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Nasu-shiobara's 1988 Cafe Shozo
Music, hand-roasted coffee, and curated charm
Pulling into the town of Nasu-shiobara on a crispy fall evening, we searched for the venue where the concert was to be held. Used to the tiny dive bars of Tokyo where you can easily get close enough to lick the sweat off the musician (going to shows in the capital is not unlike riding its trains), we were pleasantly surprised to find a spacious building with warmly lit windows beckoning from the cafe on the second floor.
After parking for free in their parking lot (how novel!), we entered the rustic clothing shop first, noticing the rough spun fabrics and the folksy tunes coming out of the speakers. Their target clothing audience seems to be elves, or forest children, or Scandinavians.
Directly adjacent, glass jars of coffee beans gleam on the shelves next to packets of handmade shortbread biscuits. Bright enameled pots are displayed and the smell of fresh roasted coffee wafts over the counter, where the staff diligently tends the magic beans.
A stairway at the back leads upstairs to the cafe, where we chose a corner table next to a heater with a yellow glow, pretty lamps and stylish clientele scattered around. A case full of enticing sweets is proudly displayed at the front of the house, with poofy meringues and rich-looking tarts. The Vienna coffee and cake set hit the spot for about 800 yen, and the tiny elephant-emblazoned cream pot was a delight.
When it came time for the doors to open, we made our way next door and up the narrow staircase to the venue. A bar was positioned in the back, serving drinks and hot soup and a few other delectables. Mismatched chairs lined the area in front of the stage, which was lit by dozens of candles. The setting managed to be spacious yet intimate. I nursed a hot yuzu ginger drink, while the tunes washed over me, bathed in candlelight.
Shozo has several other ventures around town, including another cafe further out in the sticks, and a furniture store down the street. The other shops seem to embody the same aesthetic, that of cozy, rustic sophistication.