It's when I do things like try to reach the Bandai Plateau by public transportation that I realise how spoilt I am where I live. Deep in the countryside of Fukushima, it's reached by a bus that runs every hour or so, from a station where trains stop every hour or two. Faced with this, I decided to leave an hour's gap when I switched from train to bus, and trust that there'd be somewhere I could have lunch. And there was.
The interior is cheerily rustic, with lots of wood used for the furniture and fittings; there are three of four tables opposite the counter, then a raised cooking hearth by the window, which also serves as a counter for diners. It's decorated in a style I'd call 'strategic clutter'; plastered around the walls are prints, exhibition posters, menu lists and photographs, while hanging over the hearth there are dried plants, a shell necklace, and a Vietnamese conical hat. By the counter, there are variously a case of aged manga, a fish tank, and a vinyl turntable, on which was playing the soothing but incongruous jazz of Miles Davis. To complete the vibe, there's an equally cluttered shop immediately attached, selling a mix of gift items and ceramics.
I actually changed at Inawashiro station twice: both times I came to Manpei, and both times I had the same thing, the curry rice. It was tasty and satisfying, with a little more of a spicy kick than other curry rices I've had. The first time it was complemented by a small dish of very fresh tomatoes, which the proprietress gave me for free.
It seems to be more a cafe than a restaurant, as the number of dishes on the menu is pretty limited. My curry rice was ¥750, then they have gyudon (beef on rice) for ¥900, tuna toast or pizza toast for ¥650, and spaghetti dishes for ¥800-900. Beverages are between ¥430 and ¥650, with a good range of coffees and teas, plus hot or iced cocoa, soft drinks and fresh juices. The only alcohol is beer, for ¥600.