Don't let the aging architecture deter you - cafe moyau is a cafe/restaurant in Okayama prefecture that embraces its antique look to create an almost dreamlike atmosphere, evoking both familiarity and nostalgia. Even if we don't all live in a picturesque shack right by a river it's hard to not think of it as feeling like home - or at least establishing what home is supposed to feel like.
The cafe faces the Asahigawa river, lying on the outskirts of downtown Okayama, positioned right between the office buildings and skyscrapers of the business district the two biggest tourist cultural tourist attractions a bridge away: the Korakuen Garden, one of Japan's best, and Okayama Castle. Moyau's location in between the tourism and business sectors feels symbolic, offering an escape both from the concrete jungle to its left as well as the busy commercial tourism and sights on its right.
The wooden entrance door rattles as it moves into place and the steep wooden stairs to the second floor loft creak underfoot with even the most careful step. The chairs and tables look slightly worn but are obviously clean and well kept. The furnishings lack the uniformity of most restaurants and cafes in favor of picking and choosing what looks to be the most comfortable over the most symmetric. The lights are dim and you call the servers, all whom looked to be at home here as well while dressed in their own attire, with a small bell placed on your table. The menu is made of bound, decorated cards and is hand written. The smell of stewing curry filled the room from the first time I opened the door and conversations were short and sweet among the men getting off work and the woman with her two children sitting across the way. The mood seemed to always hover just slightly above the ground, being neither too gloomy and quiet nor too festive and rowdy. It was just right.
A small library with shelves of books is located just to the side of the cafe in a separate room where you can also enjoy your drinks or lunch, with windows facing the river. The sun was just setting when I was there and I saw a girl enjoying her lunch outside the window on a chair she pulled up by the small road in front. I chose a short story collection by Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo and skimmed through a novel by Ryu Murakami. There are a variety of drinks and food on the menu and the whole place smelled of delicious home stewed curry, but what caught my eye the most was the azuki coffee. It arrived at my table with a topping of whipped cream and the expected red beans fashioned on top.
One of the reasons I was so inclined to go to cafe moyau when a friend suggested it was because the name sounded familiar: Oomori Seiko stopped by just a few weeks before I was there to give an intimate acoustic concert in the event space located in the basement of the cafe. They seem to do a variety of interesting events besides live shows, too. I spotted a signed vinyl record of singer-songwriter Shibata Satoko's EP on the way out.
If you ever find yourself looking for a nice place to relax off the beaten path or after a days worth of sightseeing in Okayama city, cafe moyau is a convenient place to unwind. Okayama is a city best explored by bicycle, the transportation of choice for most of the city's inhabitants, and rental bicycles for non-residents are available from a number of places. Cafe moyau is a short bicycle ride from Okayama station, although it can be a little longer on foot. For directions and more information, check out the cafe's official website as well as this handy google map location or the map posted on their homepage.