Funiculi Funicula is an antique café in Japan serving some of the best coffees. Working within its confines are Nagare, Kei, and Kazu. Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s Japanese novel translated to English by Geoffrey Trousselot, before the coffee gets cold, is not just about a café, but about a café that enables you to travel in time. If you think that traveling in time is easy, there are rules, hearing which many backs out in a flash. But those who do not, proceed towards their goal. Whether this time-traveling serves its purpose or not is a question only time itself has the answer can answer.
Each having its own objective, through four episodic stories of time travel within the café, Kawaguchi meanders through various emotions and relations. In The Lovers, Fumiko is desperately trying to confess her feelings toward her partner but fails to do so when he announces his relocation to America for his dream job. With regret and uncertainty around her inability to express her feelings and their relationship in the future, Fumiko tries to travel back in time.
Fusagi is a quiet-natured man who sits at the table nearest to the entrance and browses a travel magazine. A landscape designer by profession he seems to be engrossed in his daily habit of visiting the café and reading. Kohtake, on the other hand, is a nurse and drops by frequently. Husband and Wife tells the tale of Fusagi wanting to go back in time to deliver a letter to his wife, except that he doesn’t quite remember who his wife is.
Hirai and Kumi share a very close bond as The Sisters. When Hirai, independent and upfront leaves her home to start her own bar, Kumi regularly visits her to mend family ties. Even though at first, Hirai welcomes her visits, off late, she starts avoiding Kumi. It is only due to an unfortunate turn of fate compelling Hirai to visit her home, that she realizes maybe in trying to fulfill her dreams, she choked her sisters’. Would the time travel further strengthen the bond between the sisters? Will it mend Hirai’s ways in life?
Mother and Child, the last in the series, is the most emotional one, according to me. It defines a mother-daughter bond, one which extends beyond time. However, this story is also different in the sense that what did not happen in the last three stories, happens here, thus completing the entire cycle of time traveling. Why does Kei want to travel to meet her child? Is her purpose served?
The café allows those who want to travel to the other dimension to do so, except that it has an unbroken rule – The present won’t change! But if incidents could not be changed then why would Fumiko, Fusagi, Hirai, and Kei want to time travel? It retrospect’s on how has this time-traveling proved beneficial to people over centuries? Or is it more than meets the eye?
Drawing from urban legends, flashbacks of each character, the scenic beauty of Japan, and above all the emotions attached to time travel, before the coffee gets cold takes the characters and the readers on an emotional journey to mend relations and give them one last chance to express what they were unable to at the right time. This may not change the present but may change the person forever!
No. of Pages: 213
Purchased from: Storyteller Bookstore, Kolkata