We made our way to BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR COFFEE KIOSK one chilly morning, guided by my girlfriend’s Google map app. Many specialty coffee shops in Tokyo thrive in obscure crannies like hidden gems but this time we had it easy. We spotted it round a corner, near a red post box in a serene Sendagaya neighborhood. Like OMOTESANDO KOFFEE, it is a coffee kiosk, with just enough standing space for 4 persons. When we reached there, some people were lingering outside, chatting over coffee in hand. A staff was standing near them, rubbing his palms for warmth occasionally. Casually clad in a baseball cap with an apron over his shirt and jeans, he peeped at the shop eagerly. The staff was probably stranded outside, waiting for a chance to get back into the packed shop, I thought. He probably knew too well to interrupt the sanctity of caffeine rituals taking place in the shop: the first cup of coffee is often deeply pleasurable, leaving you quivering with frisson in the splendour of its aroma. We stood by the door and waited for someone to leave before we could get in.
BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR COFFEE KIOSK is started by Masahiro Kajiwara, a former editor of lifestyle magazine, Relax. He received training at Voila Coffee in Kagoshima before starting his own coffee kiosk. Thanks to Kajiwara’s background, BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR COFFEE KIOSK pampers you with a choice of 2 to 3 single origin beans from Voila Coffee everyday. A warm buzz pervaded the air in the shop as polite nods and humble smiles punctuated the breezy ambience. You can tell that a relationship has formed over the counter when the barista greets some customers with a knowing “Usual?”. Exchange with a barista is brief but fostered over time, they can warm you even before your piping hot coffee is served. Warm, fuzzy moments like these do wonders to melt away the tenuous decorum of life.
True to their namesake, BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR COFFEE KIOSK has perfected the art of being good neighbors. Service is thoughtful and personal, leaving you with a warm affectionate feel. There is no raucous poke-in-the-rib chatter from the baristas: you get to indulge in a peaceful moment with your coffee, a much-needed oasis in the hectic grind of daily life. Soon a couple of customers left and the staff stranded outside came back in. It was only then we realized that he is none other than Masahiro Kajiwara. He chose not to interrupt customers and got ‘stranded’ outside, shivering in the cold. Being a good neighbor is about thinking for other people and contributing small deeds to make a difference in someone’s life. The word “neighbor” has to do with “closeness” and “proximity.” The question we should ask, is not “Who is my neighbor?” but “To whom can I be a neighbor?” Your neighbors are your family, your friends, and your next-door-neighbors. A neighbor can also be someone you come across during your day who needs compassion. (Credit: Heartlight) It is the little things that can make one’s day great: from Kajiwara’s thoughtfulness to the ball of rope used a doorstop from preventing it from slamming. How lucky to have a neighbor like them.
I ordered the El Salvador Finca San Antonio, brewed with the original BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR COFFEE KIOSK dripper. It turned out to be perfect for a refreshing morning. The El Salvador Finca San Antonio has a light mouth feel that becomes syrupy as it cools, with fruity notes of berries and orange that finishes with a clean, honeyed aftertaste. The Cafe Latte that my girlfriend ordered is well-balanced, with a velvety base that carries into a subdued sweet finish. We checked out the menu and realized that price-wise, BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR COFFEE KIOSK offers great value for money. Cost of living in Tokyo is high but specialty coffee here cost lesser than what we pay for in Singapore; this is undoubtedly another generous gesture from a good neighbor. Residents near TOKYO SKYTREE will be happy to know that BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR COFFEE KIOSK has opened another outlet there. If you happen to be in Asakusa, do show some neighborly love and drop by for great coffee.
As we walked to our next stop, Cafe Legs, I felt thankful that both my girlfriend and I are coffee lovers. I truly believe that coffee lovers are kindred spirits who share a very special bond. As you are drinking your coffee today, have one sip in solidarity with your coffee drinking friends around the world. Coffee drinkers make better lovers, so love thy neighbors starting from today!
Address: 3-51-6 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Update (Feb 2014):