Most often in Japan cities are filled with national chains. The same coffee shops, restaurants, isakayas (Japanese pub for eating and drinking), department stores and the like can be found in every city. When I lived in Japan I used to go to one Isakaya which I thought was so individual and cute. I discovered on this trip, when in Hiroshima 700km away that my quaint isakaya was also part of a national chain. So that is why it is really cool, when you come across cafes, restaurants and bars which are owner operated and have their own unique individuality. Quite often you are serviced by the owner who is quite open to a chat over the counter. I think these guys are always pretty cool, becasue they have steped outside the square and chosen to do something quite different in a place where you are often expected to follow the crowd.
These are some photographs I took of a cafe in Kyoto, Japan of the owner Takaaki Matsumoto and his cafe Ichigo Ichie. It is tucked away in the inner suburban sprawl of Kyoto and is a welcoming front of colour in a sprawling mass of 3 storey apartment buildings.