Tokyo cafe offers taste, atmosphere of Fukushima

JAPAN - A Tokyo cafe offering dishes made with rice and vegetables from disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture has been warming the hearts of not only Tokyoites, but also people originally from the prefecture working or studying in the metropolis.

Chrysanthemum greens and spinach are piled up in front of Fukushima Orugan-do Shimokitazawa, a cafe in Daizawa, Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, where the spicy scent of curry fills the air. The inside walls are covered with photos of smiling farmers, proudly holding their vegetables. All the ingredients used at the cafe are produced by about 50 farm households, in parts of the prefecture including Minami-Soma, Iwaki and Koriyama.

Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network, a nonprofit organisation, runs the cafe, which will mark its first anniversary in mid-March. The NPO confirms the safety of all the food, and the cafe sells Fukushima vegetables, too. Owner Naomi Abe, 46, said: "I hope more people will discover the delicious taste of agricultural products from Fukushima to inspire farmers there. At this cafe, people can discuss and learn about Fukushima, and producers and consumers also communicate with each other." What pleases her the most is when vegetables sell out on the same day they arrive.

Itsumi Aoyagi, a 23-year-old university senior, travelled to the cafe from Saitama Prefecture. A native of Sukagawa in the Fukushima Prefecture, she has visited the cafe about five times since last summer but will go back to her hometown after graduating this spring.

"The cafe has an atmosphere similar to my hometown, which is relaxing. I want to come here again when I visit Tokyo," she said.

Farmer Yoshimitsu Ajima of Iwaki in the prefecture, 58, produces rice served at the cafe. "It's rewarding when a person who eats the rice says, 'It was delicious,'" he said. "In return for people's kindness, I will continue delivering tasty rice."

The owner happily watched her customers enjoying conversation. "I want people to visit this cafe as a gateway to Fukushima, and make more people feel like the prefecture is their second hometown," she said.