Hiroshima Magazine -Issue 01-3 INTERVIEW / ITSUKI SASAKI KEISUKE
Mar 09, 2022
Introduce part of the contents of THE KNOT HIROSHIMA Magazine which you can get or see at the reception desk. This time is the interview content of Mr.Keisuke Sasaki who six cafes and coffee stands.
“I still feel like I’m a traveler in Miyajima.”
Keisuke Sasaki is not from Miyajima, but it is where he started his business 14 years ago at the age of 23. A connection from his school days drew him to this area and it is where he began roasting coffee. Sasaki still feels like he is traveling in Miyajima, even now.
“In Miyajima, there are deer, people from all over Japan, and nowadays, many foreigners, so as I walk along the coast with my daughter we feel like we’re on holiday. I think it’s a rare place where you can still be so close to nature even in such a busy environment.”
The usual way home is filled with people busily coming and going, and feels like an adventure. Your favorite coffee house has a different atmosphere, changing with its customers. As someone who notices even such minor shifts his surroundings, I ask Sasaki about what his travels outside of Miyajima might look like.
“There are only a few places I travel to,” says Sasaki. “I live in the countryside so sometimes I go to the city or to the onsen hot springs, but regardless, the destination is always a place I have visited before. For me, the most important thing when traveling is to have a stable mind. It is important for me to be able to relax, refresh, and experience new things in that time. Of course I would love to travel abroad, but given my current lifestyle with work and family, it will likely be traveling to places within Japan that I know already.”
His philosophy that makes even everyday life on Miyajima seem like a journey, comes perhaps naturally. Working hard every day in his position as a business owner and spending the day-to-day in a historic minka folk house overlooking the famous five-storied pagoda of Senjokaku, the stable flow of time is a true luxury.
“To enjoy Miyajima, I recommend climbing Mt. Misen. I could also suggest things like Itsukushima Shrine (the ‘floating’ torii gate), Anagomeshi (saltwater eel rice), or Momiji Manju (adzuki bean sweets), but this climb is a must in my opinion! Surprisingly, it is often forgotten. Miyajima is one of the ‘top three scenic spots’ in Japan, and from the top of Mt. Misen you can look across the breathtaking islands in the Seto Inland Sea. It really is stunning,and you can even see neighboring island Shikoku if the weather is clear. I encourage you to reach the summit without taking the cable car.”
The highest peak of Miyajima is the aforementioned Mt. Misen at 1,755 feet (535m) above sea level. Since ancient times, its mountain trails have been considered as places of practice for the Shugendo religion, and the mountain itself as a place of worship. Although located in a tourist spot, it can still take up to two-and-a-half hours to climb, depending on the route taken, so climbing in proper gear is recommended. Sasaki climbs the summit two to three times a week.
“During a particularly rough patch in my life, I happened to attend an event at the summit. Something about the taste of a coffee I drank up there compelled me to want to start climbing this mountain. Since then it has become a kind of routine, even though it just started so I could enjoy a coffee at the summit. This year alone I have climbed it around 150 times. Now I have to climb it or else I become restless!
To add mountain climbing to my current work schedule, I need to get up at 5:30am to start working. Naturally, you then end up going to bed really early so I have become an early bird. Since I started, I’ve had less time to work but conversely, I am more productive and I’ve lost about 33 pounds (15kg).
I try to think of my ‘life’ as incorporating both work and non-work aspects. It’s
about not caring about boundaries. Time to yourself, work, quality family time—together, everything is your life. I am extremely grateful to have been able to get to know Miyajima, a place rich in diversity of both people and nature. I suggest you add climbing Mt. Misen to your itinerary when you’re in Miyajima, to feel what I feel and experience it firsthand.”
As we parted ways, Sasaki veered towards sarasvati, a nearby cafe he owns, and started to brew a coffee. “I didn’t talk about coffee at all today,” he smiles as he swirls hot water over the freshly ground beans. It’s a job, yes, but it’s also his lifework to make customers happy.
Keisuke Sasaki first became interested in Miyajima as a student when he helped to start a rickshaw tourism service there, and his love for coffee led him to open his first cafe there 13 years ago. His company is the only coffee roastery on Miyajima, and they now have six cafes and coffee stands on and nearby the island.
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