A Café with a Garden View, Where Adults Can Feel Free to Drop in on Alone


WordsJunko Kubodera PhotographyKenichi Fujimoto

Sunlight pours in all day long through the high-ceilinged atrium. With some seats installed outdoors, even those accompanied by pets can patronise the coffeehouse.

Naka-Karuizawa is located in the central part of Karuizawa Town. Its main street, a small thoroughfare lying parallel to Motorway No 146, is a quiet avenue that constitutes a green tunnel. It got its nickname of ‘Royal Prince Street’ as imperial family members used to travel along the road when they came here to escape the heat. The signboard for Ray Coffeehouse is modestly displayed in an area off the street that is surrounded by a small cluster of trees. Following the wooden wall as you make your approach, you reach a garden space with the café building appearing on the opposite side.

The wooden wall lines the approach to the café building. As a small cluster of trees separates the building from the street, it is not visible from there. Use the small signboard as a landmark.

The owner, Takeru Ushida, learned the ropes of the business on his own at various coffeeshops in Tokyo, and after years of research, he transferred from his home in Yokohama some ten years ago to start a small café in Karuizawa. His coffee, which is painstakingly brewed cup by cup through a drip process, is characterised by a robust, full-flavoured taste. The best places to sit are the counter seats, which face onto a garden through a large window installed on the west side. As those seats, however, force the customers to face away from the owner, they allow them to immerse themselves in their own world. Bird feeders have been placed in the garden, attracting such species as tits, nuthatches and great spotted woodpeckers, among many others. One can easily forget the passage of time just by watching the birds flitting back and forth and the squirrels running around before one’s very eyes.

Two types of blend coffee are available at 500 JPY per cup, with five types of straight (black) coffee at 600 JPY per cup. The apple pie in the photo and the chocolate cake are 500 JPY a piece.

Ushida says, ‘I wanted to create the type of café where adults could feel free to drop in on alone. Some of my customers even take naps at the counter seats. I’m helping them relax’. Whereas he used to only be able to identify sparrows and crows some ten years back, he now knows enough about birds to be somewhat of a knowledgeable expert on them. When you are at his coffeeshop, you start to want to shut out daily types of information, such as words, music and images, and instead listen to the voices of nature. This café, which offers a view of the ever-changing scenery—from the verdant greens of spring to the colours of autumn, not to mention the white snow of winter—along with the frolicking of the birds, always extends a warm welcome to visitors.

The large window was designed specifically to enhance the view of the garden. The counter table was made by a local carpenter from Minamisaku, who recycled old wooden material.

Many birds come to the garden, thanks to the installation of birdhouses and bird feeders, as well as a constant supply of bird feed. The tit, a regular visitor, is known for its black necktie appearance.

Ray Coffeehouse

Address: 2141-431 Nagakura, O-aza, Karuizawa-cho, Kitasaku-gun, Nagano

Tel: +81 (0)267 31 5031

Opening hours: 11 am – 5 pm

Closed: Thursdays (with irregular holidays in winter)