Yakushima Time

Akiko Kawaguchi / Koya Café Hi to Tsuki to

Akiko Kawaguchi moved to Yakushima from Hiroshima. Now she wears two hats, one as a wedding planner and the other as a café owner.

“Koya Café Hi to Tsuki to” (literally “The Sun and the Moon Hut Café”) is in a tiny hut about 10 square meters, hence the name. The cafe sells take-out drinks. Anbou, the town where the café located, used to be a bustling port from which Yakushima cedars were shipped. Anbou is still known for its many shops selling traditional crafts made with Yakushima cedar. The Sun and the Moon Hut Café can be found in the corner of the parking area for “Sugisho” which is one of these shops.

The name of the café comes from Ms. Kawaguchi’s first name, Akiko, which is written with the characters for the sun and the moon. Ms. Kawaguchi didn’t used to like her name because she thought “I’m not as cheerful as my name implies.” Then one day, someone told her that the Japanese character in her name means “lighting up the surroundings,” and not “cheerful.” Since then, she has taken more of a liking to her name.

When Ms. Kawaguchi first opened the café, she called it “Hi to Tsuki (Sun and Moon),” but that sounded lonely, so she put one more “to (and)” at the end to suggest the potential for a connection with someone or something else.

The most highly recommended drink – the chef’s choice – is the seasonal fruit soda (from 400 yen). Every two months, Ms. Kawaguchi makes a new batch of syrup using a seasonal fruit found on Yakushima and sells soda drinks mixed with her home-made syrup. The island is blessed with fruit all year and sometimes a farmer will come to the café and suggest a new fruit, saying “We grow this fruit. What do you think?”

Other standard offerings are coffee and a milk chai made with lots of spices. And Ms. Kawaguchi sometimes offers a “soup of the day” made with fresh, seasonal vegetables.

Another unique quality of the café is that there are six other “special owners” (a guide, aesthetician, masseuse and so on) who occasionally stand in for Ms. Kawaguchi. The activities these friends recommend are forever stimulating Ms. Kawaguchi to do something new because she has only lived here on the island for two years. And in that short time, this little hut in the corner of a parking lot has become a place where locals and tourists meet, mingle and share the latest news.