Sponsored by Higashisonogi Town.
Higashisonogi, the beautiful seaside town overlooking Omura Bay close to Nagasaki, might best be known for its high quality green tea and breathtaking natural landscapes. But for a few years now, a couple of hipster small businesses have been popping up around Higashisonogi, infusing this countryside town with a trendy energy. Follow us around the district of Chiwata to discover some of these local hotspots.
Lunch with a view at Chiwata Station
Believe it or not, one of the coolest things to try when in Higashisonogi is taking the train! Riding the Sea Side Liner is quite an experience, with a breathtaking view of the seashore only a couple of meters below the train tracks.
Even though this is a train ride you don’t really want to end, our advice would be to stop at Chiwata Station. When getting off, the only thing you will probably notice is the sea extending beyond the horizon, just in front of you. But turn around and you will discover the loveliest restaurant in town!
But don’t look for an actual restaurant sign; simply slide open the old wooden doors to enter the station. A kitchen has replaced the ticket counter and the waiting room has been transformed with a few tables and a nice decoration.
Relaxing music is playing and a spicy aroma is floating in the air. You can still buy a ticket or check the train schedule here, but you can also eat a delicious homemade Japanese curry while admiring the deep blue sea.
This is the only item available on the menu, slightly changing everyday depending on the season. For just 1000 yen, you will get a colorful plate of steaming curry, probably one of the most comforting foods for foreigners to be served in Japan (so much so that you can trade your chopsticks for a good old spoon to eat it).
And even though the setting and the view are quite unique, I can assure you that when your plate arrives, it is the only thing you will be looking at!
This truly is a restaurant like no other that Ryunosuke Yushita and his wife opened in December 2016 as a place for people to gather and enjoy the old-fashioned charming atmosphere that remains alive.
And if you’re not hungry, simply grab a drink and one of the books available on the restaurant shelves, taking a moment to take in the atmosphere as the trains pass by.
An old rice warehouse turned a community space – Sorriso riso
Just a 15 minute walk from the station, you will find another one of these hot spots in a building that was once a rice warehouse. You will have to look carefully to spot the little ‘Sorriso riso’ sign at the front as nothing else indicates what can be found inside for a first time visitor.
Instead of seeing the old warehouse as a dark and rusty abandoned space like other people did, Kazutaka Mori, the owner of Sorriso riso, saw its potential as a place to create new stories as a community. It has been transformed into a beautiful communal space, made by the locals and for the locals that since December 2015 houses a coffeeshop (Tsubame Coffee), a vintage clothes and antique furniture store (GONUTS) and a corner with leather accessories made by a local creator (SOLE).
Just like with Chiwata station, the building’s original features were carefully preserved during the renovation to maintain the original industrial aesthetic mixed with a contemporary interior design. From the super high ceiling with wooden beams to the incredibly spacious rooms, you will quickly see how this former warehouse has become a wonderful playground for the local creators and makers.
You will be welcomed there by the comforting aroma of coffee and a very friendly staff, but also by the sunlit open space stretching the length of the entire building.
Sorriso riso offers this space for people to organize pop-up stores, live events or even workshops. A beautiful place to promote local crafts and personalities and let them shine locally and beyond.
To find out the details regarding prices or business hours about the places mentioned just above, feel free to check out the clickable map below.
Higashisonogi might feel like deep rural Japan and yet it is very easily accessible. It will only take 2h30 by train or 1h30 by car to get there from Fukuoka, 30min by train or 1h by car from Sasebo, and 1h by train or 40min by car from Nagasaki. With Nagasaki airport being only 20min away by car, you can easily travel there with a domestic flight (frequent direct flights from Tokyo in just 1h30). Please note however that you will need a rental car to get around the area and explore it fully (available at Nagasaki airport for example).