An Ode to Shiru Cafe
Amherst and Doshisha are eerily similar in a lot of ways. The founder of Doshisha, Joe Nishijima, built it after being inspired by Amherst, after all, so it makes sense. But some of the similarities hit a little too close to home. For example, there is an alumni building on campus called “Amherst House” that looks identical to Garman House. The style of all of the structures are similar to that of Amherst, and the school color is a similar shade of purple. And like Amherst, right around the corner is Shiru Cafe. As ridiculous as it may sound, some days, it feels like I never left Amherst.
I was in Shiru Cafe in Japan when I heard that the Shiru Cafe in Amherst closed. Dramatically — my heart broke. Amherst’s Shiru Cafe was more than just a workspace for me — it really felt like a second home. Lots of breakdowns, finals, and soulful catch-up sessions and were had in that space. I was a regular, I knew the workers and they knew my drink order by heart. Coming back, I know that I’ll have to find a new space.
During the school year, no matter where I am, I am a woman of routine and Shiru Cafe was an integral part of my routine. When at UC Berkeley, I would go to class and then camp out at my favorite cafe until they close (usually 2 AM). When at Amherst, after classes, I immediately head to Shiru Cafe and work there until they close. My routine is identical here — classes then Shiru. Everyday. I know it sounds boring and monotonous to people, but it’s the only way I’m able to get my work done consistently. Free coffee in hand and Japanese textbooks in the other — I sit in Shiru until the sun sets.
In the making of this blog post, I thought about whether I should interview a professor who can speak to the intricacies of food culture in Japan, a restaurant owner, or even a farmer. But I then realized, who better to interview the manager of Shiru Cafe, who also happens to be a Doshisha Student.
Her name is Arisa Yoshimura, and she is a full-time student at Amherst while working at Shiru Cafe. I thought that she’d be the perfect person to ask about food and cafe culture in Japan.
What is your name, age, and interests? Can you describe where you are from in detail?
I’m Arisa Yoshimura, and I am 20 years old. I was born and grew up in Itami-city, Hyogo prefecture, and now I live in Suita-city, Osaka. I’m interested in traveling and sports, like football and track and field.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about Doshisha University?
I really like school building styles of Doshisha, it’s maybe [in a] Western style,so I can feel that I’m in other countries. But I don’t like that official offices end at 5:30pm. It’s too fast for me!
How do you balance work, school, and social life? Any advice for struggling students out there?
I take 9 classes (19 credits) everyday, except for Wednesday and Friday, so I have enough time to do a part-time job, or hang out, but my English classes are very tough, so almost all of my free-days, I am busy with preparations for school, haha. Also, I have two part time jobs, Shiru Cafe and Teaching Programming for elementary school students. But these are categorized as internships. Shiru is closed on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. So I work there about once a week. I work at Teaching programming every Saturday at Osaka, it’s always fun.
I think students have to study a lot and play a lot. We have a lot of time until becoming an adult (it means after graduation from university), so I think you can do anything you want to!
How would you describe, in detail, the canteens/cafeterias available at Doshisha University?
I really recommend Shiru Cafe, because all of the drinks are FREE, haha. But when I get tired of it, sometimes go to アマークドパラディ寒梅館, it’s located in Kanbaikan, which is one of the school buildings of Law School of Doshisha. Follow this one: instagram.com/hamackanbaichan
What is your daily schedule as a Doshisha student and while working at Shiru Cafe?
I take classes on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. On Mon., I have from 2nd period to 4th, on Tue. from 2nd to 5th and on Thu. from 1st to 4th. So I often work at Shirucafe after class of Monday or Thursday, from 17:00 to 20:00.
What is your favorite food, and what are your food recommendations in Japan?
I really like Yakiniku(Korean Barbeque) and Gyoza(dumpling)! All of Japanese foods are very nice, especially I like Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki and Matcha sweets! Japanese sweets such as rice cake with bean jam are very delicious
How often do you cook for yourself? How often do you eat out? Which do you I prefer?
I usually cook by myself in my free day. I sometimes eat out with my friends about twice a month. Actually I like to cook for myself,because it’s cheaper than eating out, and restaurants have a strong flavor.
Having studied in America before, how do you think food culture is different in America compared to Japan?
Actually I haven’t studied in America, it was Canada, but I’ve been to Hawaii for many times for just traveling. I think Hawaiian culture and American culture are very different. But on food, there are probably the same aspects. I was very
surprised by the size of food like vegetables, meats and beverages and so on. I imagined american food is only junk food.
What did you like and not like about American food culture?
Actually I really like junk foods like pizza, cheeseburgers, coke, and so on, but I’m confused about the large size of food!
Did you have difficulties with eating food in America?
Sorry, I’ve already said many times, it’s size. It’s too big for me.
What do you not like about Japanese food culture and American food culture?
I think Japanese food takes a long time to cook, sometimes many of them are boiled for 30 minutes. American foods are sometimes unhealthy like cheeseburger.
Finally, what is cafe culture like in Japan?
I think young Japanese people like to go to chic cafes. Now in Japan, Instagram is very prevalent among them. They want to be seen as a fashion icon, so they often go to very beautiful cafe. It’ s called インスタ映え, instagrammable. But I don’t think there’s a lot of wi-fi. Sometimes people work in cafes for a while, but that’s not super normal.
Apparent in Risa’s answers, cafe culture in Japan is different than America’s. It is less of a workspace and more of meeting space for friends, which is why a space like Shiru Cafe is a bit of a game changer. Most cafes in Japan are not equipped with wi-fi, so this already puts Shiru Cafe above a lot of study spaces at Doshisha University.
In an environment that can be incredibly overwhelming, Shiru Cafe has been able to provide me with immense comfort. It was nice to find consistency in waves of newness.
This post serves as an ode to cafes that serve as a place of refuge for college students. A special thanks and sad farewell to Amherst’s Shiru Cafe for your copious free drinks, unlimited free shots of coffee, and $1 matcha lattes. You will be dearly missed.