At first glance it doesn’t look like much, but build up the courage and walk straight down a small narrow path that will lead you to a row of kominka, or traditional Japanese folk houses.
One of these will have red banners that read ‘たい焼き’ (taiyaki). A place where time passes slowly, as though it has stopped. Tokyo Voneten, a taiyaki cafe meets Kominka guesthouse, is one such place.
The Peculiar Beginnings of Tokyo Voneten
Close to Habuminato Port in Izu Oshima island, the guesthouse is located at the top of ‘Odoriko-saka’, literally Odoriko Hill, made famous by famed writer Yasunari Kawabata after a mention in his novel. The shop, set up in a building with more than 120 years of history, sits in this calm neighborhood of kominka homes.
Upon entering the shop, at first it feels like a ‘dagashi’ penny-candy store, but then at the same time it has the air of a relaxing cafe… there’s a calm feel about the place.
Mr. and Mrs. Kawamura, the husband and wife combo managing the shop, will welcome you in with a smile. The Kawamuras moved to Oshima island about 10 years ago.
They weren’t a taiyaki store to start with, but there’s a mysterious story behind why they began a taiyaki business.
Mr. Kawamura, remembers feeling ‘something’ on a visit to the Ebisu Shrine in Tokyo. At the time, he didn’t know what that something meant, but while renovating the store one day, a statue of the god Ebisu appeared. Puzzled, Mr. Kawamura decided to look into the history of Ebisu, and learned of his connections with the Izu Islands.
He wanted to make something of this and, taking hints from the ‘tai’ red snapper fish that Ebisu carries in one hand, the taiyaki shop was founded.
Breakfast, Lunch and Snack Taiyaki
Tokyo Voneten has an extensive taiyaki menu.
For example, there are savory taiyaki’s perfect for meals, but they also cover such classics as the red bean taiyaki.
The author this time tried the brown rice risotto taiyaki. It was hard to imagine what a savory taiyaki would taste like, but it was filling and delicious, the taiyaki batter going surprisingly well with the risotto. We recommend paying an extra 100 yen to have it cooked with the ‘obane’, the crispy outer edge that spills out of the mould.
Seasonal flavors coupled with addictive deliciousness means that the shop can get very busy during lunch hour. Since Taiyaki will be made after receiving an order, so you know no matter what time of day, you are always treated to hot and fluffy taiyaki.
Guesthouse Tokyo Voneten – Turning A 120 Years Old Kominka Into A Hotel
If you walk to the backside of the store, you arrive at a kominka house with a spacious front garden. Yes, as you might have guessed, Tokyo Voneten also rents out an entire home to guests.
Ushered in by a rubber tree and sweet viburnum that look as though they grew tall hugging each other, you walk through a spacious garden and there, you are met with Tokyo Voneten, a traditional Japanese home still in good shape with some tasteful touches.
The interior is so charming that you can’t help but snap away on your camera. Starting with the plaster, all the renovation work was done by hand, thus helping to maximize the warm atmosphere of the place.
The first thing that comes into view as you enter through the front door is the ‘fusuma’ sliding doors. The spacious living room creates a sense of security that makes you want to stay there all day long.
The interior speaks for the theme of the space, ‘travel like a local’. The kitchen covers all the basics, making it possible to cook your own meals too.
As the sushi shop and udon shop at the port nearby do deliveries, it’s not such a bad idea to spend your entire day at Tokyo Voneten. Guests who are fans of fishing are known to bring in their catch of the day, cook it and eat it too. The place is free to be used as you wish.
The stay doesn’t come with any meals, but it’s possible to add on a taiyaki breakfast for an extra 800 yen per person. As up to 5 people can stay at a time, you’d think guests would mostly consist of families and groups, but we hear there are a surprising number of guests that come to stay alone too.
The place is also frequented by foreigners, making for a place loved by many across all nationalities.
It’s the sort of place that makes you feel at peace. A feeling as though time has stopped, that’s what Tokyo Voneten is all about. If you are in Oshima, it’s definitely a place worthy of a visit.
1 Person ￥24,000
2 People ￥24,000
3〜5 people ￥30,000