Uno is a little town with a funny name. Not like Yoko Ono, or “yuno”, as in “you know”, but “oo no”. Thousands of people pass through each day, but it is not on the Shinkansen route, nor does it have any World Heritage attractions, unlike Himeji or Hiroshima to its east and west. These days, Uno is a transfer point to ferries heading to Naoshima, Teshima, Shadoshima and Takamatsu.
In days past freight and traffic from all over the world would pass by on the Setouchi inland sea, by these days, planes, trains and trucks have replaced much of the maritime traffic. Uno, along with the other islands the dot the inland sea, now play host to visitors wishing the experience the interplay of landscape and art on these islands, the most famous of which are the oversized spotted and tiger striped pumpkins that mark the shoreline on Naoshima.
Visitors making their way from the bullet train at Okayama Station to the ferry terminal invariably spend up to an hour or so while they wait for the connecting ferry, especially those going to less populated areas like Teshima. While many visitors spend their time waiting at the ferry terminal with its free Wi-Fi, there are other options. A good place to relax with a cup of tea or coffee in the morning is Aya Gallery and Café, just a stone’s throw in a narrow laneway perpendicular to the railway station.
More like a grandmother’s house than a commercial café, it is a potpourri of different tables and chairs, of Russian dolls and a quiet but friendly terrier sleeping on one of the side chairs. I stepped in one spring morning in May, with the flower boxes filled with flowers in full bloom, in all different shades of pink and cream, set against the rich green shrubbery. The yellow awning and the quaint sign made it look a bit like a slice of Provence, despite the ordinariness of the box like building that it is situated in.
This café will not win any culinary rewards, but is a pleasant place to have a slice of cake or some yuzu citrus tea, while you catch up with the neighbours. Actually, it is just like if your neighbour had asked you for a cup of tea.