If you’re planning on doing a spot of sightseeing in Nagasaki, chances are you will want to see the Glover Garden – one of the top tourist attractions in the city, particularly in the summer months. After spending an hour or so walking through the garden and enjoying the spectacular view, a nice cup of tea will be just what the doctor ordered – especially with something sweet on the side! Exiting the garden and walking a short distance down the hill will lead you straight to the Minamiyamate Cafe and Museum where you can relax, unwind and enjoy a sweet treat.
We first visited in the summer of 2015 – I was drawn to the cafe because I was keen to try castella cake, which they advertised on the menu outside. Castella (カステラ）was brought to Japan in the 16th century by Portuguese merchants and has remained popular to this day, with many gift shops in the city selling the specialty cake for tourists. However, what really intrigued me about this cafe was that they appeared to sell castella ice-cream cake – a healthy slice of cake with an ice-cream filling. As I hadn’t seen this combination anywhere else (and who needs an excuse to consume more ice-cream?) that’s why we chose the Minamiyamate Cafe.
Inside the small cafe, you are greeted by European style décor, rustic furniture and a view of the sea. There aren’t that many seats in the cafe – room for 15-20 people at most I would say – but this gives a cozy, personal atmosphere and it doesn’t feel cramped at all. For tea and coffee, quality is guaranteed – and any coffee connoisseur is sure to observe the plethora of coffee-making paraphernalia behind the counter with approval. The coffee beans are Colombian (organically produced in El Salvador) and the tea is quality Ceylon blend. Other drink options such as fruit juices also use organic materials.
I highly recommend the castella cake – especially on a warm summer’s day when the ice-cream center is a perfect way to cool down. Both chocolate and plain flavors are good, although I think I prefer the purist plain option. Other freshly baked cakes are available – ask at the counter to find out what the choice of the day is.
On top of all this, the lady who runs the shop is absolutely divine – she speaks English very well indeed and loves children (she had a great time sneaking up on my little brother with a cheerful ‘boo!’ – much to his amusement!) She’s a charming, chatty individual and I’m sure if you wanted some pointers about great places to visit in the city, she’d be sure to have some great recommendations up her sleeve.
I noticed the museum on my second visit to the cafe (during the spring of 2016) but didn’t have time to visit – next time! Seeing all the artwork on the walls in the cafe it was no surprise to learn that there is a small art gallery upstairs. Exhibitions are changed regularly throughout the year, with a list of past shows available on the website. A variety of works is shown, with many in the traditional style of Japanese art and wonderful painted scrolls.
Look out for the big cuddly toy of Gigi the cat who sits in the doorway of the cafe (famous from the Ghibli movie Kiki’s Delivery Service) and you’ll know you’re in the right place. The Minamiyamate Cafe is a great little place to take a load off and recharge your batteries. I’m looking forward to my next visit to Nagasaki, and especially to finally getting around to visit the art gallery too!
Minamiyamate Cafe and Museum Website*Japanese Only