I come from a family of five—my parents, my sister and brother, both of whom are somewhat older, and me. I grew up in Gifu, where there’s a tradition (called morning service in Japanese) of coffee shops serving breakfast at low prices. On weekends, my parents would wake us up and we’d all go to a coffee shop for breakfast. I always ordered toast and banana juice, because that’s what my big brother ordered. I really looked up to him—he was an all-around athlete and he was good at drawing manga and making things by hand. In elementary school I tried to copy him by joining the manga club and working hard at arts and crafts, but I couldn’t do any of those things as well as he could. People started comparing me to him, so I came to dislike trying to emulate my big brother.
I was getting upset more often—upset with myself for not being good at things, and sometimes upset with my sister and brother for treating me like a kid. One weekend, at our usual coffee shop, my dad said to my brother, “Isn’t it time you tried ordering coffee?” And my brother replied, “Nope—it’s bitter.” Then I piped up and said, “I’ll have some.” A little worried, my mom said, “It’s bitter—are you sure?” I brushed aside the question. Toast and coffee were placed in front of me, while my big brother got his usual toast and banana juice. Sure enough, my first real coffee drinking experience left me with one impression—“bitter.” I wondered why on earth people thought it was good. But I hid my real reaction and bluffed, “No problem!” Sounding impressed, my brother said, “I’m surprised you can drink something so bitter.” Coffee gave me a sense of superiority; by drinking coffee, I was able to act like a grownup and show everyone that I could do something my brother couldn’t. At some point when I was in high school, the coffee that I’d been drinking to show off really became an indispensable part of my morning. Having said that, I just made instant coffee—I wasn’t at all particular. You might say the only thing I was particular about was the fact that I drank coffee every morning.