the mostly male crowd leans forward, en masse. “Shimiken!” several shout, and a clatter of smartphone shutter sounds follows like a round of applause.

“Let’s go,” Shimiken whispers to a handler attempting to clear a path through the throng. He raises one arm over his head to air-high-five his riveted fans. It’s the morning of the Japan Adult Expo, and the crowd has been waiting for tickets. Inside, they’ll get to meet the stars of their wildest fantasies. Outside, they’ve already caught a glimpse of something rarer: the man who has actually lived them all.

Apparently, Shimiken, who is 35, is “beset by XXX exhaustion” because, he says, “the number of male porn stars in Japan is less than that of Bengal tigers.”

The history of Japanese video game music

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 05, 2014

Red Bull is sponsoring a six-part series on the history of Japanese video game music. The first installment covers the music of Space Invaders through the Game Boy. Highlight: composer Junko Ozawa showing off her hand-drawn waveform library she used in composing scores for Namco. Bonus: Space Invader-only arcades in Japan were called “Invader houses” while arcades in New Zealand were known as “spacies parlours”.

Update: Beep is a feature-length documentary film that will attempt to cover the history of video game sounds from Victorian mechanical arcades on up to the present day games. They are currently raising funds on Kickstarter.

The history of ramen

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2014

The New Yorker and First We Feast each has an account of a talk given by NYU professor George Solt, who presented some of his research on the history of ramen.

World War II all but destroyed ramen’s first wave of popularity. Thanks to food shortages and famine, the government placed tight regulations on food supplies, and earning a profit via restaurants or pushcarts was strictly prohibited until 1949. Some wheat flour made it onto the black market, though, and many of the country’s unemployed turned to hawking ramen. Which means, Solt points out, that selling future all-nighter fuel could and did land people in jail.

Holt is the author of The Untold History of Ramen: How Political Crisis in Japan Spawned a Global Food Craze.

Kintsukuroi

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2014

Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using resin mixed with precious metals like gold. The result is often something more beautiful than the original:

Kintsukuroi

There are dozens of examples of kintsukuroi on Pinterest. And as with many Japanese concepts for which there are no corresponding English words, kintsukuroi has many philosophical and metaphorical implications. (via ★interesting)

Update: Here’s a short video that shows the technique and other related techniques:

(via the kid should see this)

Update: When I originally posted this, I forgot to transfer the photo of a bowl repaired through kintsukuroi to my server, resulting in the browser displaying a broken image icon. Rather than just fix it by uploading the photo, I used digital kintsukuroi to fill in the crack in the icon. Not sure the technique works as well as it does with pottery, but it seemed fitting. Here’s the photo I meant to post:

Kintsukuroi

How Japan copied American culture and made it better

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2014

American favorites (blue jeans, whiskey, burgers) have been embraced by the Japanese, who have been turning out improved versions of the originals.

In Japan, the ability to perfectly imitate-and even improve upon-the cocktails, cuisine and couture of foreign cultures isn’t limited to American products; there are spectacular French chefs and masterful Neapolitan pizzaioli who are actually Japanese. There’s something about the perspective of the Japanese that allows them to home in on the essential elements of foreign cultures and then perfectly recreate them at home. “What we see in Japan, in a wide range of pursuits, is a focus on mastery,” says Sarah Kovner, who teaches Japanese history at the University of Florida. “It’s true in traditional arts, it’s true of young people who dress up in Harajuku, it’s true of restaurateurs all over Japan.”

It’s easy to dismiss Japanese re-creations of foreign cultures as faddish and derivative-just other versions of the way that, for example, the new American hipster ideal of Brooklyn is clumsily copied everywhere from Paris to Bangkok. But the best examples of Japanese Americana don’t just replicate our culture. They strike out, on their own, into levels of appreciation and refinement rarely found in America. They give us an opportunity to consider our culture as refracted through a foreign and clarifying prism.

Another example, not mentioned in the piece, is coffee. From the WSJ a couple of years ago:

“My boss won’t let me make espressos,” says the barista. “I need a year more, maybe two, before he’s ready to let customers drink my shots undiluted by milk. And I’ll need another whole year of practice after that if I want to be able to froth milk for cappuccinos.”

Only after 18 years as a barista in New York did his boss, the cafe’s owner, feel qualified to return home to show off his coffee-making skills. Now, at Bear Pond’s main branch, he stops making espressos at an early hour each day, claiming that the spike on the power grid after that time precludes drawing the voltage required for optimal pressure.

Making a Japanese rolled omelette

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 10, 2014

A master chef from a Hokkaido sushi restaurant shows how to make dashimaki tamago, a Japanese rolled omelette.

Watching people who are good at what they do never gets old. (via swiss miss)

Japanese manhole covers are beautiful

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 19, 2013

This group on Flickr shows just how fantastically designed Japanese manhole covers are. Here are some of my favorites:

Japanese Manholes 01

Japanese Manholes 02

Japanese Manholes 03

Japanese Manholes 04

(via mr)

Moving in Japan

posted by Sarah Pavis   Feb 25, 2013

A popular option for moving companies to offer in Japan is, not only to transport your belongings, but to pack them and unpack them for you.

I’d move to Japan just so I’d never have to pack up my own apartment again… except I’d have to pack up my apartment to get there. (via @ohheygreat)

Japan is a land without guns (and shooting deaths)

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 14, 2012

Max Fisher on firearm ownership in Japan.

But what about the country at the other end of the spectrum? What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world’s least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller? In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.

Almost no one in Japan owns a gun. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country’s infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgo guns; the few exceptions tend to become big national news stories.

Tuna farming in Japan

posted by Aaron Cohen   Dec 01, 2012

Bluefin tuna are being caught faster than they can reproduce, which is terrible news for bluefin tuna and people who like to eat them (but seriously for the tuna). These fish are awesome, and I didn’t know farming tuna was possible, but it is, with a few caveats. Bluefin in captivity don’t procreate unless they’re shot with a hormone-tipped spear gun (really). Also, the fish the bluefin are fed still have to come from somewhere, so calling farm raised fish sustainable is something of a misnomer. More sustainable though. I loved this video from Perennial Plate looking at a Japanese tuna farmer. The farmer seems so happy (but does not consider himself a conservationist).

You also ought to spend some time looking at the Perennial Plate back catalog of videos. Lots of gems in there. (via The Atlantic)

The sushi of Jiro’s dreams will run you $20/minute

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 10, 2012

Sukiyabashi Jiro is a 3-star Michelin restaurant in Tokyo that many say serves the best sushi in the world. The chef/owner, 86-year-old Jiro Ono, was the subject of last year’s excellent Jiro Dreams of Sushi documentary film.

Adam Goldberg of A Life Worth Eating ate at Sukiyabashi Jiro yesterday. The meal was 21 courses, about US$380 per person (according the web site, excluding drinks), and lasted only 19 minutes. That’s more than a course a minute and, Goldberg estimates, around $20 per person per minute. And apparently totally worth it.

Jiro's sushi

Goldberg has photos of each course up on Flickr and his site has a write-up of his 2009 meal.

Three slices of tuna came next, akami, chu-toro, and oo-toro increasing from lean, to medium fatty, to extremely fatty cuts. The akami (lean toro) was the most tender slice of tuna I’ve ever tasted that did not contain noticeable marbelization. The tuna was marinated in soy sauce for several minutes before service, perhaps contributing to this unique texture. The medium fatty tuna had an interesting mix of crunch and fat, while the fatty tuna just completely melted in my mouth. My friend with whom I shared this meal began to tear (I kid you not).

Lest you think Goldberg’s meal was an anomaly, this is a typical meal at Sukiyabashi Jiro. Dave Arnold wrote about his experience earlier this year:

The sushi courses came out at a rate of one per minute. 19 courses in 19 minutes. No ordering, no real talking — just making sushi and eating sushi. After the sushi is done you are motioned to leave the sushi bar and sit at a booth where you are served your melon. We took that melon at a leisurely 10 minute pace, leaving us with a bill of over $300 per person for just under 30 minutes time. Nastassia and Mark thought the pace was absurd and unpleasant. They felt obliged to keep up with Jiro’s pace. I didn’t feel obliged, but kept up anyway. I didn’t mind the speed. I could have easily eaten even faster, but I’m an inhuman eating machine — or so I’m told. At the end of the meal, Jiro went outside the restaurant and stood guard at the entrance, waiting to bid us formal adieu. This made Nastassia even more nervous about rushing to get out. Not me. At over 10 dollars a minute I have no problem letting an 86 year old man stand and wait for me to finish my melon if he wants to.

(via ★kathryn)

Anton Kusters’ photos of the Yakuza

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 06, 2012

For his Yakuza project, photographer Anton Kusters spent two years documenting some members of the Japanese mafia.

Yakuza Anton Kusters

A limited edition of a book containing the photos is available. Steward Mag recently did an interview with Kusters:

The values were almost comparable to general Japanese workplace values, actually. Most yakuza gangs actually have neighborhood offices, and the plaques they have on the door state core values like “respect your superiors,” “keep the office clean,” and so on.

One thing I noticed early on with gang life was how subtle everything was. Everything was unspoken, and will was expressed through group pressure. A pressure was constantly there. There was this innate understanding of form-if someone did something wrong, no one would say anything; he would simply be expected to apologize. And the fact everyone would be so silent about it made the pressure really intense.

(thx, david)

Made in Japan, perfectly

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 10, 2012

The long recession in Japan has led to a curious result: the Japanese are no longer just importing American and European goods and services…they’re perfecting their own take on everything from cocktails and cusine to fashion and hotels.

Imagine going into an espresso bar, as I did in Tokyo, ordering a single shot, and being told that it’s not on offer. The counter at No. 8 Bear Pond may feature the shiniest, spiffiest, newest La Marzocco, as well as a Rube Goldberg-esque water-filtration system, but the menu, which lists lattes and Americanos, makes no mention of espresso or cappuccino.

“My boss won’t let me make espressos,” says the barista. “I need a year more, maybe two, before he’s ready to let customers drink my shots undiluted by milk. And I’ll need another whole year of practice after that if I want to be able to froth milk for cappuccinos.”

Only after 18 years as a barista in New York did his boss, the cafe’s owner, feel qualified to return home to show off his coffee-making skills. Now, at Bear Pond’s main branch, he stops making espressos at an early hour each day, claiming that the spike on the power grid after that time precludes drawing the voltage required for optimal pressure.