＊If you are reading Eat Dream Kyoto for the first time, feel free check out our introduction blog: Eat Dream Kyoto Project to find out why we started this project.
Cafe Organ (喫茶オルガン) is tucked away in a small alley (中堂寺櫛笥町) near Gojo Street (五条通) and Mibugawa Street (壬生川通). It’s one of those cafes so hidden that I would never walk pass by. Even if I do, its simple look from the outside would not catch my attention. Since Maki lives around this area, and she has been here a few times, so we came together on a weekday afternoon.
Cafe Organ is located on the first floor of a traditional Japanese style house. The interior is very simple, with a bookshelf by the door and a few wooden tables occupying the floor. The cafe is owned by a married couple, who are also the only chefs in the kitchen.
The menu is very simple, English menu is also available upon request. I ordered a set lunch, steamed salted pork and vegetable (週替わりごはん：塩豚と野菜の重ね蒸し). Maki ordered a taco rice (タコライス), followed by a cheesecake for dessert.
I’m very happy with the food. The set lunch has miso soup, rice, and some side dishes. The main dish, the steamed salted pork and cabbage make a great combination! The home-made sesame sauce gives a perfect flavour too! The cheesecake is creamy and smooth, a bit different from the softer ones we usually find in Japan.
After a satisfying lunch, the owner, Mr. Maeda joined us at our table and we had an interview with him.
Q: What is the concept of your cafe?
A: Actually there is no concepts. If there’s one, then its concept is that there’s no concepts. Instead of having people come to our cafe with a preconception, we want to create our image together with our customers.
Q: Why did you decide to open a cafe?
A: I used to be a salary man like everyone else, but I had been searching for freedom in my career since many of my family members were self-employed and were running their own small businesses. So I decided to do something on my own, opening a cafe was one of the options. I was raised by my single mother. When I was young she was too busy with her work to cook for me. So I started to cook my own meals since the age of 12. Even though I could have just eaten frozen packed food but I didn’t find them delicious.
Q: Has it been an enjoyable experience for you running a cafe?
A: To tell the truth, our cafe started off very slow because of the low traffic. It took a long time for people to get to know us. This is our fourth year, for the first 2-3 years, people didn’t even really walk pass by here. It’s hidden away from the big streets. Luckily that more people get to know us now. And recently we start to see the results of our work and see the value to keep it going.
Q: Is there a dish that you would like to recommend the customers to try?
A: Our daily set lunch and the cheese cake.
Q: Why did you name your cafe, Cafe Organ?
A: I like playing music with my friends. I’m a drummer but I can also play the organ. I remember one day I was at my friend’s house and we were cooking something, then he jokingly said, “Why don’t you open a cafe called Cafe Organ?” And I said, “Why not?”
Q: Do you still play the organ?
A: Yes, as a hobby!
Q: Have you thought about combining music with the cafe, like having live concerts?
A: Yes, I’ve thought about it, but at the end I realized that I enjoy working in a quiet environment, and having concerts would be too noisy for our neighbours too.
Q: What message do you want to convey to the customers through your food and your space?
A: Since we don’t carry a concept, so there’s no special messages. We just want to provide affordable, simple, and delicious meals to anyone who walks into our cafe.
From a foreigner’s point of view, Maeda’s cafe really shows the Japanese mentality, very respectful for others and humble. Like the popular Japanese brand “Muji” (無印良品), which literally means “brandless quality goods”. Cafe Organ has no clear concepts but the food is very affordable and delicious. If you’re near the area and would like to have some down-to-earth Japanese food, take the small alley and find Cafe Organ. Mr. Maeda and his wife will take care of you.
Eat Dream Kyoto is brought to you by two close friends, Maki & Sandra. Aiming to introduce healthy eateries in Kyoto and to reveal the dreams of those behind the scene. Through this project, they wish to help the readers to appreciate the food being served, to feel more connected to the space, and to inspire others to live the life of their dreams.
In the spring of the year when I turned 32, I was diagnosed with liposarcoma, a cancer of a malignant tumor. That was the turning point of my life. In order to find my own healthy lifestyle, I quit my job at a company which I worked for 3 years and a half. Now I live in Kyoto and take the time to learn about health and healthy diet. I took a world trip to 19 countries in my late 20s and I’ve spent 5 years in Canada afterwards. I still enjoy traveling to somewhere about once a year. Pescetarian, except for special occasions. (laugh)
I’m Chinese Canadian, moved to Japan in 2009, now working as a yoga teacher in Kyoto and Osaka. I yearn to see the world and to seek a purposeful life. Traveling is one of my passions and so far have been to about 30 countries around the world, but I believe that the inner journey is just as important. Yoga, meditation, and reading help me to deepen that path.