Checking Out: Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Stories about time travel frequently pose the question: if you could go back in time and change something, would you? Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s novel, “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” (Hanover Square Press, 2020), looks at time travel differently, however: If you could go back in time and weren’t able to change anything at all, would your answer be different?

Adapted in 2015 from Kawaguchi’s play and recently translated into English, “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” tells of a small café in Tokyo where patrons can visit the past, however – many rules apply. One must sit and remain in a certain seat in the café when time travelling. The duration of time travel is limited only to the amount of time it takes for a freshly poured cup of coffee to cool. No matter what is said or done, nothing will alter the outcome of the future. Yet, four visitors at Funiculi Funicula, the one-room café that has changed little in over 100 years, choose to visit another time even with these restrictions in mind.

Packed with four stories that take place almost entirely in one small space, it is easy to see how Kawaguchi’s novel originated as a play. The descriptions are generally to the point, brief, and somewhat sparse, yet the world of the café and the people within it feel rich and imaginative. Even with little backstory and intimate knowledge about the people within Funiculi Funicula, the brief glimpses given into their time at the café are more than enough to get to know and love them. Kawaguchi’s novel is both intriguing and touching – while driven by action and dialogue, the scenery and characters manage to shine.

Check out “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” at your closest Denver Public Library location or as an ebook or eaudiobook through

Denver Public Library’s Winter of Reading is here!

It’s the wonderful time of year again for Denver Public Library’s annual Winter of Reading challenge! Each year, DPL encourages adults (ages 17+) in our community to explore new reading experiences and find inspiration to discover more about the library while connecting with other readers around Denver. Oh, and did we mention there are prizes?

Earn your limited edition Winter of Reading notebook, mug, or neck gaiter when you complete at least five required activities now through February 28!

Sign up for this year’s Winter of Reading challenge at

Hannah Evans is the senior librarian at the Smiley Branch of the Denver Public Library.


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