A rebirth of local art, community and food.
If there is one single location that could be described as the physical manifestation of Tottori Prefecture’s laidback hospitality and innovative spirit, it would have to be Mabuya. A vibrant community hub, cafe and art space located in the northwestern corner of Daisen, right by the coast of Tottori — a part of Japan where travelers can explore beyond the big city.
Still, Daisen is an interesting city. With a population of only 16,000 it feels big and small simultaneously — small in that way community-centric living feels, but with a creative communal mindset that goes far beyond the prefectural boundaries of Tottori. This special dichotomy is thanks in large part to Mabuya.
Once an abandoned hospital, this large, multi-level, traditional-style house had a rebirth in October 2013, after it was donated to the town. Since, it has been renovated and reopened as a vibrant hive buzzing with art, culture, creativity and excellent food and coffee.
Open Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., the cozy, softly lit cafe offers your classic drink staples; lattes, iced coffees and a few more offerings like banana shakes and carrot smoothies, with nothing costing over a modest ¥250.
You don’t come to Mabuya for your regular stock standard lunch. The kitchen here runs on a rotating roster of featured guest chefs that switch each week. Most of these hardworking cooks are locals either volunteering or are aspiring professionals serving up eclectic homestyle fare while learning on-the-job skills that can one day in assist in hopefully running their own hospitality business.
To the left of the main cafe sits the art gallery, a space open to both locals and visiting artists alike, here is where you’ll find the creative talent of the town on full display. Not limited to one specific style or form, the gallery space hosts painting, sculpture, photography and animation exhibits.
With a large focus on helping draw new people to the community, the center also welcomes creatives from across the globe with their animation focussed Artist In Residence (AIR) program, which typically runs between September to November. During the residency, guests are invited to live on the premises (upstairs above the cafe, in fact), collaborate with locals and become a fully integrated member of this tight-knit community. If you’d like to know more about AIR opportunities you can contact the center’s art director Shiho Oshita for further information, you can find all the contact and previous residency details here.
For those considering a country change, the hub also doubles as a relocation support center. Between 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. every Friday, there are community members like Nakamura-San, a freediving fisherman who moved from Tokyo, who are happy to chat to anyone wanting to know a little more about what it’s like to live here. Most of the assistance here will be in Japanese, however Oshita-San, the community art director studied in Vancouver and speaks English, so if you’re nervous about your Japanese skills, you can always ask for her!
If you’re passing through Tottori on the way to explore the dunes by the bay, or hike the impressive Mt. Daisen, it’s well worth a detour to Mabuya to really get a glimpse of life in this peaceful pocket of Japan. Who knows you just might be tempted to stay.