Despite it being a relatively recent phenomenon, affection for coffee has grown considerably in Japan over the past three decades and is showing no signs of slowing.
With the continued growth in coffee popularity driven by franchised shops offering a well tested and well marketed menu, it is easy to overlook some of the small local tea and coffee houses for the sake of convenience.
Having said that, for those people that like to enjoy a coffee in a relaxed atmosphere, take their time, read a book, magazine or newspaper, Asahikawa definitely has plenty to offer.
Cafes are scattered all over Asahikawa's city and suburbs and are sometimes difficult to find if you don't know what to look for. Upstairs, downstairs, tucked away in dim little alleys, you can walk for 10 minutes and not realize that you have passed several.
The attraction however is not the challenge of finding them, but rather finding out what is inside. For the most part, the coffee will be freshly ground from very good coffee beans, simple and to the point with only the standard extras. The prices are generally similar, floating somewhere between ￥400 and ￥700.
It is the interior design, decoration and ambience of the cafes that is their biggest point of interest. It seems that most are in some way dedicated to an appreciation of something other than coffee. I have spent time in cafes dedicated to trains in Japan for example, with the artwork on all walls depicting a rail journey of some description. Others are dedicated to photography and house beautifully framed images from local semi-professional artists. Others are inspired by local art and craft, displaying locally made dolls, toys carvings and the like, as well as offering small pieces for sale as gifts or souvenirs.
There really is more to Asahikawa's cafes than sipping a cup of coffee. And although the coffee may, by recent standards, be simple, the insight into the personality of the owners through their choice of interior decoration by no means is.