While Kamakura’s downtown districts offer much in the way of appetizing lunch options, those who venture further afield for their sightseeing often struggle to find a decent place to eat. That’s why the verdant oasis of Cafe Kaeru serves as a highlight for those spending time exploring the temples and shrines east of Tsuruoka Hachiman Shrine.
Cafe Kaeru sits along a quiet backstreet a short walk from Sugimoto-dera Temple and Kamakuragu Shrine. Identified by a small sign on the corner, it’s the cafe’s garden that truly beckons customers. While the predominant color year-round is green, the seasons are punctuated by other hues such as pale pink cherry blossoms in spring, white hydrangeas in the rainy months and red-tinged leaves as autumn approaches. See if you can spot any of the cute frog statues hidden amongst the plants – a nod to the cafe’s name (kaeru means frog in Japanese).
The cafe’s menu isn’t large and changes by the season. The daily special is always marked on a chalkboard that sits in the garden, just outside the cafe’s main entrance. In the past, options for the daily special have included a takomeshi (rice cooked with fresh octopus), a hearty Borscht-style beef stew (perfect for cold winter afternoons) and a brightly colored summer vegetable donburi (rice bowl). On a recent visit, the dessert of the day was tarte tatin (a type of apple pie), served warm with ice cream. Coffee and tea are available throughout the day, and the cafe usually has a selection of muffins or some type of baked good available to accompany drinks. On average, the daily special runs from ¥1,300-¥1,800, while drinks cost about ¥600.
Earlier this year, Cafe Kaeru began offering takeaway bento options, for those looking to either eat on the go or stay safe in the current coronavirus situation. Two main options are available – a “one coin” bento for ¥500 that offers onigiri (rice balls), karaage (fried chicken) and other small bites, and a larger seasonal bento for ¥1,300 that can feature such options as sushi, menchikatsu (a breaded and deep-fried meat patty), tempura and fresh vegetable salads. The takeaway bento are offered by reservation only, so please call ahead to place your order.
For those eating in-house, groups can be accommodated at the cafe’s large communal table, while several smaller tables are perfect for couples or solo patrons. If you want to soak up a bit of sunshine with your meal, aim for the seats right in front of the cafe’s greenhouse-style front window. You’ll enjoy beautiful views of the garden, while still getting the advantage of the air conditioner in the hot summer months.
On those perfect spring and autumn days, the cafe encourages patrons to enjoy the terrace seats. Snag one of the magazines from the cafe’s sizable collection and settle in for an afternoon of reading and sipping whatever drink strikes your fancy.
Cafe Kaeru does shut on occasion for personal holidays, so it’s best to call ahead or check its Instagram page for any unexpected closures.