Furano café & gallery ‘Akanara’ – a place for migrants and locals to interact

The Akanara counter, where locals engage in friendly conversation

In April, it’s 10 years since local volunteers began running the café & gallery Akanara in Shimogoryo in the city of Furano. In the past, the café was the mecca of fans of a popular TV drama. Now, its role is changing into a place where locals and migrants interact.

 It’s difficult the tell the difference between regular Akanara customers and staff, as they take it on themselves to chop wood and use their cars to transport spring water to make coffee. Standing at the counter is Atsumi Emi, one of those who was originally a customer. Looking back, “while coming as a customer, I somehow found myself serving coffee,” she says.

 Before the spread of the Coronavirus, cello and violin performances and exhibitions by local artisans were held at the café approximately 20 times a year. At its peak in FY 2018, when there was no impact from the pandemic, 6,223 people visited the café.

 Of the 23 Akanara volunteers, over half of them are U-turn migrants who have returned to their hometown from larger urban areas. This is also the base of the Furano region migrants’ interaction group, the Food Group. When Atsumi herself relocated here from Nagoya 16 years ago, she was introduced to the café by Furano City Hall, who recommended it as a “place where migrants gather”.

 “You can meet people from various backgrounds, such as migrants, locals, tourists and the like. If you want to get to know local Furano information, this is the place,” says city resident Oikawa on the reason for visiting regularly. Even now, drama fans come to the café to take photos. Meanwhile, migrants and locals talk about regional themes over the counter amid a space in which the thoughts of various people intersect.


Café & gallery Akanara