The continual move to the more urban areas of Japan's prefectures is leaving uninhabited traditional houses hidden away in the mountainside villages. This has given rise to something very special, though.
Komin Cafes, a nickname for cafes that set up these abandoned traditional houses (called kominya), are beginning to turn up more and more often. I'd like to introduce you to Ocho-8, a lovely example of a komin cafe here in Kochi prefecture I visited recently, near the Anpanman Museum.
While there are a vast variety of komin cafes, Ocho-8 has refurbished an old house to be modern, artistic, and very chic on the inside. In fact, I felt like I was drinking my chai latte in the spread of a fancy interior designer magazine.
The large open room with banister ceilings is very inviting, made even more so by the warmth radiating outward from the woodburner stove in the middle of the room. An arrangement of anitque furniture is yours to choose from, ranging from heavy wooden and iron tables and chairs, to light weight chairs with hymnal and communal cup holders that must have been brought in from a non-comformist church somewhere. It had been a long day, so we were a little selfish and took the large sofa with plush leather cushions.
Because we had already had lunch, we just ordered some drinks and cakes. My iced chai latte and sponge cake with fresh whipped cream and mint were excellent. The lunch options looked to be mainly pastas and rice topped with omelettes (omurice), but looked very good as well.
I definitely want to go back to have lunch sometime. All of the vegetables are locally grown and are bartered for with eggs from the chickens they raise at Ocho-8. This might not always be the case, but I saw such an exchange with one of the neighboring women on my way out the door. You can also buy a carton of eggs if you have time and a place to cook them while you're in Kochi. I took some home with me and they were remarkably better than the eggs you normally find at the supermarket--almost sweet.
Everything was worth the wait, but there was a considerable wait. I didn't mind because we had plenty of time and the cafe is so homey you start to imagine that it might actually be your secret get away house you keep tucked away in the quiet mountains.
Another pointer, it is not cheap. While not expensive, it is more than your typical cafe in Kochi City. Consider it the 'not that many people can make it up to our cafe' tax. Again, well worth it.
Not only is Ocho-8 a cafe, but there are also some handmade baskets, wallets, and coin purses available to purchase. They also had some artwork that seemed like it was on sale. I guess the artistic nature of the owner and people who work there explains the overall atmosphere of the cafe.
Should you be looking for a quiet place to enjoy some beautiful mountain scenery while in Kochi, or find yourself at the Anpanman Museum, Ocho-8 is an excellent place for a refreshing time.