Following Route 263 from central Fukuoka City takes you over the mountains to the southwest and brings you to the village of Mitsuse in Saga Prefecture in just half an hour. There, at the forested foot of Mt. Kana, you’ll find a log cabin café overlooking terraced rice fields. The urban sprawl is gone; you’ve reached the inaka, or Japanese countryside.
Notch began in 2004 and is a family business. The Shiotas put this beautiful log cabin together with help from Mrs. Shiota’s father, a carpenter, and a cooperative effort by members of the local community. The overlapping, notched logs fit together neatly without nails and give the café its name. Mr. Shiota, who moved here from Mie Prefecture, brings with him gourmet experience, having worked previously at a soba restaurant. The family has put together excellent food served in a friendly, warm, and attractive environment.
Cooking ingredients have been given careful thought, with local, healthy products being prioritized. The Shiotas use domestic flour and local chicken. The menu offers made-from-scratch pizza, udon, and cake as well as homemade bacon. The chiffon cake is made with rice powder from local rice, making it more sticky and heavy but also soft and fluffy. The deserts are delicious here, and the parfaits are made with fresh local milk.
The log cabin structure gives the restaurant a homey feel. In addition to the finely crafted woodwork and high ceilings, a wood-burning stove adds cordiality and kindheartedness to the atmosphere. Warm background music from the Shiotas’ CD collection features artists like Norah Jones, Bob Dylan, Sting, and Jack Johnson. And soft sunshine flows in from large sliding glass doors to fill the café with natural light.
Since the cabin is a bit elevated on the mountain base, it has a good view from inside and overlooks the picturesque farms of the village. The sliding glass doors open up onto a porch with additional seating at the edge of a field.
The café is also dog friendly, making it extra comfortable for families and people who like animals. There are six dogs who live here, but they are very quiet and aren’t a distraction for those concentrating on enjoying their meal. No dogs are allowed inside the restaurant, but there is plenty of space for them to be happy outside, including a fenced-off field where they can run around free.
Notch is in a prime location to rusticate for a day and enjoy the nature around it. It’s located near Yamanaka Campground (they take reservations for camping here), and there is a nice short hike that heads uphill from the restaurant (or watch the video below). The peak of Mt. Kana is also accessible, with connecting trails from both the café and the campground ascending the mountain.