KAKEGAWA, Shizuoka Prefecture--Drivers have risked life and limb on a narrow mountain trail in their quest to reach a rusty former cow house.
Those who make it to the destination are rewarded with a cup of coffee in seclusion amid a collection of antique items.
Sadao Oba, 60, transformed the barn into Antique Cafe Road, a coffee shop located deep in the mountains in Kakegawa’s Ono district about a 10-minute drive from the Nissaka Junction of the National Route 1 Bypass.
The steel frame of the one-story cafe is left exposed, and many parts of the structure are covered with rust.
Word about the secluded coffee shop and its wide array of antiques spread on social networking sites.
But getting there is no easy task. The trail to the cafe is about the width of a car.
Oba said 34 vehicles slipped off the edge of the trail in the two years after the cafe opened in 2013.
He now has a four-wheel drive vehicle at the ready to get cars back on track should they veer off course.
He said he hasn’t used the vehicle for some time now.
"People who lack confidence in driving won’t come here after hearing about the difficulty of the road, but they might accompany those with good driving skills," Oba said.
The cafe comes into view just after a jaunt along a creek. Oba said at least one car has fallen into the water.
The cafe itself is dimly lit. It has a high ceiling, exposed red steel beams and rusty tin sheets.
"I don’t know exactly how large the space is, but it is big enough to raise 46 dairy cows," Oba said.
The interior is crammed with Oba’s vast collection of antique items, including a barber chair and a dresser manufactured during the Meiji Era (1868-1912).
The cafe also has a skeletal specimen typically found in a school science prep room. Cats are also seen relaxing all around the cafe.
A Mazda Carol, a Daihatsu Fellow and other cars made several decades ago sit outside the caf.
"It feels so secluded. It’s like I’ve come to a world of Ghibli," said a 33-year-old woman from Kakegawa who visited the cafe with a friend, referring to reknowned anime house Studio Ghibli Inc. "The narrow mountain trail also seems like a gateway to an unexplored place."
Oba, a native of the neighboring town of Mori, had been collecting antiques as a hobby since he was about 30 years old, while he was running a photo studio.
In 2012, he learned that an acquaintance was going to clean up the cow house. Oba wanted to search the place for rare items, but he was instead struck by the look of the old shed standing in the forest and the sound of creek flowing nearby.
He realized that it could be a great place to enjoy coffee.
Oba described the former cowshed as a "work of art created by the passage of time." He made only minimal modifications and opened the cafe one year after the visit.
Some equipment, including tiles in the feeding area, concrete fittings used to indicate spaces allocated for each cow, and the drinking area, remain in the structure.
To make the place "picturesque" to attract customers, he carefully selected the types of antique items to show and the exact spots to place them.
The coffee shop has attracted attention on Instagram as place that feels like "a different world." Many customers come from outside the prefecture, the owner said.
"Time passes slowly here," Oba said. "I hope people who are usually busy can spend their time here leisurely and look blankly at the creek."