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Book: Before We Say Goodbye by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before We Say Goodbye by Toshikazu Kawaguchi is the 3rd book I read this year. The 2nd was Meet Me in Mumbai by Sabina Khan. I have posted its audio synopsis and review on my you tube channel - Our_Bookshelf. It is available in this link. Meanwhile, if you wish to read my latest articles and watch the content I create, follow me on Instagram and Facebook!! 

Before The Coffee Gets Cold is the first book as part of the series written by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. It was originally a play written in Japanese in 2010 that turned out to be a bit hit. Later it was published as a novel in the same language in the year 2015. Due to its popularity, the book was translated into English. The author published sequels Tales from the Cafe, Before Your Memory Fades, Before We Say Goodbye, Before We Forget Kindness in 2017, 2018, 2021 and 2023 respectively. All except Before We Forget Kindness have been translated into English and the fifth book is expected to be released in English in Nov 2024.

When I decided to read Kawaguchi's work, there was a huge demand for Before The Coffee Gets Cold. Tales from the Cafe and Before We Say Goodbye were alone available in our library. I picked the last book in the series - "Before We Say Goodbye", with a dilemma whether it has to be read in a sequence. I found the book interesting and went on to read Tales from the Cafe too. So technically, this post is about 3rd and 4th books of mine in 2024.

Toshikazu Kawaguchi was born in Osaka (Japan) in 1971. He has written, directed and produced plays like Couple, Sunset Song, Family Time and Before the Coffee Gets Cold. This book won a prize at Suginami Drama Festival and has also been made into a movie.

Now, more about the story. The key character of this series is the retro coffee shop called Funiculi Funicula in Tokyo. What's so special about this cafe? This cafe had been serving coffee to its customers for more than a hundred years. Apart from coffee, this cafe offers more. A chance to travel in time - either to the past or to the future, giving an opportunity to relive the moments with your dear ones. 

Funiculi Funicula doesn't have anything in common with cafes now a days. The interior of the place is in sepia hue, with deep brown pillars and beams, old fashioned chairs and tables, a slowly rotating ceiling fan and 3 huge antiques clocks hung on the wall, with only the center piece showing the correct time. At one table, a ghost named Kaname sits reading a book and sipping coffee. She gets up from the seat only once in the whole day for a toilet break. It is only then, one gets an opportunity to sit in her seat and travel in time. It isn't as simple as it sounds. The time travelling comes with a set of rules.

  • Even though you can return to the past, you can only meet people who have visited the cafe
  • When you are in the past, no matter what you do, you cannot change the present
  • You cannot get up from the seat. If you do so, you will immediately come back to the present
  • The time you have in the past is only from when the coffee is poured into the cup until it gets cold
  • If you don't drink the coffee before it gets cold, you will become a ghost forever and continue to sit in this seat

These rules apply to those who wish to travel to future as well, except that it isn't guaranteed you might meet the person you intend to meet, unlike in the past, as you know when exactly that person came to the cafe.

Kawaguchi took a simple idea - "What would you do if you travel back in time?" to build the plot. In each of his book, he tells us 4 stories of those who intended to relive the moments spent with their dad, son, lover, friend, wife etc. Though the narration seems to be repetitive like talking about the cafe rules or what to be expected when a person is in the past or future, each person has a different compelling reason to go back to the past, tell or do what they couldn't then. People who wish to travel into the future are very less, compared to those want to travel to their past. 

Through each book, Kawaguchi has narrated us beautiful stories that carry so many emotions making them wistful and bittersweet, along with the lives of people working in the cafe. Even though the stories narrated in each chapter seem to be about four different individuals, they all seem to be connected to one another in some way. No matter which book you pick in this series, you will still be able to make out the intent, making each one a stand alone read. That is the beauty of this series. 

If you are looking for pleasant and bittersweet stories, don't look beyond. Pick up any book from Before The Coffee Gets Cold series. 

What would you do if you get a chance to travel back in time? Just give it a thought. While we may not be able to change the past, it will most certainly give you an answer to what you should do from now on, so that you won't regret for not doing or saying it later.

Happy Reading!!! 


  1. Nice article 👌👌. Definitely going to read this book.


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