In Ogijima (Part I) I wrote a bit about ONBA CAFE but I didn’t really cover it extensively. I touched the surface on my own experience there and gave just a taste into what was happening. ONBA CAFE is a really nice cafe that is connected with the ONBA FACTORY. It is not difficult to find as there are flags at the shop to help you find it within the maze of small alleys and streets at the main village. As long as you are on the correct street, or wandering the central area, you will find it easily enough. The main thing to understand about ONBA is that they are very friendly and very inviting. They have a couple buildings and a simple menu of drinks but the main attraction has to be the atmosphere of the staff. I was pleasantly surprised by their courtesy and friendliness, which may have been partly due to the boredom of living on an island that doesn’t have too much to do and with only a few customers that day, but I would imagine that they are generally friendlier than other places I have been to.
Note: ONBA itself is translated into “pushcart” from Japanese. For this article, I am referring to the shop as a whole as ONBA for simplicity.
As you enter the courtyard of ONBA, you are struck by how rustic things feel. To the right is a large shed where the ONBA maker makes the ONBA for the entire island. There are a few other things inside the shed and I’m not sure how often they create the carts but it was a very simple setup. I can’t really describe anymore of it as there really wasn’t anything else to really say. The shed is nothing more than a shed with a few tools and that’s really it. There is a lot of space so that whoever is making the ONBA can work under cover from the rain or they can go into the main courtyard and enjoy the beautiful weather if it is nice and sunny. The courtyard is nothing too special as it looked a little unkempt. While it looked unkempt, it was very characteristic of the island and ONBA. I loved how everything was artistic, like the ONBA logo worked into the rocks in the walkway, and the blades of grass trying to grow nicely, but failing to grow everywhere due to everyone walking through the courtyard. If the landscaping was perfect, I doubt I would have liked it as much as the atmosphere would have been too perfect. I think it is necessary to keep that rustic feel in order to blend in with the rest of the island and the rest of the people. Perfection does not equal beauty.
The cafe itself was pretty small. There are a few stools and a counter overlooking the port so you can enjoy the different Meon ships coming in and out of the port. There is also the main interior with a few tables inside and one just outside, but under the cover of the roof. It was a great area to just relax and enjoy a cup of tea. Everything was very well cared for. Nothing seemed dirty or out of place. Some of the more interesting ONBA were inside the cafe and there was a great map on the large centre table. There are still nice views at one table and even binoculars to enjoy the view. There is even a small opean area for children to play with the artistic ONBA. One of the ONBA was designed like a chain and as you pushed it, it would undulate up and down like a caterpillar. It was cute to see some young kids pushing it around and having a lot of fun. I wish I was a kid so I wouldn’t feel embarrassed to play around with it myself. In the open area, there are also a lot of information boards with sketches and photos. Each of the information boards had information on each of the ONBA that were designed for the community and why they designed it that way. It was interesting to see all of them. There is also the main foyer, or shopping area, where you can get all of the items that OBNA sells, as well as ordering drinks. The items were all pretty small and ranged from simple book covers to the typical cell phone straps. While most of the items were really nice, and I wouldn’t mind them, I just couldn’t justify buying them as they would just collect dust in my place as I would never use it and I wouldn’t appreciate it as much as I should. One thing I did want was the hedgehog like brushes. They took cleaning brushes and turned them into a hedgehog like item. It was really cute but I wouldn’t want to use it for cleaning and I wouldn’t be able to keep it for a long time either. I’m sad I couldn’t get more but I don’t regret not purchasing more.
Note: I have been told, and it has been clarified, that ONBA CAFÉ and ONBA FACTORY are indeed one in the same, unlike Il Vento and Tobias Rehberger’s art on Teshima Island. I still feel that the café area can be defined as the café and the factory can be defined by the shed, although they are one in the same. The café is also less of a café and more of a welcoming place on the island.
The food and drink are very limited but it is enough to suit the island. Most of the items were traditional coffees and teas. I wouldn’t expect the best drinks in the world but they did have enough quality to ensure that I will be back again if I visit Ogijima again in the future. I never had the coffee but I did have a beer along with some mixed nuts. It was a simple drink but something I shouldn’t have had, but really wanted. I was already a bit dehydrated from walking around all morning but I wanted a beer to enjoy the beautiful setting. In hindsight, perhaps I should have ordered 2 so I could really enjoy the place but I’m not a big fan of Asahi Super Dry. I didn’t have their signature item either but it was still a great place to enjoy a light drink and snack. My only wish is that they had more snacks. I would be very happy to help them out and buy a lot of their snacks at that time but since they didn’t have any, I never bothered to. A couple muffins or something would have been great and I know they can do it. They were really kind and I’m sure they have the time, although money is something that may prevent them from doing more. When I went it ONBA appeared to be a mother and daughter team, although I’m not sure if they are actually related. The older woman seemed to be the owner and mainly kept behind the scenes. The younger daughter figure was very bubbly. When I first went there to see the ONBA, she was full of energy and even prompted us to get more interactive with the art. She ended up running around the island in the morning before she had to return to start her shift. When we returned, she still remembered us and struck up a short conversation with us. It was fun and the people really made the place shine. I’m sure that the mother figure was probably just shy but the daughter figure definitely helped make me want to return with a nice bright smile and friendly disposition that made it hard to leave.
Note: Dave @ Ogijima did clarify that the younger girl is not related to the older woman. She is a volunteer and I wonder how long she will be on Ogijima this year. There is a lot of great information about the Oshima’s who run ONBA and the girl below in the comments section.
A trip to Ogijima, especially for a first timer, can’t be done without a visit to ONBA. I highly recommend it and hope you can make the trek up the hill and make the time to enjoy a drink or two. Time passes quickly as you feel at home and just want to enjoy the weather. I don’t know if I’d enjoy it as much if it was raining but I would definitely spend some time there to just enjoy it. There are other cafes up on Ogijima but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try them. Perhaps in the future when I return I’ll be able to check them out in more detail, but I think I’ll have to spend an entire day there. Maybe a night at the Sakura Ryokan is in order, but not sure if my friend would be up for it as he has an aversion to all things from the sea.
UPDATE (May 17, 2013): David from Ogijima.com has a great reply in the comments section. This post has been updated to reflect the new information and corrections he has made. Please read his great comment below for more information about this great place!
ONBA CAFE is part of a series of posts on the Setouchi Triennale, and half of a two part series on Ogijima. Follow the links below to read more about the different aspects of the Setouchi Triennale.
- Dru’s Great Setouchi Triennale 2013 Misadventure
- EAT&ART TARO on Shamijima
- Food of Inujima
- Teshima – Kou and Ieura
- Teshima – Karato
- Eating on Teshima
- Ogijima (Part I)
- Ogijima (Part II)
- Naoshima (Benesse Art Site)
- Naoshima (Honmura & Miyanoura)
- Naoshima (Transportation)
- Takamatsu Revisited
- Takamatsu (Setouchi Triennale Edition)
- Ferries in the Setouchi Triennale