A great place for traveling artists:
Akabe in Sarugakyo

Note: Akabe apparently went out of business within a year after this article was written. I have kept this article up on my web site for a historical record of a truly great place.

At the heart of Sarugakyo is a wonderful coffee shop called Akabe (pronounced AH-KAH-BEH). It looks like an old European establishment with high wood beam walls and the wonderful smell of wood smoke coming from the stove.

Several times during my recent stay in Sarugakyo. I took a break from my sketching to drop in for coffee at Akabe. I ended up staying a few hours each time. These photos are from one of those visits at the end of December between snow storms.

Mr. Fujiwara has his jewelry workshop in the front entrance foyer, so the real entrance to the place is in the back.

Instead of the usual rows of small tables crowded together, Akabe has one large table plus lots of sofas and coffee tables. It looks more like a ski resort or cozy hotel or even someone's living room than it does a coffee shop.

In the middle of the room is a huge antique bellows that doubles as a coffee table!

Akabe is run by a jewelry artist, Mr. Fujiwara, who is also a sound buff. All day long classical music records from his personal collection are played on a professional turntable, the kind that radio disk jockeys use. The music goes through a real tube amplifier, and then go on through huge speakers which used to be the sound system in an old movie theater in America. The sound is amazing. This is a must-see, uh, must-hear, for audio fans.

The combination of old European surroundings, the smell of coffee and wood smoke, and this beautiful music wafting through the air with such amazing clarity make for an inspiring time, sure to appeal to the artist in you.

Mr. Fujiwara has a dream of bringing in cultural events to this small town. He has had several concerts and parties already and hopes to display the works of various artists.

Being an artist himself, Mr. Fujiwara loves to look at sketches of others, so if plan a sketch weekend in Sarugakyo make sure visit Akabe and let Mr. Fujiwara enjoy your works. You will get lots of praise for your work. In Japanese, of course.

No artist should pass through Sarugakyo without stopping in at Akabe! You will be glad you did. And tell Mr. Fujiwara I said hello.

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