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Akira Nagai, 73, says he’s had many “ups and downs over the years” as the owner-operator of Coffee Ashi. He makes coffee and food in the small kitchen of his old-school Asakusabashi coffee shop, whose walls and surfaces are laden with pots, pans and, now, a large protective plastic sheet.

As regulars have grown more tight-knit in recent years, Nagai laments the dearth of new faces. But, since the pandemic hit, new customers have begun to appear. Individuals from nearby, less inclined to travel far distances in an era of heightened risk, have taken to local exploration, which has brought them to kissaten like Coffee Ashi.

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