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Okayama is a small city, though not without its sprawl. Running west from the city are neighborhoods of industry, and in areas they are mixed with residences. A uniform grid-block of buildings south of Kita-Nagase station is one such amalgam. The buildings are uncommonly wide and interspersed with both untended and distended pavement. In the fashion of true abandonment, green has shot out from the cracks in the pavement. Among this small neighborhood furbished with boutiques and cafes, is Cafe the Market Mai Mai.

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Interior of a cafe in Okayama

The cafe is a little fairy flourish amidst the charcoal coloration of its environs. As you pass the neighbouring shops, displays fill windows but barely spill out. The interior of Cafe the Market Mai Mai is so abundant that it has deposited sundry natural objects outside. An unlikely porch of beached-bleached planks shapes out a unique appearance against the concrete of the building. Throughout town, glass windows light the interior of many of the buildings with famous Okayama sun. The tables of the patio cultivated by the aura inside Mai Mai were inspired to grow out in the glassy light.

Table seating in a cafe in Okayama

Entering the cafe is peeling back a leaf to unveil a cool den. The outside neighborhood of Okayama quiets as you attune to the inside sounds. A couple steps, and before you is the counter. Browse the menu after the staff peeks over from out of their affectionate attention to coffee preparation. To assist the selection, browse the selection of morsels of a clear display of whole cakes in slices. Custard tarts crowded with berries and fruit, and the dense dark chocolate of the chocolate gateau, are my usual choices. Loaves of the house bread – found fresh-baked at Mai Mai’s little sister cafe the Market – are to the side of the glass case. Furnish a pretty penny for the dish of your preference, then loll around until you find the seat smoothest for your bottom.

cafe latte

The search for a seat on your first visit feels like a small exploration. Choice is in the sights and smells you prefer. At the entry are low couches cushioning more clandestine people-watching. On a cloudy day, the dimmer clouds and deep couching are perfect for entering the fold of a book. If the low seating’s too snug a fit, there’s the main reservoir of cool cafe. Music spins from a DJ rig in the furthest corner, among stacks of CDs of various types of music. Most of the seats in the cafe occupies this area, a couple steps’ raised platform. You can sit on cozy worn leather or on smooth wood, near the broad windows or closer to the central well of space. This side is near the kitchen, where you can watch the baristas infusing coffees with a certain Mai Mai hip.

sandwich and side salad meal sold in cafe in Okayama

The cafe kitchen bulges a brown bole. The baristas and sandwich chefs are its family denizens, slinking in and out with orders. It’s breadth frees small spaces to either side, one being a tavern-like alcove. Away from all windows and gently lit, it’s ideal for intimate sips of coffee and a draught of mood.

Wherever you sit, fill a glass of water and recline. Whether or not you start counting minutes, you will forget time when your richly flavored meal arrives. I often choose the Camembert sandwich and salad, with a cafe mocha, and chocolate gateau. First comes the sandwich wrapped in brown paper. There’s always one more slab of Camembert than I expect, and any greens that spill out become a well-dressed salad. My book thuds down as I eat up my food, and I whip through pages in thickening time. Just as time reaches a rich consistency, filling out the Mai Mai experience comes the spongy chocolate gateau plate-placed by a thick dollop of cream. Each bite’s worth eight pages of good reading, and the coffee tones match the color of a good old tome.

Rounding your belly like the burlap sack near the entry, you’ll have swallowed food and a good read. As time reaches a snail’s crawl, you might dizzy in a quick rise. Steady yourself, catch a hint of smile and a line of Japanese conversation as you leave for the Okayama rays.

(source: https://tabelog.com/okayama/A3301/A330101/33000847/) in Japanese only.

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Ethan Cookman

Ethan Cookman

I've had a lot of time to think about my biography. About 25 years. I've also done things like study at university - Hofstra University and Kwansei Gakuin University. When I was a teacher at a children's school in Okayama (Japan), I didn't have so much time to think about my biography. So now I'm in Tokyo, writing my biography. I've been living in Japan for a year and a half, and enjoy puns, music, and sights (both insight and outside).

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