Dinner is takeout tonight. It’s no more than a ride downstairs in the lift, a minute’s walk in the misting rain to the Rastaman Cafe, and about two spoken sentences.
Plump Take-chan waves from behind the bar counter when he sees you. He steps out to the Weber barbecue by the front door, under the umbrella.
Hi! he booms in his festive voice. Chicken?
Yes chicken, you say. Half an hour?
He lifts the lid to check the heat. You can see red coals in there. Less, he says. Twenty minutes.
OK, you say.
Then you go to the other corner and buy a wakame and lettuce salad at the 7-Eleven.
When you come back you ask if you can write about the Rastaman Cafe and its excellent jerk chicken. Sure, please write so that many people come, says Take-chan. Hahaha. No photo of me though, I can’t show my face. But Shinsuke will appear.
He calls his colleague and heads back inside. Lanky Shinsuke comes out. He turns the meat, then slices it. It is always good; a thick thigh, herbed and marinated, cooked under the lid, half-char-grilled, half-steamed, sliced into bite-sized pieces and packed in a knotted plastic shopping bag. It goes well with the seaweed salad and salty sesame dressing, a block of tofu, maybe some crumbled cheese.
I went to high school with Take-chan, Shinsuke says. I am 33 this year. I didn’t know anything about reggae before starting this. People come and give us their recommendations. Now I like dub best.
You say, You guys are pretty organized, considering you look like a bunch of stoners.
Yes, he says. He has a mischievous sort of grin. We don’t just work when we feel like it. We open every day at 6pm, till late. Our only days off are public holidays.
Rastaman Cafe started about 18 months ago. Shinsuke joined Take-chan about five months into the project. The third member is Shinichiro, who is slightly younger.
Take-chan says he stumbled on reggae by chance. He says, About 5am one day when I was 19, I was drunk and turned on Fuji TV, and there was a Bob Marley concert. I was hooked.
Later he went to Jamaica.
One evening some time ago, you were buying chicken when an old lady on a bicycle stopped outside. She looked at the picture on the wall. My son has a big poster of that man in his bedroom, she said. Take-chan nodded. Bob Marley is god, he said. Yes, she said. That’s what my son says.