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Café Amazon opens 20 km from plant

November 2, 2016

Thai cafe chain sets up shop in village near Fukushima plant




KAWAUCHI, Fukushima Prefecture--A Thai-based cafe franchise operator has opened the first coffee shop in this village since reactors melted down at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant about 20 kilometers away in 2011.

Cafe Amazon entered the Japanese market in an unlikely location, but its Nov. 1 opening provided much-needed joy for residents of disaster-hit Kawauchi and the neighboring Miyakoji district in Tamura.

“I was longing for the opening because I love coffee so much that I drink five cups a day,” said Miho Ide, 59, who visited the place with her 65-year-old husband, Shigekatsu, and ordered a cup of coffee priced at 280 yen ($2.70).

The mountainous village of Kawauchi has abundant nature but few dining establishments. A cafe had operated in the village before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, but it closed down after quake-triggered landslides hit the area and residents were ordered to evacuate when nuclear disaster unfolded.

The cafe was opened by Codomo Energy Co., an Osaka-based construction material manufacturer that set up a factory in Kawauchi in 2014 to help revive the local economy. The company signed the franchise contract with PTT Public Co., a state-owned oil and gas company that operates the Cafe Amazon chain in Thailand.

Tens of millions of yen were spent to renovate an old-style Japanese house into the 60-seat cafe with a deck.

Kawauchi Mayor Yuko Endo, who visited the cafe just after it opened at 10 a.m., marveled: “Villagers can gather and have good time here.”

Yasunori Iwamoto, 54, president of Codomo Energy, was busy trying to ensure everything went smoothly on opening day. But he took the time to talk to the customers.

Shigekatsu told Iwamoto that it would be great if the new cafe offered light meals, given the dearth of restaurants in the village.

The company president paused and replied, “We are thinking of offering alcohol drinks at night in the future, too.”

A delighted Shigekatsu said, “I am so happy.”

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