Even though most of you have by now seen my Facebook posts, but as promised here is a dedicated post about what Aki and I have been up to over the last months.
Finding luck in the Seto Naikai?
As you might remember, we were initially looking renting a house in the Hiroshima area, specifically on an island on the Seto Naikai (Seto Inland Sea). Whilst the houses were quite nice and affordable, the area was just too rural and simple tasks like shopping would take almost an entire day. Also the cost for going to the mainland was just too high whereas a roundtrip would have set us back about 40Euros just for bridge and ferry fares. Have a look at some of the houses we looked at and the beauty of the inland sea:
Meeting the pals in Kyushu
We then moved on down to the southern main island of Japan Kyushu, specifically KitaKyushu, the city where our friends Kento and Yuichi live. We stayed there for a while and tried to find a farm in Wakamatsu. It is a very nice area and the perfect compromise between country side living and access to a bigger town. Unfortunately we were also out of luck about finding a place down there. Have a look at some of the pictures from there:
A short look at Shimonoseki
After then we took a short trip up north to Shimonoseki to look at a few houses but were still out of luck. The houses we looked at where either too broken, too far away from people or just not suited for a Café/Pension.
It must have also been around this time, when we decided to shift our focus from opening a pension to a Western-ish Coffee Shop. We then decided to return to Okayama, where Aki grew up as it seemed that there are a lot of old houses available for rent and purchase.
The search continues in Okayama
We looked at many. I can not count it anymore but it was probably close to the 50’s… The same problems remained: The ones in the good location where to broken and the ones that were nicely renovated where at the end of the world (which means a lot of mountains in Okayama :)
In December we finally found our place then. It was everything we wanted: Spacious (200sqm), old (100years), close to the city (20-30 minutes to Okayama Central) and great for opening a Café in it (check the pictures).
Meet Café Yukuli in Okayama
Despite renting as a foreigner is a bit of a hassle in Japan, we managed to get through with it and were handed over the keys on the 6th of January. There it was our 100 years old dream; full of rubbish… What we rented officially was only a part of the house. The other half of it was not cleaned out by the owner and there were truck loads of rubbish in it. If we wanted to use it we had to clean it up ourselves. So we started working on cleaning and repairing the house. I calculated that we drove almost two tons (that’s 2000kg O_o) of rubbish to the local clean center (waste burning plant). We went there so often, that we became “friends” with the people who work there. Our ambitious plans to clean everything were put to an end as we realized that it would just delay us too much with the opening of the shop (and we also ran out of money :). So we decided to leave the barn and the north building (yes, we have a north wing :) as is.
Before we could open, we had some issues with the Japanese health center. The department that is responsible for opening restaurants seems to be not too sure what the regulations for old houses are. Tho, we managed to take all the hurdles and were able to open on the 1st of May (that’s four full months of cleaning and repairing O_o).
We are now open for almost a month and have a steady customer stream. Word of mouth marketing is working quite well here in Japan. We also designed some flyers and do Facebook advertising which works very well. Also some bloggers and magazine have picked up on our shop and are writing articles on us, which is great! We serve Home Made Cake, Lunch, Coffee, Espresso, Latte’s, Sandwiches (where we buy the bread from a German bakery which is awesome!), self made Panini’s, alcohol and some cocktails. Have a look at some of the pictures and make sure to visit our website and Facebook Page for more!
The Final Product: Meet Café Yukuli in Okayama, Japan
And to finish it all up, here are some more promo shots we used for the website and such.
Thanks for staying with me on this long post! I miss all my friends and family and hope some of you can come over here some day and give us a visit. I am already planning on turning one of the non renovated rooms in the north wing into a guest room… :)