If Studio Ghibli ever made a movie about a cute, loving couple who ran a cafe that served fantastic lattes, mochas, hot chocolates, baked curry, cakes, other home-made comfort food, and THE CUTEST cookies in the world…THIS cafe would be it in real-life.
I’ve been to Nozawa-Onsen in Dec 2014 and Mar 2015. (Edit: And again in Dec 2015, Dec 2016 and most recently Jan 2017). Each time, we stayed in the village for at least a week. So I’ve been here a number of times, and I’ve seen that the food & service is consistently good. Nappa is my go-to place for lunch, coffee, cake.
The cafe has only been opened for 3 years but it has quietly become a well-loved spot for visitors and locals.
The place is managed & owned by Jun and Naoko Tomii. Jun has lived in Nozawa-Onsen all his life. A local, he has a great knowledge of local produce, and a love for food. He has worked overseas as a cook. Together, Jun and Naoko are the brains, brawn and (most importantly), the heart & soul behind Nappa Cafe.
A lovely, friendly couple. Jun, the husband, cooks everything. He’s an absolute gun in the kitchen. Naoko his lovely wife, makes the coffees and blogs about the place. They are the sweetest people.
Naoko also blogs about life in Nozawa-Onsen, and updates the cafe’s journey and menu. Here’s a link to Naoko’s blog.
Nappa is a hole-in-the-wall. It’s located across the path from the foot hot spring, about 1 minute walk away from the covered walkway to Hikage gondola. The entrance is tiny – like a little corner alcove – it has a sign outside that says “78 Cafe” and also “Nappa Cafe” with the black cat and 4 leaf-clover….so keep your eyes peeled. It’s part of the fun adventure of finding it!
Click here for a map to their location (it’s in Japanese but locals will help you) 🙂
Once you’ve found this gem of a place in your treasure hunting around Nozawa-Onsen….step inside into a Ghibli-like experience of quality cuteness.
The decor ranges from books about cats and art, to little potted ivy plants, to cute craft items, Ultraman figurines (Jun’s collection from his childhood that he credits his grandma for storing for hime). It’s such a cool little cafe, but totally unaffected. I love it!
It’s quirky, full of personality and totally sincere in their love of good food &service.
It has about 8 seats at a Western table and bench by the window. There’s another area near the coffee machine where there’s Japanese seating at 2 tables. You don’t need to take your shoes off in the main area, but for the Japanese seating, you do take off your shoes.
My favourite seat is at the bench by the window….looking out onto the valley, so I can see the snow fall on the village and the mountainside across. It’s one of the best memories of Japan. Quiet. Cosy and complemented by great food & drink.
I won’t go through ALL the food as they change their menu according to the produce available, but do try their baked curry rice. A-MAY-ZING. As in I-can’t-get-enough-of -this-photo amazing….A great meal to warm up on a wintery day.
And try ANY cakes. Jun makes it all. Ask him for his cookies – they are the cutest darn things. When I got mine, I didn’t know whether to eat it or take it home to care for it. I ate it. It was delicious. And then I cried a little…but I love eating them. They go well with a matcha latte or a regular espresso latte. Naoko makes an excellent barista coffee. It’s the best coffee in Nozawa Onsen. I have tried St Anton’s and other places, but this place beats them all. Also, at Nappa, the coffee is served in real cups, instead of take-away cups at St Antons, which really annoys me (both environmentally and price-wise).
Seriously, isn’t this cookie one the cutest darn things you’ve ever seen??? It’s a pity they taste so delicious!
I’m actually reluctant to review Nappa Cafe because I want to keep them all to myself! But these guys deserve success. They’re warm, genuine people. They work very hard in the snow season when they’re most busy, and they deserve to be supported by tourists.
Just note to call them before you go. The hours of the cafe might be irregular in different seasons.
These guys have no staff, are doing it all themselves, and have elderly parents they sometimes need to go help, so please check on their website or call before going.
If you find yourself in Nozawa-Onsen, it will definitely be worth the adventure of a treasure-hunt to find this gem of a cafe.
A few more pics before I end….
Ahhh….cracking the yolk on their baked curry….
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