The only hint of what awaits inside is a large and precariously hung grape vine. This stark white building, without any signboards, is where Toyochika Kawakubo’s father once ran a discount liquor shop. As the new boss, Kawakubo has done more than a full renovation—he’s opened a unique space that goes far beyond selling alcohol. While his father’s business was centered around the price, Kawakubo Saketen is all about selection, communication, and experience. As far as products go, there are four categories, sake, shochu, hard liquor, and wine. Inside an elegantly glass-walled cellar are 120 bottles of wine from Germany and Austria. Why only German and Austrian? Because Kawakubo loves and knows them and to differentiate his lineup from other shops. Similarly, his shochu selection focuses on brands from around the country and passes on readily available Kyushu brands. It’s the same for sake. Kawakubo visits breweries around Japan to find what he likes while building relationships with the brewers themselves. On any day, visitors can taste at least three varieties of sake (and shochu), served in ceramic cups made by his artisan friends. Kawakubo remarks, “It’s not just a place to shop, that can be done online. Here visitors can enjoy the display, hold the products in their hands, and learn more about the producers.” Having spent four years in university in California, Kawakubo speaks English fluently and welcomes everyone to this special space.
Few places are more appropriately named! Built by hand by the owner Masato Yamakita and his friends ten years ago, the shop/cafe is located on a forested hillside overlooking farm fields. It’s a bit rustic and eclectic! Itoshima longtimers regularly drop by for a cup of his handmade siphon drip coffee and to chat with Yamakita. He’s one of the elders of Itoshima’s beach community, and he seems to know everyone. Yamakita’s originally designed clothes, silkscreen t-shirts, authentic denim, and parkas are quality long-life items that you can’t find elsewhere. Every nook and cranny is filled with vintage accessories and memorabilia; some are for sale, some just part of his collection. Coffee is just ¥500 and free for first-time visitors. Some English is spoken, but mostly he offers big smiles and friendly hospitality.
Itoshima Tuk Tuk Rental Car
We’ve introduced many cool spots in this series about Itoshima, but some readers report having a hard time to get to them due to a lack of public transportation. Well, here’s a fun option! Last year, as a project to foster communication between Itoshima residents and students, a circle of Kyushu University students began renting out a three-wheeled tuk-tuk. The made in Thailand tuk-tuk runs on regular gas and can be operated by anyone with a valid Japanese driver’s license. Steering is a bit heavy, pickup is not fast, braking requires some planning, but without doors, it offers unparalleled views and excitement for up to four adults. It’s available for hire only on weekends and reservations must be made online. Note that all information, instruction, and paperwork is in Japanese only. Pickup and drop off is a 10-minute walk from Chikuzen-Maebaru Station.
Itoshima Tuk Tuk Rental Car / 糸島のトゥクトゥク
• 3-hour rental ¥4,860
• April ~ Oct. 1
To learn more about Itoshima now, click here!
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn246, Jun. 2019)