By JJ Walsh
Tiny corner cafe run by a cheery young couple who use what little space they have to great effect. Serving light ¥500 lunches, drinks and homemade cookies by day and local sake and homestyle cooking at night.
The first thing that strikes you about this place is how small it is. Measuring only 5 bamboo tatami mats (the standard measure for real estate in Japan) in size, it really is tiny. The second thing you notice, however, is just how well the Nakanishis make use of what space they have. They have fitted in not only a kitchen and bar, but seating for 10 customers. I laughed when they told me that they were glad of all the space when they moved in, but when they showed me a photo of their previous premises, a mini red and white camper van from which they sold drinks and snacks for two and a half years, I understood.
During the day Sprout Cafe offers a "One Coin Lunch" which includes a serving of pasta, with a piece of bread (or cookies) and side salad. It is great value at ¥500. Drink prices which range from ¥100 to ¥250 are also very reasonable. There is a small table around which you can squeeze four people and seats by the windows.
At 5pm, Sprout Cafe undergoes a change in name, and character.
Same space, same people, but Sprout morphs into Takeuma (the name literally means "bamboo horse", and is the word for Japanese stilts); a bar serving drinks and a surprisingly varied food menu. It is a great place to try some local jizake. The offer sake of the highest quality from several local craft breweries, that ranges in taste from the fragrant to the very crisp (¥500-700). This isn't a cocktail bar, but as well as sake, they have a good selection of shochu (¥400-450) and also serve umeshu (¥400), highballs and wine by the glass (¥380) or bottle (¥2800). Draft beer is ¥450.
The food menu includes lots of small tsumami dishes that go well with drinks. Standard fare such as as smoked cheese and smoked sausage, homemade pickles, kimchi, and, less common dishes such as sea urchin and spinach range from ¥300 to ¥900. There are more substantial seafood and meat dishes, including steak, (~¥1400), and they can also send you on your way with simple alcohol absorbing rice dishes such as yaki-onigiri grilled rice balls (¥200).
There is no English menu, and as far as I can tell, the owners don't speak much English. You may find them a bit nervous if you don't speak any Japanese at all. They are, however, natural communicators, be friendly and patient and they will soon relax and I would be surprised if you weren’t made to feel welcome.
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A total of 18 years in Japan and still loving it. Co-founder of GetHiroshima.com and publisher of the GetHiroshima Guide Map. Lapsed Ironman triathlete. Now trying to fit a passion for ultra distance trail running between raising two kids and occasional sessions in the DJ booths of Hiroshima.