Student Work

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-19-2017

Abstract

A 2016-2017 William Prize for best essay in East Asian Studies was awarded to Claire Williamson (Jonathan Edwards College '17) for her essay submitted to the East Asian Studies Program, “A Coffee-Scented Space: Historical, Cultural, and Social Impacts of the Japanese Kissaten.” (William Kelly, Professor of Anthropology and Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies, advisor.)

Japan has a long and well-documented history as a tea culture, from everyday practices to the refined aesthetics of the tea ceremony and its associated arts. Yet modern Japan is also a highly developed culture of coffee, and this is the topic that Claire Williamson addresses in A Coffee-Scented Space: Historical, Cultural, and Social Impacts of the Japanese Kissaten. The notion of coffee shops, especially in urban settings, providing not only nourishment but also places for social engagement was the starting point for Williamson’s analysis. However, the Japanese landscape of coffee shops is quite variegated, and it is a strength of the essay that she explores some of these differences and their significance. Williamson does this historically by using a framework of First, Second, and Third Waves of coffee, and structurally by comparing several types of coffee shops, especially kissaten, chain shops, cafés, and coffee stands. The essay is excellent—it is an effective combination of using analytical and descriptive literatures and conducting thorough field research in Tokyo, Kanazawa, and other parts of Japan. The essay itself is a pleasure to read, well-structured and nicely phrased. It offers a grounded and persuasive account of Japan’s modern coffee culture, especially the enduring kissaten at its core.