Tag Archives: cafes

Taster’s Choice

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Take Five

Upwards of forty downtown Tajimi establishments are teaming up for this first annual upcoming event, similar to a barhopping “machi-kon,” called “Yume Machi.” Over the course of two days, for the ¥3500 price of one ticket (¥4000 the starting day of the event), you can eat, drink, shop or otherwise partake of services at any five participating shops, restaurants, cafes or bars at no extra cost. You get a map of all the stops and a special hand fan to encourage walking from place to place and identify you as a participant.

It’s a good value, a way to try out some places you thought were out of your price range, and maybe even a chance to make some new friends. Event menus for each spot are here. Tickets are available at participating stores and through the website.

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The event flyer and website are also touting a smartphone app that seems to feature coupons and information on area events and businesses. It seems to be a web app and is called “Tono App.”

Sounding Board?

I’ve written before about the serendiptous effects of background chatter in public places, but this article at Grubstreet.com made me wonder if the wooden slats you often see in area restaurants are part of this New York-born noisier-is-neater trend the article chronicles.

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These boxes on the wall at Secret Time Cafe are the closest thing to slats I have handy on my camera roll (more typically slatlike boards along and behind the counter at this post).

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Another place that comes to mind is Shinsui Cafe (the rounded corner between one whole wall and the ceiling is made up entirely of slats with gaps).

I don’t know. I think there’s a tradition of using wood slats in Japan, whatever the reason. I’ll ask some architect friends. In the meantime, though I often make use of the ambient indiscernable “rhubarb,” I think I’m glad I don’t live in New York.

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Now Museum, Now You Don’t

Magritte, Chagall, et al.

Eyes for art whetted by the French masterpiece exhibition in May and June? You can get more of your fill of European paintings this month at the Menard Art Museum in Komaki.

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Among artists whose works you can experience will be Picasso, Matisse, Klee, Van Gogh, Monet, Kandinsky, Magritte, and (from my experience) Japanese female favorites Miro and Chagall.

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Regret, Chagrin, All In

In addition, just a regret to post – I was looking forward to this photo show at the Tajimi Culture Center, but confused the dates with those above. Guess the tiring toll of a busy week caught up with me.

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Hope I have another chance to check out this local nature photographer sometime. He looks interesting.

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Never Had a Chance

Update: On the subject of gone before you know it, I just learned of a cafe in Toki I must have gone by dozens of times without even knowing it was there, and now it’s gone, and been so nearly a year. From what I’ve heard, it would’ve been right at home in the blog, so I’ll cut it some belated bandwidth here, with my regrets and hopes for happier stories in the future. It went by the name of Iroha Shokudo, and was situated right beside Sun Mart supermarket between the Toki River and Route 421. They served curry and coffee, daring to bring a tad more cool to Toki. Business was too tepid to keep it going, unfortunately. Maybe someone else reading this can be inspired to carry on the gentrification journey, if you will.

Guides to Good Times in Gifu and Beyond

Sitting here at the counter at Neu, I pick up this magazine, and the first three pages I randomly open up are places I immediately recognize, though two of them I only went to once, five and nine years ago. Not bad. This has got my attention.

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I’ve never seen this magazine before, but it’s clearly a kind I like. Beautiful photography introducing area shops, inns, restaurants, cafes, hot springs…any way or place to spend quality leisure time. Every new season there’s a different theme. This summer the focus is on “the view out the window.” (The cover story is on summer fun, then and now).

Then Neu’s owner brings out another magazine, this one from the publishers of Cheek, highlighting cafes, bakeries and sweets shops in Gifu, Mie, Aichi and Nagoya, as well as Shiga, Nagano and Shizuoka. Again, irresistible photos and presentation make me want to head out and try as many of these places as I can.

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Actually, Neu appears in both of them, so their being here is no coincidence. Anyway, I’d say I’m sufficiently piqued that I plan to go out and pick up my own copies soon and do a little cafe-cruising, at least on paper. Both are available in bookstores, with Hitomi even in convenience stores. Cheek’s July issue, below, also checks out Gifu hotspots.

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Lady Be Good

Too many cafes in town? Never. Just keep ‘em coming, and I’ll keep coming.

I’ve written before about Kumi Hirano and her plans to open a cafe, and now along with her husband, she’s forged the dream (if you’ll pardon the mixed metal, mortar and mortise) into stone, beam and plaster.

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Named after the legendary composer of Great American Songbook fame, Gershwin opened just a month ago in a quiet, secluded corner of Onada-cho in Tajimi. It’s since been gaining a word-of-mouth reputation as a go-to choice for a leisurely break and chat with friends.

Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy

The emphasis is on simplicity, from the uncluttered architecture and furnishings to the menu of lovingly brewed coffee, tea and light sandwiches and sweets. There’s also a “morning service,” as is a local custom: breakfast for the price of coffee. If no one is using it, grab the table on the patio deck. They say it’s the best seat in the house, nicely shaded in summer by a thick bamboo grove across the way.

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Premium Audio is Standard

Though Kumi is happily and permanently retired from singing, there will be occasional live performances by local artists in addition to the fascinatin’ rhythm of choices from her extensive collection of jazz recordings day to day. That’s a piano toward the back in the top picture.

Get to Gershwin by taking route 381 (the Autobacks/Jazz Inn Papa’s/Akariya road) past the post office and (non-flashing) traffic light, and turning left at the bakery that’s on the left. Then take the first right just past the bakery, and the cafe will be immediately on the left. Hours are from 9 to 6, with Sundays and the first & third Mondays off.

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While a lot of folks spend their days toiling to realize their hopes with precious little or no success, Kumi has made not one, but two life dreams come true – being a full-time professional jazz singer, and building from the ground up and running her own cafe, which also happens to be her new home. Oh, and how can I forget dream number nine three: becoming a mom. Let us know where you found that magic lamp, Kumi. Congratulations and best of luck to the Hiranos on their new venture.

Cool Off With Tea in the Woods

Up a slope in the middle of the woods in Kokeizan-cho, Tajimi, well sheltered from the summer sun, is “BAum De Foret Patisserie & Salon de Thé” (sic). After several times making the trip only to find it closed, I’m happy to report I finally made it beyond a fly-by in the parking lot.

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Inside, it was more spacious than I thought. Antique-style sofas are in the waiting area, as well as at some tables, reminding me of nearby Akariya. Going past the bakery cases (you can just buy those goodies without eating in) to the dining room, I saw couples, chatting friends, and a few families, though I was the only person by myself. I’d have to say it is the kind of place you’d want to go to with someone. Besides locals who stop in for coffee and cake, tourists from farther away combine their visit to Kokeizan and Eihoji Temple with a relaxing lunch retreat here.

Among the lunch choices are the very nice assorted plate you see here for ¥1200 (not including drink, unless the staff just forgot about me; They also took a while to get everyone’s checks to the tables, at least this day), a curry plate, pasta plate, and a Hida beef steak bowl. Sweets are made by sister shop Saint d’Ore French pastry, Kanayama-cho, downtown Tajimi (across from Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank, photo below). BAum De Foret (curiously katakanized as バーム ド フォレスト), on route 381 past the junction with route 385, is open 10-7, with lunch from 11 to 2:30. All non-smoking.

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If They Build It…

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I put a nice bright spot in a soggy afternoon with a visit to a hot new place in Toki (yes, Nothing-To-Do Toki) today.

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Since opening just this month, Secret Time Cafe has quickly become quite the in spot, having been supported by lots of folks along the way to realization. Many who had a hand, including a couple of acquaintances of my own, are recognized with their names painted on the floor. Apparently the opening was rather a smash, word of mouth rendering Secret Time no secret at all.

The cafe feels like a bit of Nagoya or other city right in downtown Toki. Near the intersection of route 421 and local (not regional) route 19, it shares an ample parking lot with the second hand shop with the big Santa sign.

The menu has a pretty wide selection to choose from (more galettes, for one thing), everything sounding tasty, eye-pleasing and healthy. I had the taco rice lunch for ¥980 including what you see here and a drink.

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They’ve devoted a lot of attention to the atmosphere here, and did a nice job, especially considering this space has been a revolving door for a number of cheap, seedy or somehow unappealing outfits in the past. That is, emphatically, history now. I didn’t have a chance to look completely around, but I’m sure I’ll be stopping by often enough. More photos and info (like what the “art” on their business card refers to) to come.

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Secret Time Cafe, bar and zakkaya (notions shop) has these very welcome broad business hours: Tuesday through Thursday, and Sunday, 11:30-3 and 5 PM to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 11:30-3 and 5 PM to 1 AM. Closed Monday and the third Tuesday. They have smoking and non-smoking sections.

Notice

Today I expose a unique little cafe not far from Tajimi station that managed to slip under my radar until now, with the emphasis on under.

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The disc-launching stealth restaurant is Trent Douw, a cafe specializing in galletes. Besides referring to a large cookie-like French pastry, galletes are basically large crepes made with buckweat instead of regular flour, topped with savory fillings instead of sweet. The buckwheat custom sounds like a classic Japanese twist on a foreign import, but it actually originated in Brittany, where the hardy-grain hotcakes became something of a staple where wheat was harder to grow.

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A linguistic variant of trent-deux, referring to the owner’s age of 32 when he first opened, the stylish casual lunch and dinner spot is tucked away between Kokoro restaurant, which I’ve written about before, and the (here) infamous low-clearance train underpass just west of the station. It appears on the map just north of the underpass in this post. Though it’s not far from my usual haunts, it’s not on the way to or from any of them, so it can go unnoticed.

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Lunch specials entail a variety of galette fillings, or pastas. You get a galette, a drink, and a dessert crepe for ¥1050. Relaxing bossa nova played in the background while I was there, and the overall atmosphere is chic and cozy, not intimidating. Closed Tuesdays (open on Tuesday holidays), last call for lunch 1:30.

Half-Bloom Hanami is All Right

On a recommendation, I did a little early cherry blossom viewing at Sakurabuchi Park in Shinshiro, Aichi Prefecture.

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After going past a pavilion and stall area, you cross the Toyokawa River on a walking bridge with the magnificent view above.

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There are several walking paths. Very scenic, and refreshing, with several different kinds of sakura. I heard there are 2500 trees. The river may get its brilliant greenness from local rocks that have a similar tint.

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This traditional bridge is a highlight.

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The blossoms were perhaps at half bloom, but that’s sometimes better. The sense of fleetingness (loss), unvarnished and piquant as it is, doesn’t tinge the spirit with melancholy as much.

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Some folks did spread blankets and sheets for picnics, couples walked hand in hand, and children played on the riverbanks. A couple of teenagers were skipping stones.

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Walking the (up) bridge itself seemed to be good for the back. Going down, there’s something of a learning curve.

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There are rowboats for rent (seen here with a family of ducks leading the way), and there’s a nice little cafe called Glorious to sit outside of with coffee or tea. The area in general, not so far from Hamamatsu, has quite a bit to offer for hanami season, as seen on this map.

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Hearing Aid

I’m tickled Costa Rican brown that there’s more corroboration for the idea that moderate ambient coffee shop noise can be good for creativity. Better than silence, make no mistake. I wrote just one year ago about it here, and make use of the phenomenon nearly daily. It’s quite fascinating.

Boing Boing, in fact, reports on a new web service providing recorded cafe chatter, along with your own music, in the background as you work on your computer or mobile device. Similar to an idea I’ve had, it’s called Coffitivity. Coffitivity.com also happens to be just the kind of domain name I’ve been snapping up especially recently (read: they tapped into my mind), and quite similar to one I just let lapse. Boing Boing introduces it with a reference to a study demonstrating the inspirational influence of random coffee clatter. I wish I could see more than just the preview, but I don’t have 14 dollars to spend on that. On three or four mellow cafe excursions, now that’s different.