So this is Cafe Ryusenkei, an American Airstream caravan from the 60’s transformed into an intimate, mobile cafe fitted out by award-winning designers. Moving from place to place, a calendar identifying the next port of call.
Beyond the mantra of ‘all travel is good’ there can be a 30 minute experience that lingers way beyond others. And Cafe Ryusenkei at Sounzan in Hakone is just one of those. And what makes it more memorable in a time where travel can be managed to the minute, and us travelers never are unwired from our phone or tablet – Sounzan was not on the day’s plan. And certainly the delightful conversation that ensued was unexpected.
The grey mist floating about the silver cafe van provided a mystic, maybe haunting backdrop. The small menu board inviting us in for a hot meal and drink. With only a few seats inside the van, the intimacy is relaxing and seems to draw out conversation.
The cafe of style is run by Tomohisa Gora, clearly a man of fashion, intelligence, business acumen, love of music and vision. Our short conversations focused on Tomo (surely I can call him that, I have known him for all of 30 minutes). Many questions were earnestly answered, with great thought, and often with a finger tapping on his chin – reminiscent of Rodin’s “The Thinker”. Was this his business? how did he get the caravan? Why here in Sounzan? What was your career before this?
Tomo spent most of his career in music production in Japan and overseas and has now retired from that intense business to become Cafe Ryusenkei. Veronica and I found it difficult to comprehend such a contrast of livelihoods between the former and latter Tomo.