Thursday, 3 February 2011

The creature down the stairs

We are all creatures of habit to some degree. Whether at home, work or play, we tend to gravitate to what we feel comfortable with and there are certain places that appeal to us; nourish us; cajole us into coming back again and again. For me Cafe Independents on Sanjo Gokomachi is such a place, and I have recently been trying to work out why I am drawn down these stairs again and again.

For one thing, walking through the door always feels nostalgic to me, and although you could say it's because I've been eating lunch there for more than 5 years, I'm pretty sure I had the same feeling when I walked in for the first time. It certainly doesn't have the precise, refined atmosphere of many of Kyoto's cafes and restaurants, in fact the chipped brick walls and exposed wires hanging above you could easily make you forget you were even in Japan, let alone Kyoto.

It might be this rough and ready vibe, then, that coaxes me back. It reminds me of home. I took my students there for a drink after our final class once and one of them remarked how much is reminded her of Soho. Now, I've never been to Soho, but perhaps it's just that the cafe exudes a kind of strange familiarity - like second hand jeans from the St Vincent de Paul, but not quite as musty. On the contrary, although the surrounds down here are quite worn and dim, the staff are far from it and always on hand with a smile at the ready.

But what good is a cafe without the food? Well, this is definitely another spell that this place has over me: the plate lunch is always outstanding and the coffee some of the best around town. For less than a senner (that's ¥1000, or between ten and fifteen bucks depending on your passport), you can indulge in, depending on the day, anything from Thai green curry to Japanese style pork to Cajun chicken with the soup of the day (pictured here) as well as a freshly drawn cup of java. Blissful.

So, I guess it is a combination of these factors that has lured me back here countless times over the years, and no doubt think I'll think of another reason or two to justify my habit, the next time I'm walking by these stairs.