Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture has historically been the prime destination for the working elite of Tokyo. It is the common dream of many Tokyo residents to own a second house here and spend their vacations in this peaceful resort town.
Surrounded by Nagano's rich nature, Karuizawa offers outdoor recreational activities like golfing, cycling, hiking, skiing, and visiting hot spring baths. However, Karuizawa has also recently become a tourist destination for domestic and foreign travelers. These visitors not only include outdoor lovers, but also foodies. Karuizawa prides itself in having refined gourmet foods.
This week, I had the pleasure of eating at a local cafe in Naka-Karuizawa called Coffee House Shaker and had the chance to speak with the owner, Susumu Kurosawa.
Hidden in the rural greenery of Naka-Karuizawa, Coffee House Shaker is easy to miss when driving. However, its simple cottage style design and wooden interiors give a cozy feel that is characteristic of the slow-life atmosphere of the area. The cafe is rather small and seats around 20 people, all of whom Mr. Kurosawa serves and cooks for. The cafe is also pet-friendly, making it a favored spot for dog-owners.
The menu consists of comfort foods like hamburgers, Japanese chicken curry, hot sandwiches, and french toast. Mr. Kurosawa says he tries to the best of his ability to incorporate locally-grown seasonal ingredients, and therefore, changes the menu accordingly. He also gathers ingredients, such as coffee and bread from local stores called Maruyama Coffee and Haluta, respectively.
Originally from the neighboring prefecture of Gunma, Mr. Kurosawa told me that he moved to Karuizawa to open Coffee House Shaker. As the owner and sole employee of Coffee House Shaker, his pride in self-producing everything from the menu to the interior design was clear. In fact, one aspect of the cafe he was most proud of was the furniture he collected himself. The cafe's Shaker furniture is a simple wooden style developed by the Shakers, a religious group. Most of the tables and chairs here are one-of-a-kind Shaker pieces that Mr. Kurosawa gathered from the United States.
Another distinctive feature of Coffee House Shaker is the outdoor gear that covers its walls. As a lover of the outdoors, Mr. Kurosawa says he likes to go fly fishing and snowboarding on his days off. The cafe is tastefully decorated with items like fly fishing vests, rods, nets, and magazines that serve as mementos of Mr. Kurosawa's outdoor hobbies.
Thanks its homey atmosphere, good food and friendly conversation with Mr. Kurosawa, Coffee House Shaker is a satisfyingly good place to visit for a quick bite and enjoyable time.