The sound of ocean waves intermingles with the Cuban music coming from the CD player just inside the open door, where a colorful cotton curtain is fluttering in the breeze. As I relax on a private balcony in the sunshine, drinking tea and eating my favorite muesli topped with fruit, I decide to adopt this seaside cottage as my happy place, a holiday destination to bring my family to on three-day weekends when the weather is most agreeable.
Studio Nada is an affordable (Y9,000 ~ for two people), self-catering cottage in Kashima, Ibaraki about a 45-minutes drive away from Narita Airport. I first stayed at Studio Nada in 2006, after learning about it through Outdoor Japan. When my sister’s family came to visit Japan a couple of years later, I booked two suites side by side for five of us. Months later, my mother and I stayed Studio Nada’s lake view farm cottage, up the hill from the seaside location, where we were awakened by the crow of roosters, and enjoyed a beautiful view of horses in the foreground and Japan’s second largest lake in the background. Last weekend was my first time back to the cottage since 2008. I had been wondering how Studio Nada had faired in the 3/11 Tohoku earthquake and ensuing tsunami. My worries were put to rest; everything was in good shape. The German owner, Renate, let my young son meet her horses, chickens and pigeons at the farm.
The farmhouse is only offered in a pinch. The beach cottage is divided into two suites, upstairs and downstairs. There is also the "surfer's room" above the shed. Last weekend, we stayed in the upstairs suite, from which one can see the ocean. The interior walls, floors and ceiling are wood. A painted wooden cat greets you at the door. An old iron kettle can hold open the glass paneled front door. A flying wooden frog hangs from the paper lantern in the living area. My son was charmed by the soft hobby horse in the bedroom, the ladder leading up to the loft and the loft itself, where he made his nest for the night on the futons. Framed photos adorn the walls. For me these personal touches make the cottage feel like a home away from home. The suite comes with kitchen utensils, dishes, sugar/salt/seasonings/tea/coffee, rice maker, coffee table art and animal books in English, Latin music CDs, TV and CD player. The flat screen TV on the desk is probably the only similarity you will find between Studio Nada and a hotel room.
If you need black-out curtains, on-site restaurant or buffet breakfast, a central location and staff in suits, then you ought to book a hotel. Studio Nada, on the other hand, has spirit and warmth. Book a couple of nights (just not the nights I want!) and soak up the ambience of the countryside, sea and beach. The sand beach in front of the cottage seems to stretch on forever. We got to the cabin around 5 PM and since it was October, by the time we had dinner, it was dark out. Our family made our way by flashlight about 10 minutes down the road to the public beach access where we played in the sand and gazed at the lights of freighters and stars.
You can pick up ingredients to make your meals at a small store, Supa Ochida, down the road, or dine out up the hill a few kilometers away at a Hawaiian restaurant. On the way, check out the view from the observation tower at Hamanasu Park. Ask, and Renate may be able to provide bicycles, a boat, surfboards, BBQ set, kite and/or shuttle service to/from the nearest station or Narita Airport (you may be riding with dogs or cats, Y500 per person). Renate speaks English, German, Spanish and Japanese.
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