Shimabara is located at the base of an active volcano, Unzen. Because Shimabara is close to mountains, Shimabara is known to have beautiful spring water. Since the spring water coming out of the ground is so plenty, the city has guided the water passages right through the town. Many houses have water passages running outside with koi fishes swimming freely in the water. There are many houses which was built around early Meiji period and some of them are open for visitors. Many of the houses have backyard with spring fountain and creating very relaxing scenery.
Shimabara Mizuyashiki (しまばら水屋敷) is a cafe which I would like to recommend people who are visiting Shimabara. This place is located inside of an old arcade which makes people feel like travelling back to the old good Japanese time. I recommend this cafe because it is using a house built during early Meiji period and has the spring fountain.
You get inside of Mizuyashiki by going through an old Japanese style gate. You walk through a small passage to the house and since the house is built just by the pond, you will go over a small bridge connecting the entrance of the cafe. Just getting inside of the cafe is like travelling back the time to Meiji period.
The building itself has a lot of history. Interestingly, the first floor of the house is designed to be Japanese traditional style and the second floor is cooperating somewhat European style. The owner did not know why it was built that way, but you can see the European taste here and there when you get up to the second floor.
The house itself is interesting to take a visit but you will be amazed by the pond so close to the house. The amount of spring water coming out of the ground is 4000 tons per day. This cafe provides everything on the menu using the spring water. At this cafe, you can enjoy Kanzarashi (寒ざらし) which is a traditional sweet loved by Shimabara people for a long time. Kanzarashi is small dangos with sweet brown sirup. The dango and sirup are made with the spring water. You can have either coffee or Japanese green tea with Kanzarashi and drinks are also made with the spring water.
Shimabara Mizuyashiki is famous cafe for Kanzarashi; however, that is not the only thing you will enjoy about this place. This cafe is famous for the collection of Maneki-neko (招き猫). The owner of the cafe loves Maneki-neko and he has probably the largest collection of Maneki-neko. Maneki-neko is a Japanese traditional lucky charm sculpted as a cat figure. It is usually decorated at the entrance or by the cashier counter of stores and restaurants and believed to bring good luck for the business owner.
Once you are inside of the cafe, you will be surrounded by so many Maneki-neko! Mizuyashiki carries more than 1500 of Manekineko displayed all over the place. Funny thing, there is one Maneki-neko which is not a cat figure. Good luck finding it from 1500 of Maneki-neko. You can also purchase Maneki-neko related items. They also carry tenugui, pins, badges, and also Maneki-neko itself. If you are wondering which Maneki-neko to purchase, Maneki-neko has different meanings by its color: white for good luck, black for good health, gold for good opportunities and yellow for bring money to the house. If the cat has the right arm up, it means it brings money. If its left arm is lifted, it brings people to the house.
I hope you enjoy the relaxing time with the traditional Shimabara sweets, Kanzarashi, at the well maintained old Japanese house by the beautiful water of Shimabara!
For more information about Shimabara Mizuyashiki click here.