Episode1. Encounter

We all need to take a break once in a while.

This was one such moment. Getting off the train, walking down an almost empty platform, and out through the turnstile of the quiet train station about one hour by train from her hometown, that thought must have popped up in Kasumi’s mind because the tension in her shoulders eased at leaving the bustling city and coming alone to such a tranquil place.
And now, she was heading for a probably even more peaceful, enchanting region, full of nature. Kasumi was on her way to Hoshino Village in Yame City, Fukuoka Prefecture, famous for its beautiful starry night skies.
She was going to board a bus in front of the station, traveling for a little over an hour and a half as she transferred buses along the way. It was a slightly long trip, but it didn’t really bother her. She was heading for a calm, relaxing place, so the slight inconvenience was just fitting.
Of course, if the trip were a bit more troublesome to take, then many people would have trouble figuring out how to get there…

Just then, Kasumi realized that a young man was standing at the roundabout in front of the station. He looked like he was a foreigner. He was apparently looking for a bus stop, but he seemed to be lost. Maybe she should say something to him.
Then Kasumi hesitated a bit, because she wasn’t very good at speaking English. He might not even speak English, and what would she do if she didn’t understand what he was saying? But, she thought, she should help someone in need.


“Um, hello!”

A sudden voice. Shota turned and found a petite girl looking at him with a rather desperate expression on her face. She looked to be a high schooler. He had just arrived at Hainuzuka Station after a 50-minute ride on a JR rapid train from Hakata Station and was about to transfer to a bus at the station roundabout. The girl looked like she was going to cry. Could she be lost? Then he should respond gently.

“May I help you?”

“What? You can speak Japanese?!”

The girl’s expression suddenly turned into one of half shock and half anger, as though she had been betrayed, even. But Shota was used to this sort of reaction. He had a British grandmother and had a slightly non-Japanese face with lighter colored hair, but he was an authentic Japanese who grew up in Japan and spoke the language.

So he replied, “Yes, because I’m Japanese.”

“Do you need help with something? If you want directions though, you should ask the train station officer.”

“Oh no, that’s not why…”

The girl wasn’t being very clear with her words. So he asked her again what was wrong, and she finally replied in a small, embarrassed voice,

“I thought you needed help…”

So that’s what it was. He hadn’t needed help, but he appreciated her kindness. The girl told him that she had just arrived from Fukuoka City. Shota thought how people always said that the people of Kyushu were friendly and courteous, and he supposed that it could be true.

“Well, where are you headed? I’m going to board the bus to Hoshino Village.”

“Oh, me…me too, I’m going to Hoshino Village too. Are you also going there for stargazing?”

“Uh, no actually…I’m going there to drink tea.”

At that, the girl stared at him in bewilderment. Shota gave himself a mental facepalm. She must have thought it was weird to hear that he was going to a place to drink tea, of all things.

Then she asked, “So you like tea?”

Shota carefully explained that he had come from Shizuoka to drink the Gyokuro tea from Yame, but the girl became round-eyed even further. So, it was weird, after all. Most people responded with such surprise when he said that he likes Japanese tea, what with his age and most likely his physical appearance also. He was aware that others probably thought that his was an old-fashioned hobby, but it was rough to have a girl look at him like that in reaction.

As Shota tried to laugh it off, the girl introduced herself as Kasumi Koga, and it was his turn to be taken aback at her next words.

“Um, would you teach me about Japanese tea?”


The young man, who introduced himself as Shota Suzuki, said that he was also going to Hoshino Village. Kasumi was a bit started at that, because she had assumed that he was going there to go stargazing, like her.

Yame was certainly famous for its tea, and everyone in Fukuoka knew that, but Kasumi had never thought that it was something to come for from such a distance. That was why she was surprised, but then she saw Shota looking at her and then giving a forced laugh, as though he were embarrassed. Maybe he was embarrassed.

It was undoubtedly rare for a young man to like Japanese tea. As for herself, she had never really thought about the flavor of green tea, and whenever she drank it, it was from a plastic bottle from a convenience store, and she had never brewed it on her own because it was just too bothersome.

But, Kasumi thought, a slight inconvenience was fitting in order to unwind. And tea must be interesting enough for someone to come all this way. When she told him that she wanted to know more about tea, Shota gave her a look of astonishment and asked her the reason.

“Do you like tea as well?”

“Ah, no… I mean, I like tea, but… um…”

Shota looked questioningly at her when she flustered in her reply, and Kasumi didn’t know what else to say. Why had she become interested in tea after hearing his story? She hadn’t really thought it through, but it was just something that came up naturally.

She gave it some more thought that finally said,

“I think that perhaps my reason for going to watch the stars is the same as your reason for going to drink tea.”

Shota was obviously confused even further at that, so Kasumi thought again. What else could she say? She felt certain that she was right. Then she remembered something and spoke again, this time in a slightly embarrassed tone of voice.

“I just think that we all need to take a break once in a while.”

Episode2. Reunion

Kasumi unwittingly let out a sigh.

The truth was, she hadn’t expected this place to be so filled with people.

It was a famous sightseeing destination, and many people were now visiting from overseas as well, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that there were so many people. Even so, Kasumi had thought that Kyoto was a town where she could leisurely stroll about.

It was Kasumi’s first time to visit Kyoto. She hadn’t expected it to be this crowded, but she was more stunned by the heat. It was still spring, but the sunlight was so intense today that she should have worn short sleeves. Why was she so heavily dressed? She gave another sigh. The rental kimono was gorgeous, but waving the long sleeves didn’t cool her down at all.

Her friend Yuzu, who had come with her, had cheerfully suggested that kimonos would add to the mood, to which Kasumi had agreed. But it was actually hot to wear, difficult to walk in for a long period of time, and foreign tourists were snapping photos of her as they passed by.

As for Yuzu, she was bearing well in the heat and feeling animated since morning. What was more, she had said a while ago that she was going to go see a coffee shop, leaving Kasumi alone, and hadn’t yet returned. Kasumi had tried to go in after her friend, but the storefront had been crowded with people and it was difficult to navigate through that in her outfit. This was why she was alone, leaning against the railing of Sanjo ohashi Bridge and gazing idly over the river.


Take the subway from JR Kyoto Station, get off at Shijo Station, head east down Shijo Street, stroll about Hanamikoji Road, and visit Yasaka Shrine. Return to Kawaramachi Street, walk along Takasegawa River, and head north along Kiyamachi Street. Buy a souvenir at the long-established confectionery store behind the city hall, and return to Sanjo.

Shota was alone, walking along the route that was now becoming a routine after visiting Kyoto a few times. It was always fun to come to Kyoto. There were so many foreign tourists and he liked how he didn’t stand out, whether he went to the temples, shrines, or tea houses. He was born and bred in Japan yet treated like a novelty wherever he went because of how he looked, but thanks to the tourists, he was able to blend into the crowds in Kyoto, ironically the most Japanese place in the country.

When he reached Sanjo Ohashi Bridge, Shota saw a girl in a kimono and figured that it might be nice to dress in Japanese clothing once in a while. There were rental kimonos now, which made things much easier. As long as it wasn’t a hot day like this, he thought as he wiped the sweat off his brow with a handkerchief. He felt sorry for the girl, wearing such a heavy garment in the heat. Just then, he realized that he recognized her face.


“Yes? Oh, hi, Shota!”

Kasumi seemed very surprised. That was understandable, because Shota also had never expected to meet her again, here, of all places. They had first met the previous summer, in Fukuoka. She told him that she was visiting with a friend, and when he asked where this friend was, she replied that she had gone to the coffee shop near the bridge and hadn’t come back yet. He nodded, knowing that the particular coffee shop was always crowded, especially on a hot day like this.

“Are you hear for sightseeing too, Shota?”

“I guess you could say so. But I’m here for the tea.”

At his response, Kasumi laughed, saying, “Oh, that’s right!”

When they had first met, Shota had gone all the way to Yame in Fukuoka for the Gyokuro tea, so he could tell that she wasn’t surprised that he was in Kyoto for the same reason.

“Did you find good tea?” she asked.

“I’m just starting,” he replied. “I’m going to catch the train to Uji.”


“It’s about 30 minutes from here by train. Haven’t you ever heard of Uji matcha?”


Kasumi was surprised to see Shota again in Kyoto, but she was unfazed to hear that he was visiting just for the tea. Her image of Shota since meeting him last year was that of a tea-loving young man, and he was now saying that he was on his way to Uji to savor the matcha there. She had a feeling that she had seen the name, Uji Matcha, on bottled teas sold in convenience stores. She was certain that the real thing was far more delicious that the bottled version. Then Yuzu came back, just as Kasumi was about to ask Shota more about Uji matcha.


“I’m so sorry, Kasumi, I hung around for a while to get a table, but no one would leave! Hey, who is this?”

Yuzu was full of energy, in contrast to Kasumi who was rather tired. Kasumi introduced Shota and Yuzu to one another. She also mentioned Uji Matcha, and Yuzu, who seemed to be interested as well, asked Shota a question.

“There are plenty of tea houses in here in Kyoto, so why are you going all the way to Uji?”

“Well, it’s true that it’s famous for its matcha, but Uji is located by a river so it’s refreshing, and there is less people and it’s much calmer there.”

To drink tea in a calm, refreshing place with less nice that would be! Kasumi thought. They could continue to stroll around Kyoto, but it would also be delightful to go to Uji. So Kasumi suggested this to Yuzu and asked Shota if they could join him, and they both agreed to her idea.

From Keihan train line’s Sanjo Station on the other side of Sanjo Ohashi Bridge, it is about 30 minutes to transfer at Chushojima Station and arrive at Uji Station. As they traveled along this route, they talked about tea and the time in Yame, and Yuzu turned to Shota.

“Why Japanese tea?” she asked, wonderingly.

Kasumi then realized that she herself had never asked him why he had come to like tea so much, and she looked at him curiously as she waited for his answer.

Shota gave a small laugh and replied, “I just think that we all need to take a break once in a while.”



Please transfer here for the Tokaido Line and Izuhakone Railway.
After Mishima, we will next stop at Shizuoka.

It was 60 minutes from Tokyo Station to Shizuoka Station on the Shinkansen. It had seemed far to Kasumi, but time flew by once she was on the bullet train. Although she had researched the duration and distance beforehand, the actual experience of the journey was completely different ? from the holiday congestion of Tokyo Station, to the enticing selection of obento (boxed lunches) sold at the station, to the comfortable seats of the Shinkansen… So many things can be understood only when they are experienced. Kasumi was thinking of such things absent-mindedly when she recognized the silhouette of Mt. Fuji beyond the clouds in the distance. She felt a bit happy, finally feeling that she had come to Shizuoka.

Shizuoka is best known for Mt. Fuji. Even Kasumi knows that much, although she was born and raised in Fukuoka. But if asked what else the prefecture has to offer, she would struggle to find an answer, because to be honest, she didn't really know much about it. The only other thing that she could say confidently was that it’s a region famous for its green tea. Rolling tea plantations that spread out over the hills under the blue sky, and tea pickers plucking the leaves with their heads covered with traditional tenugui towels... This is the image that came to mind when thinking about Shizuoka, as seen on tea packages or something similar. But that’s all, Kasumi realized with a start. She didn’t know anything else. She’d actually come here without giving it much further thought. She wondered what to do as she belatedly felt uncomfortable about this. Outside her window, Mt. Fuji soon disappeared behind the clouds.


Kasumi met Shota at Shizuoka Station, and they went down to a teahouse on the basement floor. Just as the tea they had ordered arrived, Kasumi confessed that she’d come without much preparation. Shota couldn’t help but laugh. It was funny, but at the same time, he felt rather sorry, because it had been him who had invited her to join him in Shizuoka to drink tea when she was looking for a place to go to over the long holiday. He certainly couldn’t deny the lack of interesting places in Shizuoka, compared to other places likes Fukuoka, where he had first met Kasumi, and Kyoto. “Sorry, there really aren’t many places here that attract young people to visit,” he genuinely apologized. “No, that’s not what I meant,” Kasumi said with an even more rueful look on her face.

“It’s just that I realized how I really don’t know anything about Shizuoka, and I wish I’d done proper research first before coming. I’m embarrassed that I came here so spontaneously.”

Shota wondered what was so bad about going on a trip at the spur of the moment, but then he supposed that was because of his old-fashioned personality. On the other hand, Kasumi was earnest and inquisitive, so perhaps that was why she thought the way she did. “Well, the internet can offer lots of information,” he began, but then she looked as though she was about to start crying.

“It’s fun to look up where you’re going to travel to, and some people even find that the preparation is the most enjoyable part of the trip.”

“That’s true… I was busy right up to the beginning of the holiday, but I was so absent-minded…”

“But don’t you think that you don’t always need to have read up on a place and know everything before going there?”

Shota was well-versed in Japanese tea. He was aware of this, and the fact was that he liked to research things. He was the kind of person who, before a trip, methodically looked up information on the destination and carefully set up his schedule. He worried that he would miss out on something interesting if he didn’t check out the information beforehand. At the same time, he didn’t think that he wouldn’t enjoy himself if he didn’t have prior knowledge of a place. He had just as fun doing something he had researched on as he did when he chanced on something. What was more, what he learned from studying something was completely different from what he felt by experiencing it. That was why he not only read books and looked up the internet but also went out to savor actual tea.


“And don’t you think that there are things that you can enjoy because you didn’t know about them?” Kasumi was startled at Shota’s words. Maybe he was right. In fact, it was by coincidence that she had started learning about Japanese tea from Shota. She hadn’t known anything about it until then, and she still didn’t know so much, but she now liked tea and wanted to try lots of different kinds. That was why she had come to Shizuoka, vague as it was. Kasumi recalled the crowded Tokyo Station, her first ride on Tokaido Shinkansen. What she knew was different from what she experienced. Yes, she could enjoy things without knowing everything about them first. At that, it felt as though the tension in her shoulders had eased. To come to think of it, she had been so busy recently that she hadn’t had any time to relax as she was doing now. “We all need…” she began, and Shota responded with a smile, “That’s right. It’s necessary, isn’t it?”

The sweetness of the cold-brew green tea soothed the rest of her tension on that breezy, early summer day.


鈴木 渉太(しょうた)

Shota Suzuki

Birthday: October 10th, 1993

Height: 183 cm

Weight: 66 kg

Zodiac sign: Libra

Blood type: O

Hobbies: Playing soccer, watching movies (action, drama)

Favorite book genre: young adult mystery (by Yusuke Higuchi)

Favorite foods: soba, fish (tuna), oden

Favorite color: green

Siblings: One younger brother

Hometown: 75 Kitabancho, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka City

Current location: Tokyo

Employment: Foreign-affiliated IT company in Shinjuku

He has a British, Japanophile grandmother who influenced him to become very familiar with and knowledgeable about Japanese tea

He is cool-headed and is firmly composed for his age.

The women around him think his maturity is classy, but he is wondering to himself whether he gives off such an old-fashioned vibe.

He sometimes teaches Japanese tea brewing methods to Kasumi, who he met in Fukuoka in the summer of 2014.

古賀 加純(かすみ)

Kasumi Koga

Birthday: June 10, 1997

Height: 155 cm

Weight: private

Zodiac sign: Gemini

Blood type: B

Hobbies: watercolor painting, taking walks, watching Ghibli movies

Favorite book genre: love comedies (by Hiroshi Arikawa)

Favorite foods: tonkotsu ramen, fish (Japanese flounder), ice cream

Favorite color: white

Siblings: One older sister

Hometown: 1 Ogusu, Minami-ku, Fukuoka City

Current location: Tokyo

Employment: apparel manufacturer in Shibuya

She moved from Hakata, Fukuoka to Tokyo alone in 2015 and enrolled in a technical school to become a clothes designer. Since spring 2017, she has been working as a designer apprentice at an apparel manufacturer.

She likes both Western and Japanese clothing but still struggles with cooking.

She sometimes has Shota teach her how to brew Japanese tea.

She has many female friends and a sunny personality but is awkward with males.