Don’t make “perfect” the enemy of “good enough”

On a recent trip to Tokyo, Japan, I was walking around in a neighborhood called “Nakameguro“. A cute neighborhood with plenty of tiny shops and Izakayas (ie, pubs) doting the streets, this was my second visit to this neighborhood during my trip. And I really wanted to find a cute cafe to sit in and enjoy some time in, before heading back to my hotel. I also wanted to find a place “organically”, ie, I didn’t want to refer to articles on the internet and go someplace that was recommended online, but just get into whichever place looked nice.

Now, I had a vision in my mind I guess of what constitutes the perfect cafe to spend my time in. To summarize, I was looking for the following characteristics:

  1. The cafe should be uniquely Japanese. Something artisan/boutique, and not a chain (and definitely not an international chain)
  2. The cafe should be small / tiny – I didn’t want to spend time in a large-ish cafe, I was looking for that tiny cafe experience
  3. The cafe should have a nice, lively vibe – not a place that felt empty or dull
  4. The cafe should have a place for me to sit and maybe read something or write in my journal – so a standing cafe or takeout-only cafe won’t do

With all those requirements in place, I was now hunting around for the perfect cafe. And this is when I started to feel after 30 minutes of hunting, that perhaps I was focused on the wrong thing – trying to find the “best possible” cafe, instead of just enjoying my time in this lovely neighborhood.

The first cafe I came across was one that I’d already been to on my previous visit. So I didn’t want to go there again. The next one was small, had a great atmosphere, but had only a few benches on the outside. It was dark at this hour, so it wasn’t really a place where you could sit and read. The next one was closed (it was 7pm local time). The next one was a book store that had added a bunch of places to sit in various nooks inside the store. It was nice for sure – the only catch was that they were serving Starbucks. I didn’t want to drink Starbucks in Tokyo! The next cafe was not really a cafe, more of a desserts shop. There might have been other cafes, but being how Japan is, sometimes these establishments can be tucked in narrow alleys and it can be hard to find them, especially if you don’t know where to look.

By this time, I’d been roaming around for a full 45 mins and I was exhausted from trying to find the perfect cafe to sit in. Instead of enjoying just being in Tokyo, I was on the hunt for this elusive cafe. After a lot of heartache, I eventually decided to just sit in the bookstore-turned-cafe serving Starbucks. I didn’t order any coffee though 🙂 Just had a small snack.

Bookstore with a cafe where I eventually sat

And guess what? I had a totally fine time. After the first few mins of mental discomfort I suppose, I was happy being in that cafe, even though it was serving Starbucks. Granted, maybe I might have had an even better time in a place that was more authentically Japanese. But obsessing about the perfect experience was taking away from the great experience that I was already having, being in a foreign country and surrounded by new experiences. I was still in Tokyo after all!

Have you ever had this experience? Being so focused on trying to find that thing that’s “perfect”, that you miss out on things that are already pretty good? If so, try breathing and thinking about the big picture. Not finding the perfect thing is also a part of the overall experience! 🙂 Some things are awesome, some things not as much. It’s all a part of the journey.

PS: After the cafe, I ended up going to an Izakaya to get a beer. And that definitely felt super authentic. Super tiny, no one spoke English, the menu was in 100% Japanese. I loved it! 🙂 So, as you see, it all works out!

Tiny Izakaya where I went next. Loved it!

2 replies »

  1. Oh yes, I can definitely relate. Most times, the ‘perfect’ problem appears in my creative pursuits. I spend so much time trying to perfect something only to realise that it’s not what the market wants.

    Also, your trip around Tokyo reminds me of my time when I was there! My partner and I were scouting for the ‘perfect’ places too, and I forget where we ended up having drinks, but Izakaya does look mighty familiar!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, 100%! Creative pursuits are another place where this happens, happens with me too.

      I loved Tokyo, glad to hear about your visit 🙂 Travel is definitely when we try and find that perfect experience – especially when we are trying to live up to that version of the place in our heads, instead of enjoying what’s real and present around us.

      Thank you for your visit, Stuart! 🙂


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