Walk 10-minutes along the ocean from JR Takamatsu station and you will finally reach an area with old storage buildings standing in row. This is Kitahama, a town that was once a prospering port town. Even the storage sheds where all the freight carried by the boats was stored are now covered in rotting wood and rusty zinc, and it’s almost as if time has stopped.
After Hidemi and Masako Inoue, a couple from Inoue Commercial Space Planning, a local design company, laid their eyes on the abandoned storage area from the city’s bustling past, they decided to redesign it as a place where people could gather. In 2000, the birth of Kitahama Alley began with a colorful range of owners opening shops one after another.
At the time, the word “renovation” was not too well known by local people, but in a flash, the area became thee fashionable spot in Takamatsu. As it’s been introduced in several travel magazines, it’s become a place loved not only by the local youth but also by tourists.
Surrounded by a great variety of shops such as a hair salon, a bar, a variety goods shop, a restaurant, a bookstore and a gallery, umie is found on the second floor of an old cereal storage building covered with rusty zinc.
Islands floating in the sea, passing ships, seagulls, clouds, and fresh air… the scenes of everyday port life were almost forgotten. The charm of umie is that it’s a location where you can enjoy all this.
With the concept of “time spent here is always comfortable”, the café continues on with an unchanging style.
Art books and photograph collections, vintage chairs, an old sewing machine, a sofa made from a reused car seat, a lamp shade handmade from an empty beer bottle, old record covers… It’s a comfortable space arranged like a collage of the owner’s favorite things.
Sipping freshly made coffee, flipping through a book with a donut in one hand, having a fun talk with friends with beer and wine accompanied by pizza; the good thing about umie is that you can spend your time as you like.
The staple dishes, beef stew and curry, are popular as well, but we recommend the “Atsu Atsu no Ringo Pizza” (‘Hot Apple Pizza’). It’s a superb dish with melted cheese on a super thin pizza base, fresh apple, cinnamon, cream cheese and walnuts. You’ve just got to try it, if you’re in the area!!
In collaboration with Yajima Island’s Yamada Coffee Shop, umie also sells its original self-roasted coffee beans. The lightly roasted Asagi (‘pale blue-green’) made with the image of a refreshing walk at the beach in the morning, and deeply roasted Ruri (‘lapis lazuli’) made with the image of the deep color of the sea gently heading towards the night.
You can taste the two coffees made with the image of the Seto Inland Sea within the shop, as well.
Made with ingredients such as dried sardines, matcha green tea, chestnuts and citrus fruit from the Seto Inland Sea area, umie’s freshly baked Setouchi scones are delicious.
As they’re also available to take-out, how about getting some for souvenirs?
Starting with Keiichi Sokabe, a local artist, numerous artists from all over Japan who wish to perform at a place where you can see the sea come to play.
They sometimes sing songs related to the sea, and typical of café live events, there’s an ‘at home’ air where you can enjoy watching proceedings from the sofa seats.
If you take a trip to Takamatsu, check Facebook for the latest information on their live event schedule.
A 1-minute walk brings you to the café’s sister shop, a gallery café called Design Laboratory Ao. As it’s located on the 5th floor, you can enjoy views of the Seto Inland Sea from a different angle!
Address: 3-2 Kitahama Alley, Kitahama-cho, Takamatsu city, Kagawa prefecture
Business hours: 11.00-23.00
Homepage: http://www.umie.info (Japanese)
Design Laboratory Ao
Address: Daiungumi Building 5th floor, 5-5 Kitahama-cho, Takamatsu city, Kagawa prefecture
Business hours: 13.00-22.00 (Sundays & national holidays ~18.00)
Homepage: http://www.ao-labo.info (Japanese)
Kitahama Alley Homepage: http://www.kitahama-alley.jp/ (Japanese)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writers:
Text: Tomoko Kawai (Dream Network Activity)
Photographs: Takabumi Yanagisawa (Dream Network Activity)
> A guided tour, including teatime, where you can see the former “Koshien Hotel” – “Frank Lloyd Wright type” architecture by Arata Endo. / Koshien Hall at Mukogawa Women’s University (Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo)
> Experience the ancient way of salt making on Kamikamagari-jima Island on the Tobishima Kaido in Aki-nada! / Kamagari Ancient Salt Making Remains Restoration Pavilion & “Amabito-no-Moshio” (Kure-shi, Hiroshima)
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