Ocha no Jikan (Tea Time) by Masuda Miri

41ZtGQ-YydL._SX349_BO1,204,203,200_(jacket copy loosely translated by me)

Thoughts cross your mind at tea time.
We say there’s a “turning point” in someone’s life,
but does anyone make a u-turn?
You puzzle over it while drinking coffee
and forget everything once you leave the cafe.
Tea time is when we contemplate these
deep, unexpected thoughts.
–Masuda Miri–

“What is that group of women so excited about?”
“Aw, they look like they’re on a first date.”
“I wonder what he’s doing on his laptop.”
Looking around at others, your thoughts turn back on yourself.
The extremely popular Masuda Miri gives us these new, tranquil manga essays.

Review:

I love that there’s an indie bookshop close to my new apartment. I can stop in before going to the supermarket, on the way back from the station, just for the heck of it – heaven! I spotted this book on the new release shelf and was smitten as I read the first few pages.

Masuda Miri is a mangaka and essayist best known for her comic strip Su-chan. Her books vary, some with more text and some with more comics, and this book is 100% manga.

Most of the 5-10 page pieces start with Masuda going to a cafe, meeting somebody there, and relating things she saw or thoughts she had while there. Some are pure fun – visiting a all-dessert buffet, a cafe that serves a picnic complete with checked cloth and basket at your table. One cafe serves their drinks on a tray that looks like grass, and despite the rain outside her mood is lifted. There are funny moments in the vein of observational comedy, things that we all do but don’t think about.

Masuda gets into some deeper stuff as well, like how lives diverge and change once you have kids. One of the most touching manga essays is her thoughts when she’s stuck on a train because someone completed suicide by jumping at the station ahead. Sadly this is not unusual in Japan, and the way she relates the experience is spare, eloquent, and moving.

I’m sad that Masuda’s work hasn’t been translated into English as far as I can tell, and at the same time I’m selfishly glad that I get to enjoy it in Japanese. It’s not profound, it’s not on the pulse of pop culture, but it was a fun, at times deep read that I’d like to share with more people.

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