The apartment was typical by Tokyo standards; A one roomed studio, sparsely furnished and only big enough to hold a max of 10 people. It was located in trendy Koenji, (a neighborhood known for it’s used clothing and record shops) and sandwiched between a Lawsons and 1,000 yen barber shop.
“Make yourself at home,” our hostess murmerd as my friend and I took off our shoes and took a seat around a wooden coffee table.
The living room was already comfortably crowded with guests doing just that. A college student in a flowered skirt and knitted ski cap sat on the cushioned floor studying. A couple sat cross-legged around an identical coffee table, flipping through a pile of outdated magazines and a Lonely Planet guidebook. Another couple lounged on a sofa sipping tea and as they colored on placemat-sized pieces of white paper.
Our hostess returned a moment later and wordlessly handed us a small manila envelope. Inside were several folded, letter-sized pieces of paper.
‘Cafe Apartment’ read the typed letter head. A menu.
We were in a coffee shop. A coffee shop that had been modeled to resemble a Japanese apartment.
I’d found this cafe on the internet earlier that day when I was looking for an interesting alternative to Starbucks. Espresso served in a cozy living room setting? What could be better? The photos on the website had given me the impression that the cafe would be spacious and with an artistic, retro flare.
In reality, the apartment was tiny and incredibly plain. The beige plastered walls were bare. And besides the few English and Japanese children’s books that lined the shelves, there were no decorations.
It was dissapointing because there was much that could have been done with this theme. So much wasted potential. They could have had board games availble for people to play, for example. Or books that people over the age of five would enjoy reading. They provided colored pencils and paper for people to color with but there was nowhere to display the completed pictures. Why not have a giant magnetic white board (designed to resemble a refrigerator door) with colorful alphabet magnets for people to hang their artwork? Or perhaps a magnetic poetry board? They had thought to add a chalkboard, but they chose to hang it in the bathroom. Again, a clever idea that wasn’t given enough thought.
I’ve always wanted to start my own coffee shop / bookstore. Maybe one day when (if?) I settle down, I’ll start my own ‘Cafe Apartment’ in the States. Call it “My Place” (as in, “Wanna go to ‘My Place’?”) and have it modeled like a teenager’s bedroom or perhaps a college dorm.
I’d definitely have a pet cat or dog. And a white picket fence and a clothes line with underwear and college sweatshirts dangling off of it. I’m picturing lava lamps, glow in the dark stars on the ceiling and posters of boybands. I’d have an entire wall decorated with framed ‘family photos’; the black and white ones you can find at the Salvation Army or perhaps I’d let customers bring in their own. We’d have movie and game nights and serve favorite comfort foods like chocolate chip cookies, PP&J and apple pie.
What do you think? Does anyone know if an apartment-themed coffee shop is already in existence in the States?