There’s a very excentric little cafe that opened just down the street from my place a few months ago, and I’ve been intensely curious about it. I’ve walked in front of it countless times, but because of the strange windows that barely let you see inside, the inside remained sort of a mystery. From the little I could see, it looked very cramped, and had maybe just one big table, where I would always see the mama-san sitting. For some reason, I always imagined that this woman would be exactly like the Yukari mama on MATTHEW’S BEST HIT TV (every week they show a bit taped in a real snack in Akabane called Yukari, with the mama-san always doing something wacky). The thing is, I was always intimidated about going inside alone, and nobody wanted to go in with me (Yuko would just make fun of me). So last night, two friends came over to Ikebukuro for some ramen (I’m sure I’m giving Masu Masu loads of business, and they keep giving me coupons for free gyoza, so everybody’s happy), and when it was time to decide on a place for drinks afterwards, I suggested the Cafe Novou (it should be “nouveau,” but it’s spelled wrong, which of course added to my interest). They were up for it (I guess you can always count on TIME magazine journalists to be up for some new experiences). Oh boy, what a place it was. As I thought, the place was cramped, and had 3-4 tables, one of which seems mostly there for the mama-san, her husband, and their niece/employee (still not sure what kind of relationship she had with them, but they were certainly on very close terms). As for the decor, well, it’s as if you entered a crazy antique shop, with absolutely no space left to add anything else. The music was French chanson, and it totally fitted the look of the place. I of course loved it, and now that I’ve been in I won’t have any more problems going there again (and Nick, next time you’re in town you need to come to Ikebukuro for some ramen and then a visit to this place). Jim, again, thanks for the drinks!