Matsuyama has two universities right next to each other, Ehime University and Matsuyama University. Students get very hungry and thirsty with all their studies, but they don’t have a lot of money to spend. Fortunately, Bar Stand KuKai just down the road is ready to wine and dine them at a very reasonable price. Come to think of it, budget travelers have a lot in common with students.
Bar Stand KuKai is located in a side street on the ground floor of an unremarkable building. It’s identified by an attractive signboard outside, and a window for serving takeaway. Inside is a counter with very comfortable pneumatic stools.
The main offering at KuKai is wrap sandwiches, amusingly known as rapu sand in Japanese. A number of sizes and fillings are available, and each sandwich is prepared carefully by hand. Side dishes include various deep fried things—cheese sticks, edamame beans in light pastry, chicken nuggets, squid and so on. There’s also a dinner course menu for groups that starts with a selection of fried snacks, segues into a good-sized wrap sandwich, and ends with … something else. The something else when I went was an interesting take on the winter standard, oden, a hot pot of various meats, fish patties and vegetables in a soy-based broth. What made it interesting was that curry broth replaced the soy, and it had enormous herb sausages in it. When we had finished all the floating goodies, the master offered us a choice of ramen or udon noodles cooked in the broth as a finisher. This extremely filling course was priced at just 1,500 yen.
KuKai is also a bar, rather nicely stocked. It has a small but attractive selection of bottled foreign beers, as well as locally produced sake. I started the evening with a concoction of grape juice and shochu produced with Matsuyama grapes, proceeding to Heartland beer, a French Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc beer flavoured with citrus, and a few generously sized glasses of unpasteurized sake. I was amazed to be charged only 3,500 yen for the whole evening.
The master of KuKai speaks Japanese and Chinese, but not English. However, there’s an English menu, so ordering is easy.
Kukai is the other name for Kobo Daishi, founder of the Shikoku pilgrimage. Read another way, it means "Shall we eat?".