Hyun Woo Kim : Bazaar Cafe

By working at Bazaar Café, I was able to work directly alongside Japanese workers. In doing so, I got to pick up a lot of Japanese terms related to cleaning and cooking. I was able to learn words like 布巾, the cloth you use to wipe the dishes, and 吹く, to wipe. I was also able to learn about Japanese phrases and etiquette used in the workplace. For instance, I learned that when leaving before everyone else, you say お先に失礼します as opposed to お疲れ様です.

Bazaar Café serves as a place where people who would typically be considered social outcasts in Japan can work and be a part of a supporting community. I remember on my first day of work, all the workers at the café gathered in front of me to introduce themselves. Some gave a short introduction regarding their name and how they would like to be called. Others, in addition to their names, spoke frankly about their past troubles, ranging from drug addictions to mental health issues. I was taken aback by how honest they were about their past problems, and I came to understand that this was possible because of Bazaar Café. It truly was a safe haven where people can talk frankly to one another without fear of judgement. A month or so later, I had a more in-depth talk with one of the works. The conversation began naturally, and they spoke matter-of-factly about their past addiction, health, and sexual orientation. The degree of trust they had in me was something I had not witnessed in Japan up until that day. In return, I came to respect and trust them as well.

Working at Bazaar Café was truly an eye-opening experience. It was helpful in a practical sense because I got to learn about important workplace phrases and mannerism. But perhaps more importantly, it allowed me to learn about Japan as a society and hear about these hardships that are not openly discussed. I felt part of a tight, trusting community, and I felt like I was able to see a side of Japan that I would not have been able to had I done my CIP elsewhere,

4 thoughts on “Hyun Woo Kim : Bazaar Cafe

  1. Hyun Woo,

    It was very moving to read about the “hidden side” of Japanese society, which is often viewed by western crowd as “orderly” and “near-perfect”. I saw Japan to be one of the better country for taking care of those with disability and socially disconnected, and I guess what I saw was true after all.

    I’m really interested in knowing how the view of the “outcasts” differ in Japan compared to that in the United States. Is it better or worse?

    • Thanks for your comment, Yeonjun. I would say that the outcasts of Japan have a harder time than those of the US because of how people don’t really talk about issues regarding mental health. From my understanding, in America discourse surrounding mental health has become much more open than before. It isn’t uncommon to know people around you who have some sort of mental health issue. However in Japan, though I haven’t lived here for nearly as long as I have in America, open discussion of mental health seems hard to come by.

  2. More than simply serving as a volunteer at Bazaar Cafe, it seems as though you were able to create bonds that went beyond the daily minutiae of working in a cafe. Do you feel that you were able to open up to your co-workers too, or was it more that they were opening up to you?

    • Thanks for your comment, Julia. To be honest, I didn’t have that much of a chance of opening up to my coworkers because I was busy washing the dishes or doing some other chore to make myself useful. It was definitely a surprise when my coworkers opened up to tell me about things that were very personal.