Den cafe 田喫茶店

Sep 30, 2010

This is a story about my landlord and his landlady. You must be thinking, whoever writes about landlords? Well, they are special existence to me...

Our landlord and the landlady live on the ground floor of our apartment. They are in their early 80s. They had renovated the ground floor into a small cafe.

The interior of the Den's cafe

There was a tiny bedroom as their private space but the rest of the space was accessible to the clients, including the living room, bathroom and the toilet. They don't need the earnings from the cafe. They own the whole apartment building, a total of 12 compartments . They can lead a luxury life if they want to. Their children own big houses, staying just 15 steps away from the apartment. Their lunches and dinners were all prepared by the in laws and grandchildren. They can pretty much live without having to do anything.

But they chose not to.

They opened the cafe 35 years ago. The landlady single-handedly managed the cafe. The landlord who was a teacher later joined the wife after he retired. The cafe was not big. It was just a small cafe with 5 seats on the counter and on the other side, 2 tables with 8 chairs.

The simple counter with only 5 seats

The landlady's hobby is art. Her customers are mostly art lovers too. Sometimes we can see some art exhibition, with drawings and paintings hung on the wall. She volunteerly helped amateur artists by giving them a chance to exhibit the paintings in their cafe. She is always an angel...

My ice coffee...drained

Drawings by an artist with Multiple sclerosis

Recalling back, I first met them 12 years ago. At that time, I was still an undergraduate student, desperately looking for a new apartment to move in to. Since their apartment was just 5 minutes away from the university and main hospitals, I decided to take it. Then when I came back to Japan to further study in 2006, this time with my family, naturally we had opted to stay in this apartment again. One thing we have really enjoyed is the coffee. We always get free coffee whenever we visit them. Every time I went to pay the rent, the landlady would serve me hot coffee. With exception to summer season when she would serve me chilled ones. The coffee was freshly brewed and it tasted really good. They have their own original blends and people have been coming for the same taste always.

The landlady and me were quite close. She even had a few of my photos kept in the drawer. I was surprised to see that the photos of me taken 12 years ago were well kept. She was really a sweetheart.

My photos taken 12 years ago which were still in good condition

The landlord on the other hand was always quiet. Not a person with many words but he had a kind face that my son loved. Sya even called him 'Ojiichan', which means grandfather in Japanese. To my son, he has three grandparents. One live downstairs of this apartment and the other two in Malaysia. How lucky can he be?

The landlord was diagnosed to have Parkinson disease more than 10 years ago. His symptoms were mild and never escalated like what we see in severe disease like in Mohamad Ali, the famous boxer. The landlord had tremors which were only noticed by people close to him. Yeah...he was lucky that his symptoms were mild.

However last spring, he had contracted severe pneumonia which he finally succumbed to in July. He passed away without pain, peacefully with a smiling face, according to the landlady.
Then came the main question, what would happen to Den cafe. When we talked about Den cafe, it's always about the couple. It's impossible to imagine Den cafe without the image of the landlord. Furthermore, now that she's old and fragile, it would be stressful for her to handle it alone.

After one week of landlord's passing, I visited the landlady. She looked very thin and tired. I asked her how she was doing. She said, 'I am good...'.Which to me, was not true. She was trying to make me feel better. She did not want to show her sadness to me. She kept telling me that he didn't suffer much and that he must have left this world without regrets. She didn't discuss about her feelings. I suppose she's going through the first stage of grieving, which is, denial. I let her talked and lent her a listening ear. It must have been tough for her, after more than 50 years together.

In the middle of our conversation, she suddenly stood up, went to her drawer and looked for something. She then passed it to me. It was a picture.

Landlady: 'Do you have this picture?'
Me: 'No...I don't. Oh, it's really nostalgic...'
(it was a picture of me and the landlord, taken in the cafe 12 years ago)
Landlady: 'That's yours now.'
Me: 'Oh no...I can't have this. This is your memory of him.'
Landlady: 'I don't need that to remind me of him dear. He would want you to have that picture. I am sure...' She had tears in her eyes.
Me: 'Oh...thank you...' I had tears in my eyes too.

Then my son, Sya who saw us crying said, 'Mommy, why crying? Ojiichan is in heaven. We should not be sad...'. That innocent remark triggered more tears in us. She and I then hugged each other for a while.

Picture of late landlord and me taken 12 years ago

She then said, 'It's fated that he had to leave first. But I am not that young either. It won't be long til it's time for me to follow his footsteps. But I am determined to continue this cafe. It's the only reason for me to stay alive now. The memories of him live forever, in this cafe.' I really felt for her. The sorrow was raw. The words really showed how much she must have missed him. No words could describe her big loss. It must have been a massive shock for her. I sincerely hope she would be strong enough and recover from this misery.

Den cafe will be around for quite a while, it seems. I will be the regular customer from now on, to ensure she would be capable of continuing not only her passion, but also the memory of her late husband.

Landlady and Sya when he's shy

Landlady in her favorite rocking chair

View from the apartment, facing the hospital where the landlord passed away

"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live" by Norman Cousins

~The end~


TK said...

Terharunya baca posting you ni. Kebetulan lagu pun sedih ni..Kalau I pun mesti nangis. U r very lucky to have met such nice people kat tempat org. I believe that if u r nice to people u will meet nice people too wherever u go. I know U r a nice person...glad to know you!

Nana said...

Salam TK.
Sorry lambat balas. Sibuk teramat sangat. I am lucky to have met good people. It just makes us realize that the simplest life you lead, the best it is. No matter how rich or powerful you are, the most important thing in life, is the people around you. Insyaallah we will always be grateful and happy...:)

Uncle Lee said...

Hello Nana, wow! I really enjoyed reading this beautiful story.
And I can imagine you speak Japanese with a Japanese accent too.
Love the pics here, well taken.
You using that new state of the art camera of yours?
Have a nice day, Lee.

Nana said...

Hello Lee.
Thank you so much for the complement. Well, The photos were taken using my canon digicam called Ixy. Easy to take around and not bulky. haha...
Actually I have been so busy that I didn't have the chance to take any photo using the new camera. Aiyoo...really teruk la.
But I am looking forward to the weekend. We've got events going on and hopefully I will be able to snap a few nice shots. :)

ps: will drop by your pondok when I have the time to sit down for at least more than 10 minutes. Been really busy.

Anonymous said...

Reading this heartwarming post of Den Cafe reminds me to be thankful for the blessings in life. And looking at your landlady smile, I see a quiet contentment in her face of one who loves what she does for the people she loves and love her back.

Nana said...

Hi Andrea. It's always nice to see that familiar face again...:)
Yes, I am trying to be grateful with simple simple things in life. We may be aiming for the stars but I always try to go back and ask myself where I come from and that somehow made me realize I should cherish every moment with my loved ones. Am trying not to neglect them on the way to achieve my goal. Yeah, the landlady is always surrounded by lovely people. Good people usually are blessed in special ways...:)

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