When I first joined the Bazaar Café, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was originally drawn to the idea working in a café for the sake of exposure to part time life in Japan. I wanted to use keigo, see how people interact behind-the-scenes of a restaurant and try something new. Admittedly, the prospect of a free lunch was also a lovely addendum. But when I first walked in to ask for a position, found out that one of the two managers (and my main source of contact) is Brazilian, the staff consists of immigrants from all over, and the café is a hub for discussing social and health issues, I realized the experience was going to be much more interesting than what I pictured.
Bazaar Café is only a couple of minutes away from Doshisha University and open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Each day has a specific regional cuisine dependent on the people cooking that day. I worked on Thursdays, when we would normally prepare Brazilian food. My usual job consisted of washing dishes, helping set lunches on trays and delivering meals to guests. Each Thursday was also a chance to get to know the other workers a bit better and learning how to flow as a group. Early on, I definitely felt like more of a disturbance than anything. But being with the group longer established a sense of unity. Though during work we were focused, at lunch-time we all came together and discussed whatever random topic came up.
My biggest impressions of Bazaar Café, however, actually came from outside of normal working hours. I was invited to help out at a party for some theology students and missionaries interested in the café’s purpose of highlighting social issues. Another time I helped out at a health festival focused on sexual health and STD awareness. Through those experiences I learned that the café had some rather ambitious goals but strove to establish a safe space for those sorts of topics. Through talking to staff I also realized how rare it is to have spaces like that in Japan. But if the home-like café setting and warm atmosphere isn’t convincing, the actions of the workers definitely are.
As my time is coming to an end here in Japan, I find myself sad to soon leave my new friends among the staff. As a final act of warmth, they’ve told me to come in the day before I leave for a Christmas party that will double as a Sayonara party for me. At only a semester, the time at the café was relatively short-lived. But I’m happy to say the experiences and what they had me think about are likely to be long-lasting.
Thank you Bazaar Café!