In November, I traveled three hours by car to the city of Okayama for my first ever NaNoWriMo write-in. Aside from the appeal of seeing a new Japanese city, spending an entire weekend writing, and meeting new people, I was especially interested in the café: Onsaya.
Located in a tiny strip of an old run-down shopping strip in Okayama, Onsaya is easy to miss if you don’t know to look for it. Had our wonderful NaNo hosts in Okayama not purposely selected this place for the write-in, I would have never known to come here.
Onsaya dominates its surroundings as the biggest business on the strip. Spread out across two full floors, with a small gift shop, bookshelves, a bar counter, and window seating, this place has it all.
In the entire month of November, I did my most productive writing at the bar counter of Onsaya. The formal write-in took place upstairs, on a comfortable collection of couches arranged facing each other, for the feeling of being in a private space. I socialized here for a bit, before heading downstairs to the bar counter to get some work done. Behind me were tables of families and large groups of friends. On the other side of the counter the staff was hurriedly making lattes and cooking food for the customers.
I knew I would be there all day, so I took my time and ordered over $20 USD worth of food and drinks.
I started with a a green tea chiffon cake, which had the rich take of matcha, and was slightly sweet with a hint of whipped cream. The texture was perfect, moist and airy.
To drink I ordered latte, which came in this cute and tiny matching cup and saucer.
After a few hours I recharged with a gingerbread latte. Thick and frothy, it came with a cinnamon stick to stir.
For a snack, I ordered cheese toast, which tasted exactly how it looked, absolutely delicious.
My lunch was their Onsaya Curry rice. Curry rice is ubiquitous in Japan, and has a unique flavor which differed from curry in other parts of the world. However, Onsaya’s curry had all the spices found in Indian curry, which a slight hint of sweetness.
It is rare to find a place that serves good coffee, and exquisite food, but Onsaya far exceeded my expectations in both. I cannot rave about this place enough, but let’s take a brief moment to check my list list of criteria for exceptional Go-To cafes in Japan:
1. Coffee and Espresso in the form of frothy and sweetened lattes
Ø Yes, oh yes. They don’t have the variety of Starbucks, but their original drinks are divine.
Ø I don't know…I didn’t use wifi here since it would have distracted me from writing.
3. Ordering at the counter, and not having a waiter check up on you
Ø Yes. They will bring your food and beverages to your table, but they will not bug you after that.
4. Seating for singles
Ø Yes, but not much. Try to snag a seat at the bar counter if you can. Most tables eat 4-6 people, and the places get crowded with large groups, so you don’t want to be the lone asshole taking up an entire table.
5. The ability to bring your laptop and sit there uninterrupted for at least two hours without feeling pressured to order something else or leave
Ø Yes, I was there for four hours on a busy Saturday afternoon. Try to get there at 11:00, when it opens, because it will fill. However, I also wasn’t a jerk, and I constantly ordering more food and drinks…don’t worry, you will want to order a lot when you are there. It’s all good.