Let me introduce yet another funky little cafe tucked into the hills and winding backroads of rural Gifu, Fuu.
This cozy little rustic hideaway, in its third year of business, lacks any significant signage beyond its immediate surroundings, so no one just happens to wind up there. It’s in Azuma, Akechi-cho in Ena. In your navigation software, enter the Japanese kanji (not the usual katakana) for kōhī (珈琲) and then fuu (風).
You’ll be greeted by the kindly owner and ushered down a hall to a wood slab table in front of a little wood stove, or perhaps to a front room where the morning sun will keep you warm. Another hardwood floored room has a dugout horigotatsu in the middle for warmth.
The name, the owner will be glad to tell you, comes from the breeze that blows through, giving a refreshing, cooling feeling in summer. In winter, the same draft renders the woodstove the heart and hearth of the place. It gets bone-chilling without it. Still, as it’s on the leeward side of the surrounding hills, the weather is consistently milder than the rest of Ena and Nakatsugawa. You can see some of the dried kindling under the bookcase below. It reminded me of college days when we chopped wood most every morning to stoke the day, and somehow made a fractured axe last all winter in the process.
There’s a nice selection of books, many about design and style, for inspiration and information. You’ll also find artwork in every nook and cranny. Do let me know next time you find an actual cranny somewhere, by the way. The only ones I’ve actually seen have strangely always been in print, and invariably right next to the words “nook(s) and.” Uncrannily peculiar.
While the owner’s real pride is a slowly prepared cup of coffee to sip in this idyllic nest in the woods (with a healthy serving of the story of how it all came to be, hacked out from a jungly old bungalow after a life in the concrete jungle of Nagoya), she does serve pasta lunches for those who come on an empty stomach.
She was kind enough to throw this sweet potato on the wood stove (in foil on the stove above and in the raw below), serving it with green tea after the lunch and coffee, on the house. It was a nice experience, skinny skin and all.
That heat, something we tend to take for granted even without much domestic central heating here, really became a theme running through it all. Also playing through (which reminds me, Fuu, unfortunately(?) like much of rural Japan, is also surrounded by golf courses) was French chanson music. C’est si bon.
Antiquey items and of course plenty of pottery for sale line the variegated walls, shelves and staircases.
Below, complementing a roundtable with all different school chairs à la Momogusa, is an old card catalog salvaged from a school library. By sheer coincidence, someone else on the other side of the world just had the same idea. Maybe it’s just that I used to be a library worker that I thought it interesting. I once checked and corrected my university’s entire general collection card catalog, card by flippin’ manila (get it?) index card. Remember your Dewey decimals, Huey, and never forget, always nothing before something. Only an old-school librarian may get that. Never mind. Throw analog on the fire and curl up like smoldering pages with a good
book blog on your Kindle.
Anyway, the proprietress will be glad to have your company, and only too eager to share her stories with you. She related, for instance, that the fall foliage north of Fuu on route 109 was quite spectacular, and that deer and wild boar (hey, no librarian jokes) roam the hills with abandon
and a mariachi band (just seein’ if you’re paying attention). I myself spied an intriguing pair of birds running out of my car’s way which I thought might be rare grouse (raichou), which I recall are the official bird of Gifu prefecture, though perhaps they only reside at higher elevations. They may also have been thrushes*. They seemed brown and spotted, without the long tail of pheasants, and scurried along the ground rather than flying.
Props to an iPhone app called Strip Designer, which I used to put together the collage of photos at the top of the post. Well done, and it was either free or discounted to 85 yen.
*(Sixties spy spoof/superhero reference alert) Jeepers, I learned through this that robins, would you believe, are the most common kind of thrush. Once again proving that to write will always win over chaos, and a labor of love will always make you get smart. And Robin’s your rich uncle, Bruce Wayne.