Goodbye to a community centre

Coffee shops in Japan are all quite distinct from each other. They all have their own schtick: vintage style decor; or really big, fluffy pancakes; or cute little gardens.

Until October 30th 2021, Kyoto used to have its own Australian cafe.

Master of his domain: Danny (behind the bar), with long time regular, John (seated) and staff, Yuri-san, (foreground)

I was first taken there by a Japanese coworker who had lived in Melbourne, and knew the value of good coffee. At the time, the chalk menu board was filled with all different kinds of jaffle (toasted sandwich): curry, banana and chocolate, bacon and eggs, and – my university staple meal – spaghetti!

Jaffles: I couldn’t wait to take the photo…

Jam Jar quickly became the place to get my flat white and jaffle fix. Jaffles are a little different from the kisaten “hotto sando”, with crunchy, pinched edges. I don’t know why we Aussies love them so much, but Jam Jar proved you could have a menu entirely of jaffles and be successful. Sourced from overseas, his sandwich makers couldn’t keep up with the industrial levels demanded by hungry customers, and slowly jaffles disappeared from the menu.

Flat whites stayed, and still pulled the crowds until Jam Jar’s final day. This style of coffee is still a little difficult to find in coffee shops here, with most offering Americano as the standard cup. Long term Aussies in Japan tend to know the nearest place to source them.

But what exactly is the difference between a flat white and a latte?

“The cup,” Danny explained drily one day.

Latte
This, the same as a latte?! I feel like Google has lied to me.

Apart from the food and caffeine supply, Jam Jar soon became the spot to meet friends. Many regulars came to know each other, chat with each other, and even sing together.

Pascal with a difficult opponent.
Yuri-san making cake.
Wendy and Felicity enjoying lunch.
Danny and Mayphy often performed together. Music was a big part of Jam Jar, and during a lull, it was easy to lure Danny out from behind the bar to play the piano.

It’s hard to lose a place you love. Jam Jar was not just a place to drop in for coffee, it was a place to spend time, to get advice, to make friends and to get great jaffles.

The final goodbye party was filled with laughter, tears and a crowd of people to whom Jam Jar had become more than just a place for coffee.

We will always be grateful for the times we had together.

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