Stretching from the sake-distillery-littered coast to the mountains edging Takarazuka, Nishinomiya is a large and varied city, so choosing where to meet for a simple coffee can be tricky. However, if you have one go-to cafe by each of the three train lines, you'll be covered for impressing anyone in the area, whether a resident or just passing through. Stepping out of the JR station's south exit you might be underwhelmed by the standard chain-store options, but just around the corner you'll find one of three branches of a delightful Kansai cafe-cum-fruit-vendor concept: Arrow Tree.
Rather like a modern day speakeasy, you could be forgiven for not immediately seeing this as a cafe. The shop front, though enticing, does not scream cake and coffee, hidden as it is behind a greengrocer's stand piled high with fresh fruit and vegetables. Step inside, however, and you discover an incredible cake counter, generous meal sets and a lovely drink selection.
Thanks to a skylight and big windows (through which to spy on the stand outside and decide your shopping list) the cafe is light and airy. Tables here are roomy, perfect for reading or studying in mid-afternoon, and the staff are friendly and helpful. The cute menus list drinks (try a fresh fruit smoothie or juice) and regularly available snacks, whilst the menu of the day lists the pasta specials, all of which come with huge, delicious looking salads. Despite going at lunchtime I only ate cake. This may or may not be because the menu doesn't list the cakes, practically forcing you to go and peruse the display - and once you've drooled on the glass case you really have to order something from within!
I opted for a tart piled high with blueberries and strawberries for the simple reason that buying a punnet of fruit in Japan would set me back about the same price (approx. ¥600) - and that's before you consider the mountain of cream used to attach the fruit to its chocolate-tart base. It really doesn't get much better than a naughty-but-nice fruit and chocolate combo, unless you fancy something with some crunch, in which case you want the mille-feuille centred sponge roll, topped with yet more strawberries and cream. To take advantage of the cake set deal, head to Arrow Tree between 2:00 and 6:00pm. The coffee packs a fair punch, or you can cool down with a fresh juice and you can even purchase Arrow Tree's own fruit teas to take home.
The next time you find yourself in Nishinomiya, looking for a pick-me-up or a treat, stop by Arrow Tree for something sweet. You can always justify the gluttony by doing a healthy fruit shop afterwards!