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Okayama has a sunny disposition but rest assured when your heated brow needs to be cured.  The city and prefecture, small and warm, is home to many cool cafes.  You’ll find many west of the station where the young crowds of Okayama Daigaku pass or gather.  A notable presence occupying the more travelled east side, towards a historical trip to Okayama castle or the city’s massive Aeon Mall complex, is the local chain Cafe Marugo.sandwich, cake and drinks at a Marugo cafe in Okayama

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Cafe Marugo – “Circle Five” – cooks up simmering coffees for a winter walk, and pureed fruit smoothies for your summer sway. Each of their buildings is marked with a minimal “5” encircled by red, while some locations are hidden away in shopping establishments. While they are omnipresent in the city, Marugo is a specifically Okayama treat.

inside a Marugo cafe in Okayama

(credit: tabelog)

Stoic-looking tourists often make way for the castle immediately after exiting JR Okayama station and surveying the area map. If you turn a little length from your tour, the verdant adornment of Nishigawa river stretches north and south. Marugo’s Tamachi location is a little stretch away from your backpack burden, and on a corner that catches good sun.

exterior of a Marugo cafe in Okayama

(credit: tabelog)

The corner location opens its window-glazed sides after the shiftless concrete of several buildings. Alone at the intersection, it seems like the area’s market destination when you enter. Burlap coffee sack and containers with shipping stencil font crowd the counter space. The counter staff, often scooping beans at the midday hour, will turn their cool attention your way as you enter.  A tasteful blend of hip hop and grooving soul is always on play – with that selection, you’ll trust that your brew is in good hands.

a cup of coffee from any Marugo cafe

(credit: tabelog)

A special nuance of Marugo’s that you might not catch on a tourist guide is each location’s unique menu of items. Marugo Tamachi has my favorite, their famous tasting chocolate honey ginger drink. It decreases to a chocolate honey slick, revealing sincere spice in its ginger slices.  Stock seems limited, though, as the menu is blotted out to obscure an occasional favorite. Any alternative is sure to please, with an equal spread of fruit smoothies and caffeinated beverages.

Waiting the minimal minutes before your cup is filled, Marugo Tamachi has some little sensual treats spread over its book shelves and counter space. Zines with the green graphic sensibilities of homegrown hipsters fill one shelf. You can sit at the window and leaf through, or learn the Okayama music offerings by filing through fliers in a little corner. Neatly spaced CD albums of local or neighboring prefecture’s artists are also available.

counter of Marugo cafe in Okayama

(credit: tabelog)

All Marugo cafe locations provide little brown paper cards, ringing a pleasant organic tone for a free future purchase.  If you find time to drink fifteen brews at Marugo, you’ll earn a free drink. It’s worth slipping into your wallet just to pass to a friend visiting Okayama.

Okayama castle is a landmark sight in the city, and its nearby greenery is not to be overlooked.  A little sliver of wood, popular for a quiet summer barbecue, covers the view and cannot physically be overlooked.  Across the way is another Marugo cafe, its eaves from those of the trees separated by a shade of concrete.

The boards of the Marugo porch creak a sweet welcome as a little chalk sign props a proposition for drink and dining.  The hefty door assuredly does not creak, and neither do the bones of the young staff as they extend a greeting and drizzle a flavored latte. They hold Okayama in hip hands, but it is no feigned gesture.  A display of packaged nuts and fruits, emblazoned with the logo for a local organic food dealer, brings a wholesome hipness to the Marugo cafe experience. Okayama prefecture and this sunny country directly benefits from buying these blends.

A Marugo cafe in Okayama

(credit: tabelog)

counter and menu board of Marugo cafe

(credit: tabelog)

You can buy a pouch of nuts and munch on the trail to Okayama castle or nearby Korakuen Park.  Particularly, the coconut latte is a great Marugo sip in the after-simmer of a summer’s day. If take-out is not your route, the cafe has a couple rooms to satisfy the soul in search of rest.

After ordering your drink and dish – I recommend the chili beans sand, a sandwich of chili beans – the second floor awaits. The area is a color of cool, simple chairs and tables on cool concrete. An open visor looks out to that outdoor sliver of green.  Untampered light rests in on the chairs, and the space ripples like forest air under a touch of canopy. A single yet intimate couch rests away from the window. For those of the affinity, a third floor allows smoking.

Inside a Marugo cafe

(credit: tabelog)

This Marugo cafe is located in a quiet place, though the staff is a welcoming group as they enjoy gentle folk and reggae. They continue to do so downstairs, as quiet as it is upstairs.

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Ethan Cookman

Ethan Cookman

I've had a lot of time to think about my biography. About 25 years. I've also done things like study at university - Hofstra University and Kwansei Gakuin University. When I was a teacher at a children's school in Okayama (Japan), I didn't have so much time to think about my biography. So now I'm in Tokyo, writing my biography. I've been living in Japan for a year and a half, and enjoy puns, music, and sights (both insight and outside).

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