Islander Focus, a series of conversations with residents of Izu Oshima.
This week we speak to Mr. Baba, owner of cafe Spey-cast, where music with great taste and books line the shelves in a chic atmosphere. The cafe, in Sashikijimura, the southern region of Izu Oshima Island, was built from the ground up by none other than Mr. Baba himself.
-This space is amazing! Did you really build everything with your own hands?
Yes. Everything is self-built, and I came up with methods to cut down on much of the building costs too.
I recently published a book (*1) which documents my story leading up to the opening, so please take a look if you are interested.
I started listening to jazz when I began frequenting a jazz cafe in my twenties, and I went through a phase where I was in awe of the fact that the owner got to spend his days listening to all his favorite music.
After that I got my first job as a cameraman at a TV production company.
I later became a freelance photographer, mainly shooting life in the countryside. This eventually led to my decision to live such a life myself, and I moved to Izu Oshima at the age of 39. I got a job supervising a plantation with a focus on raising poultry, but when I hit my 50s, I felt the urge to tackle a new role, and that’s when I remembered my feelings of awe with the cafe owner from my youth, and I started thinking about opening a stylish jazz cafe.
From there I began prepping for the jazz cafe bit by bit with my own hands. With a limited budget, I would turn to Yahoo Auction or use scrap wood to slowly but surely move forth with my project.
A secret hideaway that stands quietly in the woods. The chic interior led to positive reviews that drew crowds.
-What do you recommend on the menu?
The home roasted coffee and thai style curry. We roast the beans right here so that customers can enjoy freshly roasted coffee.
I am also proud of my “Asian” curry that I make based on the flavors I acquired from my travels abroad. It’s also a menu item you wouldn’t find elsewhere on the island. I tweak curry based dishes from places like Thailand and Sri Lanka and put them on the menu. I also try to use as much local vegetables as possible.
-Looks like you are picky about your audio equipment
The moment you decide on opening a Jazz cafe, there is a certain level of expectation in terms of equipment that you need to set up, and plus it was always a hobby of mine too.
The equipment and LP’s weren’t purchased for the opening of the cafe, but rather are from my personal collection that I built over the years prior to deciding on opening this cafe.
-What is good about running a cafe on an island?
Being able to open shop in a chill atmosphere.
You can take it easy both in terms of space and time. Plus, compared to the city the fixed asset tax is so low it’s practically nonexistent!
This is a shop that condenses all my prior life experiences. My belief is that coffee shops don’t last long unless the owner devotes himself to it, and it’s important that you stay open for a long time.
It’s also great that when there are no customers, I can crank up the volume and listen to my favorite jazz to my heart’s content.
I hope to keep this place going for many more years to come.
Mr. Baba’s Oshima recommendations
The view from Toshiki Camp Site. You can see the other islands, and the sunset is beautiful too.
The location is so good that you would almost expect a resort hotel to open up there but the landscape is protected as it’s a national park.
*1 Mr. Baba’s methods are detailed in his book, ‘Yahoo Auction and Scrap Wood: Opening a store on a budget with your own hands’ which was published October 3, 2014. Please take a look if you are interested