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Fujiwara dreams of coffee

May 15, 2013

watching the magic happen
watching the magic happen

I realize that for being a blog about traveling, I give almost no genuinely useful information about the places I go. Well… I'm about to change that. Here's my number one recommendation for Japan: go to Okayama and savor a delicious cup of coffee at Orizuru.

First of all, the owner, Fujiwara, is incredible. He's a sage yet friendly old man who resembles Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid. Once a grocery store manager, he retired a decade ago and opened up Orizuru. He has been perfecting the art of making coffee ever since.

When you walk in, it feels less like a coffee shop, and more like a craftsman's studio. It's tranquil and quiet. There's more space dedicated to making the coffee than there is for customers. It's as if he would be perfectly content on his own, but has graciously invited you in to observe and experience his work.

The bar is a beautiful slab of stained wood. It looks like the cross section of a large tree, complete with the natural bumps and points along the edge. It's the only place to sit, and there is room for only about eight people. Each seat gives you a intimate spot to watch him work.

For each customer, Fujiwara asks for their taste in coffee and decides which beans to use. In case you were wondering, yes, he did personally fly to the origin and hand select these beans – and yes, he did freshly roast them in house earlier that day.

fujiwara at work
fujiwara at work

From there, the process begins. He carefully weighs the perfect amount of beans and grinds them on the spot. He measures and boils the water in a small handmade kettle. Then, he patiently drips the hot water in concentric circles over the freshly ground beans. The precision and care put into the entire process is captivating.

Once the coffee is finished, he doesn't simply hand you a cup, but sets up entire coffee tasting spread for you.

the finished product
the finished product

The small glass is filled with a half coffee, half water mixture used for warming your palette up to intensity of the coffee. Once you've sipped on that for a bit, you're ready for the main event. The tiny metal goblet of heavy cream and platelet of brown crystalized sugar is tempting, but hold off at first. Trying it black is the way to go. I told him I liked dark coffee. He delivered. My cup was deliciously smooth with a powerful punch.

I feel like this place should be packed, but it wasn't. Seriously, it would've had a line backed up a mile long if it was in San Francisco. But since it's is a hole in the wall in Okayama, and he doesn't do any advertising, it's was almost empty. It's a hidden gem.

Oh yeah, and the bill? 5 bucks.

Until next time,