Slow, Slow Coffee on Ogasawara

Japan is a country not usually thought of as devoted to the notion of  ‘Slow’. But in fact it is an intrinsic part of life, an internal concept applied to the everyday, contemplative meditation found by watching trees, flowers, hiking, even walking the streets.

For a long time I had wanted to visit the exquisitely beautiful island of Chichijima. Isolated from the main islands of Japan by 1000 km of sea, you are only able to visit by ferry. Classified world heritage by UNESCO, it is surrounded by pristine seas, beautiful forests and incredible night skies.

The trip is 24 hours long, and the ferry comes once every 7 days. There is no airport – just a ferry! Everything arrives by ferry – post, building supplies, groceries, everything! The people who live in Ogasawara have never seen this as an issue, it is the way they live. Things may take a little longer, but it doesn’t present a problem.

Two years ago I was lucky enough to be able to incorporate a trip to Ogasawara and the island of Chichijima to visit friends. I was already in love with the idea of this small island, and it was confirmed as soon as the ferry docked. For 7 days life was a beautiful journey of slow living, walking, cycling or kayaking to the beach (not too many roads), watching sunsets and the moonrise.

Life is slow because it has to be; there is no other way. But if given the choice, the inhabitants wouldn’t choose anything else.

One of the most delightful discoveries was a little coffee shop across the road from my shack, USK Coffee. Down a dirt road into the property, Yusuke, the owner and his wife have set up an Airstream caravan as a coffee shop. The property is their coffee plantation, connected to a small farm where they grow their own produce. Everything they served in the cafe was made by hand.

To order a cup of coffee is itself a contemplative exercise. Yusuke roasts the beans 300 grams at a time by hand, so he controls the roast. He then grinds the beans on order, 100 grams only at a time. The beans are then ready to be filtered by a slow drip method, resulting in the most flavourful cup, producing a taste you can never achieve by machine.

On ordering, you have no idea it will take this long to get your cup of coffee, but as you find yourself sitting in the middle of a plantation and can walk around to the most beautiful views, it is all part of the incredible meditative experience. No music blaring, just the sound of birds, waves, and yourself talking.

This is the way of life on this small island, blissful, peaceful and appreciative. Life is slow because it has to be, there is no other way. But if given the choice, the inhabitants wouldn’t choose anything else.