Reiko Yoshimura is the owner of Aoyagi, a tiny bar in the basement of Tokyo's Shimbashi station. Built in 1966, the retro Shimbashi Ekimae Biru Ichigokan (Shimbashi Station Building No.1) is home to dozens of inexpensive drinking establishments that cater to salarymen and the occasional salarywomen who stop by for a beer and a bite on their way home. At Aoyagi, Yoshimura's simple menu comprises 25 snacks, all priced between ¥400 and ¥700. Besides nuts and sliced cheese, she serves cold boiled vegetables and bowls of hot oden (stewed vegetables and fishcakes). Her house specialty, however, is nikudofu (simmered meat and tofu), which her regulars love to munch on as they drink.

Writing haiku is a wonderful way to connect with nature. I joined a haiku group 20 years ago. Once a month we'd go to some lovely place, such as a forest or by the riverside, and the eight of us would sit there quietly and observe the scenery. Once we had composed our poems, we'd read them out loud. It's always fascinating how differently people perceive the same atmosphere and view. Sadly, one by one, all seven of my haiku friends passed away. Now I'm the only surviving member. But I continue our haiku group alone and submit my poems to the haiku association, which publishes them in its monthly publication.

In-laws and money can destroy even the happiest marriage. I was born in Hakodate, a port city in Hokkaido that is famous for its gorgeous night view. I loved my hometown as it's very beautiful, almost fairy-tale-like. Sadly, my final few years there were not pretty, and my story didn't have a happy ending. I married my shamisen teacher's son. He was kind but that was our undoing because he was kind not only to me but also to his mother. She was overpowering and destroyed our life. At one point we moved out but my mother-in-law convinced us to return. She offered us money if we moved home but if we didn't, we were not going to get much of her inheritance. My husband asked me to oblige. I did but I escaped soon after. We divorced and I ended up in Tokyo. Maybe if we had lived on our own, we'd be still together now. He was a good person but too weak as a man.