Issou Coffee – Rediscover your favourite latte, the Yakushima way

By Ben Davis

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Whilst Tokyo holds an incomprehensibly wide array of cultural offerings, I often find myself venturing to areas both famous and far-flung in order to seek out the local spots that capture the essence of a place – regional destinations that are remarkable for the simple fact that they couldn’t exist anywhere else. On a late-summer trip to Yakushima I had the pleasure of meeting Tadayuki and Mikako Takata at their roastery/coffee shop Issou Coffee, where I was enchanted by the way their considered approach to specialty coffee was complemented by the unique island setting to result in an incomparable experience.

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Located around 60 kilometres from the southern tip of Kyushu, the island of Yakushima is home to mountainous peaks, old-growth forests and a rugged coastline dotted with small towns that offer a simple, close-to-nature way of life. As a destination for outdoor adventurers and fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s ‘Princess Mononoke’ – a film inspired by the island’s natural landscapes – many visitors are familiar with delicacies such as freshly caught tobiuo (flying fish) and Mitake-brand shochu, yet another local favourite resides in the small northern town of Issou.

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Tucked in a humble white bungalow on the edge of Issou, a town famous for kubioresaba (broken neck mackerel), Issou Coffee is built around a dedication to selecting, roasting and appreciating specialty coffee. Utilising a handful of original, single origin roasts that Tadayuki prepares each morning, their menu pairs french press and espresso-based offerings with daily cakes and sweets, as well as including other island beverages. Despite being an afternoons-only coffee shop, you’re almost always likely to encounter a bunch of customers – iced latte in hand – spread between the open-air deck and the warm timber interior, where an eclectic selection of pre-1940s world music is joined by curious albums that seemingly transcend old and new.

Blog08-Ben Davis-04a*Photo courtesy of Takehiro Kato.

Beyond the allure of an outpost for coffee-lovers on a subtropical island partway to Okinawa, it’s the unique combination of batch-roasted specialty coffee and Yakushima’s pristine natural environment that makes Issou Coffee a must-visit destination. The island’s frequent, heavy rainfalls send torrents down through the mountains to the coast, providing almost-distilled quality fresh water that allows you to savour the flavours of each roast; whilst the crisp, clean air and overwhelming quiet mean that whether your inside or out, you’ll have an inhibition-free backdrop to appreciate your coffee.

Aside from allowing you to indulge in a Yakushima coffee experience, the shop also acts as an information hub of sorts. A shelf of well-known guidebooks is joined by alternative publications that offer a glimpse into Yakushima’s Beat Era; whilst the steady stream of locals and travellers – not to mention two friendly and knowledgable owners – will most likely see you leave with a list of peaks to hike, and places to visit.

-Issou Coffee
-Where: 2282-2 Issou, Yakushima, Kumage, Kagoshima
-When: Thu-Mon, 1-6pm




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About Columnist

Ben Davis
Editor of Thousands Tokyo

Ben is an editor, consultant and photographer who has been based in Tokyo since 2010. Following a stint with local farmers in the Japanese countryside, he now works as Editor of Thousands Tokyo, which sees him happily spend most days (and nights) exploring the world’s biggest city from the ground up.