CAFÉ ZAIYA and KINOKUNIYA BOOK STORE is Japan. The address is 1073 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10018 (between 40th & 41st Street). There I can sit at a commune white table; drink coffee in a white sleek stoneware cup. For lunch I like the salmon Bento Box, cost: $3.95. Every so often, my mouth is eager for the Strawberry Short Cake, cost $2.75. And if I am in a hurry, I have the rice roll to go at $1.50. When it’s a light lunch; I grab the assorted butter cookies (green tea, sesame, black tea, butter, and coffee) all five for $1.95. Café Zaiya’s menu ranges from sushi, spicy chicken sandwiches, Sencha Japanese Green Tea, Jujitsu Yasai, Tofu Bread, White Bread (very soft and tasty) carrot biscuits, and red beans chestnut pie.
On a September afternoon, I settled in at the commune table. I was steadily fixed on my Interior Design Magazine, and engrossed with the cover of a TriBeCa house by Ghislaine Viñas. Next to me was an older man with light brown hair teaching English to a younger girl in champagne-colored frame eyewear. He said, “When someone says give me a break, what do you think that means.” She pondered, giggled, and then stared at her Japan-American dictionary. “You won’t find that phrase there.” He laughed. But, she glanced anyway.
Look around and capture a zestful of energy, ambience of quite pleasures, music of languages from faraway places—friends having lunch, families surveying for an available table. If you settle at the window counter—one can gaze at others having their lunch in Bryant Park: pigeons walking about, chess games, players engrossed in Pétanque, and everyday pedestrians crossing the street.
Sometime later, I strolled along the second floor. It is where Café Zaiya is situated, along with CDs, DVDs, and comic books written in Japan, and English, art and design books. I have never traveled to Japan; however, it does not matter, for whenever you venture to the Kinokuniya Book store—surely you will be there.
One of my favorite books is Japanese Fairy Tales by Lafcadio Hearn. It was a gift many years ago. Still among the thousands of books, and brackets at the Kinokuniya Bookstore —I found a lovely children’s book, Tsumiki no le or Once Upon a Home upon a Home, Illustrated by Kunio Kato and Text by Kenya Hirata.
If you stop by, don’t forget to step down to the basement floor. Visitors will be enchanted by the special stationery and gifts; a mini Welcome kid’s area of games, books, and toys. And if none of these items entice your palate, perhaps walk over to the Docomo desk. It is Japan’s largest and the world’s leading mobile operator. By the time you return to the first floor, you may be enticed to pick-up a Momiji Doll for your darling little girl or precocious niece.