KYONAN - Cafe owner Setsuko Tamaki has waited on customers every day of the year for 36 years.
Customers to her cafe, Ongaku to Kohi no Mise Misaki (Misaki, a shop of music and coffee), drink a cup of coffee while listening to Tamaki's choice of music and enjoying spectacular views of Myogane Cape in Kyonan from the cafe windows.
"I serve coffee to customers the same way I would to guests who dropped by my room," Tamaki said.
She used to work at a musical instrument store in Tokyo before returning to Kyonan to help her parents run a restaurant there.
Her father built a hut for her, saying, "Why don't you open a cafe or something?"
She opened a small coffee shop with a counter and a table on Jan. 22, 1978. Eventually, regular customers voluntarily began to renovate the shop, and they created a new room and a terrace.
Tamaki feels as if time stands still when she sips the coffee she has made using water from a mountain spring behind her cafe. On a clear day, a silhouette of Mt. Fuji can be seen in the sunset.
"I think coffee is a beverage that makes people feel relaxed. I'd like customers to get comfortable here, get away from the bustle of everyday life and forget their problems for a time," she said, as she warmly watched a couple calmly look at the sea.
She selects background music she hopes will help achieve that goal. When a customer requests music, she starts an animated conversation about music with that customer.
A young man who seems to regularly visit the cafe to recharge with a cup of coffee said with a smile as he left, "Now I will be able to work hard for another week."
A great cup of coffee, the wonderful scenery and Tamaki's pleasant demeanour have attracted many people to the cafe.
Returning from the ashes
The cafe burned to the ground at midnight on Jan. 20, 2011. Tamaki, who lived in the back of the cafe, escaped unharmed, but her collection of more than 1,000 records and notebooks with messages from customers were reduced to ashes.
Tamaki was unable to sleep well as she remembered the cafe. Many worried customers visited her after the fire, expressing their hopes that someday they could enjoy another wonderful cup of coffee at the cape. This helped brace her.
Thinking "there is no point in crying over spilled milk," Tamaki went to the fire-devastated site with a pot filled with coffee for customers who visited the place unaware of the fire.
She wanted to rebuild the cafe, but could not afford it. Around that time, her sister, Takeko Nakayama, 71, proposed building a prefabricated store and starting the business again. Construction began in August 2011.
Regular customers volunteered in fixing the wooden floor and creating a deck. They painted the walls blue to match the former cafe.
Taizo Yonehara, 59, a regular customer at the cafe over the past 30 years, was one of the volunteers.
"I'm sure all the regular customers wanted to do what they could to help rebuild the cafe," Yonehara said. "We came here thinking we're making our own place."
The cafe had become as important to the customers as it was to the owner.
Less than a year after the fire burned it to the ground, the cafe reopened on Dec. 22, 2011. The size of the windows for enjoying a panoramic view were wider and larger than before.
Some customers sent her hundreds of records, saying, "I'll visit the cafe when I want to listen to the record again." Others donated speakers.
Tamaki said: "I lost everything in the fire, but the fire showed me how much people love the cafe. I think my carefully brewed coffee brought me so many precious things."
Novel support, silver screen boost
Tamaki's fresh start also received support thanks to a novel by Akio Morisawa that was set at the original cafe.
Morisawa, who happened upon the cafe while on assignment about eight years ago, loved the cafe. He described it faithfully - an old wood stove, a light brown wall clock, a black telephone, etc. - in his novel. He learned about the fire while he was writing the novel.
Morisawa, 45, sent Tamaki a copy of the novel, which was published five months after the fire.
When Tamaki phoned Morisawa to thank him and said, "I lost everything," Morisawa consoled her, saying, "They are all still here in this book."
The novel was made into a radio play the following year, and it was also made into a movie, titled "Fushigi na Misaki no Monogatari" (Cape Nostalgia), starring Sayuri Yoshinaga.
The film, which won the special grand prix of the jury at the Montreal World Film Festival last month, is now being shown in theatres.
With the release of the film on Oct. 11, a line formed in front of the cafe for the first time since it opened in 1978.
When evening came, the sky beyond the window of the cafe became a deep blue, Tamaki's favourite colour.
"Various things happened during the past 36 years, but the most precious thing for me is the affection I received from customers. I'd like to share my affection with them through the coffee I brew," Tamaki said.
"Thanks to the novel and the movie, I now have even more customers. However, the cafe and I have not changed at all. I just want to devote myself to making a great cup of coffee."