As of January 2011, Wafûan has closed the tea house to make a gallery, but you can still sample Nakaura-ya’s wagashi with a bit of green tea on the first floor.
We here on the Ishikawa JET Blog love our cafes and coffee shops, but where do you go to get a good cup of matcha (抹茶) without attending a tea ceremony? A friend recently introduced me to Wafûan, a tea house situated on the second floor of the 中浦屋 (わいち本店), the Waichi location a okashi (お菓子), or Japanese sweets shop, called Nakaura-ya (中浦屋) in Wajima.
Wafûan’s name is a pun: 和風 (wafû) means Japanese-style, but the first kanji has been changed to the wa of Wajima (輪島). An (庵) means retreat or hermitage. Indeed, this is a great place to hide out from the winter winds.
I love the atmosphere of this place as much as I love the tea and okashi. The décor is simple, with the wooden walls, floors, and furniture evoking the browns and blacks of Wajima lacquerware. The tables and chairs are Western-style, which is great if you aren’t a fan of sitting in seiza (正座) on cushions. The windows let in enough light that the atmosphere isn’t gloomy or stuffy, a constant complaint I have about the coffee shops around here.
What is unique about Wafûan is that everything is served in/on real Wajima lacquerware. The dishes are gorgeous, and it was worth it just to be able to hold and use real lacquerware. This would be a great experience for your friends and family to experience tea culture and get to use fancy lacquerware dishes in a low-pressure environment.
The menu is Japanese only, and the prices are written in Japanese numbers—instead of ￥500, for example, the price is written 五百円. The menu changes a bit seasonally, but there’s coffee (kouhii, 珈琲–the old kanji!), black tea (koucha, 紅茶), matcha, and a yuzu drink, hot or cold. The sweets menu includes, for winter, zenzai (ぜんざい) or white zenzai, a sweet azuki-based soup with mochi. There’s several varieties of anmitsu (あんみつ、餡蜜), a parfait-like dessert of agar jelly and anko, and ice cream (aisu kuriimu, アイスクリーム). The most economical option is to order a set: there’s a seasonal okashi and drink set; an anmitsu-and-drink set and a mochi-and-drink set. (The drink is your choice.)
I ordered a seasonal okashi set and had the choice between three different kinds of okashi, two of which were yuzu-based (柚子, sometimes called citron in English). I choose a yuzu manjû; my set was a cup of matcha, two small gummy okashi and a yuzu manjû.*
Wafûan: Open 9:00-17:00 daily (tends to be closed on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month)
Nakaura-ya: Open 8:00-16:00 daily (tends to be closed on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month)
Note: As of Dec. 2010, Nakaura-ya requests that customers call ahead so they can open the tea room.
Ishikawa-ken Wajima-shi Kawai-machi Waichi 4-98
Nakaura-ya’s street number is 4-97, so try that if the address above does not come up in your map program.
From the Wajima Morning Market area (輪島朝市), follow the stone signs and head toward the artists’ workshops and the Jûzô Shrine (重蔵神社）. The shop is on the road that goes to the temple; the foot bath is along the road that runs perpendicular to this.
The closest large parking area is Marine Town (マリンタウン) Morning Market parking, which is usually free after the morning market ends around noon; 2-minute walk. Parking at Wajima Station (輪島駅ふらっと訪夢) is free; 10-minute walk. (Honestly, you could really park anywhere in Wajima and just walk for 10 minutes to get here, though.)
From Kanazawa, take the Kanazawa-Wajima Hokuritsu bus to Wajima Eki-mae (輪島駅前) (10-minute walk) or the Lacquerware Museum (輪島漆器会館) (6-minute walk).
Official website (Japanese, includes photos and map)
English explanation of the yubeshi, the okashi in which Nakaura-ya specializes.
Tabelog (Japanese, includes map)
Noto Style (review in Japanese with pictures)
Leah Zoller is a second-year CIR in Anamizu and the editor of this blog. She is always on the lookout for good tea houses, so if you have a favorite, please leave a comment!