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Visiting temples all day can be tiring. Brains need caffeinating, bellies begin aching and legs long for sitting. Even with these urges stirring, a convenient store bento just will not do in Kita-Kamakura. To keep in character with your peaceful day of templing, you want a boutique Japanese establishment that’s traditional and unhurried. Cafe Minka is just the place. Located a four minutes walk from the famous Engaku-ji temple, this cafe encapsulates the atmosphere of Kita-Kamakura perfectly.

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Cafe Minka’s facade is leafy and clandestine. This understated tranquillity is precisely what makes this cafe so attractive. Look up and you’ll see the traditional architecture of a wooden Japanese townhouse. For future reference, “minka” can be roughly translated to mean townhouse. Both stories of the house are decorated by midori-green leaves from the courtyard’s trees. The courtyard is small, so I advise you walk around it before entering. Even for the non-smoker, it’s a nice place to sit.

cafe Minka in KamakuraCafe Minka’s leafy courtyard.

Once you slide open the wood framed glass door and enter Cafe Minka, you’ll understand why this cafe is so special. The assorted chairs, tables and books appear dishevelled yet purposefully positioned at the same time. There are armchairs, stools, kitchen chairs, book cases, book piles, round tables, square tables and long tables poised for use. The furniture centrepiece is the wooden bar. In front sit the early-bird patrons, and behind stand ready the ever-polite employees.

counter bar seats of cafe in KamakuraThe quaint counter bar.

If you’re like me and have not yet mastered restaurant survival phrases, do not stress. The décor, menu and food are exclusively Japanese but the cafe staff speak English and make gaijins feel at home. I even felt comfortable flicking through the books on the shelves, not that any were written in English of course. Take your time to walk around Cafe Minka and embrace the lounge room feel. My lounge room at home has never been as clean as this cafe but you know what I mean – it’s a homely place.

cafe in KamakuraDine in and peruse the library.

Cafe Minka’s food and drink menu is deeply traditional. If you’re only after a refreshment, I recommend the light snack or karui tabemono and a cup of coffee. Speaking of coffee, expect to pay top dollar. Charging a minimum 500 yen for a small cup of joe is a consistent drawback everywhere in Kita-Kamakura because it’s a classy tourist town. Although not ideal for those travelling on a budget, the coffee here at this cafe is first rate.

coffee and drinks at cafePricey, yet delicious coffee and iced tea.

I will definitely return to Cafe Minka. Fortunately, there’s ample opportunity. Kita-Kamakura (or Yamanouchi) is home to many beloved temples and several days of touring is required to peruse them all. The cafe is purposefully tucked away from the main street so I feel privileged to have experienced it. I highly recommend the cafe for lunch during your Kita-Kamakura temple visit.

exterior of cafe in KamakuraCome on in to this cosy, rustic cafe.

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Geoffrey Smith

Geoffrey Smith

Hi, I'm a 27 year old Australian living in Japan. I love to write, read, travel the unknown, play guitar and keep fit. I believe travelling Eastern countries like Japan is the best way to learn about the world and our place in it. Keep on rockin' in the free world!

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