Always in search of atmospheric cafes and restaurants in the Japanese countryside, chance would have it that I passed the inviting gate of Bonjour Provence after exploring the nearby Mt. Rakan Crags and the environs of Mt. Takagi. Even in the dead of winter, the gardens here were lively with tiny spots of color.
This homelike restaurant is in the middle of a forest at the base of converging mountainsides making up the southern edge of Aso, the world’s largest volcano caldera. Stepping into the garden walkway leads your imagination out of a volcano and into the vibrant south of France.
The décor is happily simple and clean, highlighted by light, solid colors, garden furniture in the sunroom and solid wood tables in the main dining room. Fresh flowers grace the bookshelves, tabletops, and serving dishes. I preferred the sunroom with its large windows facing out into the gardens and wood-burning stove.
The test of whether I would come back again to see the restaurant and its gardens in spring and summer would be the food. It didn’t disappoint. Despite prices being above average for lunch, you get what you pay for here and the meal exceeded expectations. It’s probably the best food among restaurants I’ve dined at in the Aso region.
Daube Provençale (beef stew), Marinated Mussels, Pasta à la Provençale (basil and tomato spaghettini), White Vegetable and Mushroom Spaghettini, and the Hot Pork Pastrami Sandwich Basket make up the main menu. The majority of these items come with a most wonderful salad, delightful soup, and very good, fresh bread. There are also special courses you can order. Presentation is simple, tasteful, and elegant. The coffee is very good and they have a selection of wines.
Outside, the restaurant has a spacious roofed porch overlooking the gardens. There are a few friendly cats roaming around.
Bonjour Provence is in the scenic village of Old Kugino (now known as Minamiaso) near forested hiking trails. It’s open only in the afternoons, 12 to 5, and closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
ボンジュール・プロヴァンス—Bonjuuru Purovansu—Bonjour Provence